Adoptive father Sandy Parsons led investigators to Erica Parsons’ remains
Published 12:10 am Saturday, October 1, 2016
By Shavonne Walker
SALISBURY — Erica Lynn Parsons, the Rowan County teen not seen here since 2011, was buried in a shallow grave in a remote area in South Carolina. Her adoptive father was the key to finding her remains, but many questions linger about her death.
Chesterfield County Sheriff Jay Brooks confirmed Friday that Sandy Parsons led investigators to the grave Tuesday where Erica’s skeletal remains were found.
Parsons, escorted by members of the Rowan County Special Response Team, pointed to an area along a dirt road, and led them to Erica’s remains.
Brooks said Parsons came back visibly upset and crying, and was whisked away in a car. A cadaver dog alerted on the area Parsons had pointed out.
Investigators started excavating the site, he said, and found the first piece of evidence after about an hour. They finished about 10 hours later.
Brooks said prior to seeing Sandy Parsons on Tuesday, he knew little about the investigation.
“We were contacted a week or so ago by SBI and the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office about the possibility of a body buried in our county. I didn’t have any idea who it was,” he said.
Brooks described the area where Erica’s remains were found as remote — an old farm surrounded by pine trees, just off a small dirt road.
“It looked like an old home site or a barn had collapsed there. There are no houses,” he said. The area was completely grown over and looked as though it had not been farmed or maintained in years.
The sheriff said he believed the property belongs to a relative of Sandy Parsons. “He was familiar with this property. He remembered coming here as a boy,” Brooks said.
A private investigator who had been looking for Erica was also familiar with the area.
David Marshburn, a Smithfield investigator and bounty hunter, was hired in November 2015 by Erica’s aunt, Teresa Goodman. Her brother, Billy Goodman, was Erica’s biological father.
Erica’s biological mother, Carolyn Parsons, was briefly married to Sandy’s brother Stevie, but Goodman was Erica’s father. Carolyn Parsons gave Erica up for adoption as an infant, saying she could not care for her.
Sandy and Casey Parsons adopted the child. They came under investigation in 2013 after their son, Jamie, reported that Erica had not been seen since 2011.
Teresa Goodman wanted to find Erica. She had seen Marshburn on a “48 Hours” special about the murder of Fort Bragg soldier Kelli Bordeaux. Marshburn befriended the man who eventually confessed to killing the soldier and led authorities to her remains.
Marshburn, who owns Marshburn’s Investigation Agency, said he was touched by Erica’s story because she was adopted and so was he. He took on the case without payment.
At one point Marshburn went to South Carolina with his lead investigator, Marsha Ward, as well as Teresa Goodman, her husband and Brooklyn “Brook” Parsons, Erica’s adoptive sister. He said he believed Brook may have been familiar with the area but did not appear to know how to get there.
The private investigator said he had concluded that Sandy and Casey either suffocated or choked Erica to death, and that the body was buried in a place that was familiar to Sandy.
Rowan County officials have not charged anyone in Erica’s death.
Marshburn said during his investigation he has spoken with Sandy’s father and stepmother, William and Janet Parsons, who willingly let him search their property. He said he had also spoken with Robin Ashley, Casey’s sister, who seemed sincere in her desire to seek justice for Erica.
He did not speak with Casey’s parents — James and Shirley Stone — nor with Sandy or Casey, he said. He said Jamie tried to prevent him from talking to other family members.
“The good thing is she’s found,” Marshburn said.
Carolyn Parsons, Erica’s biological mother, said she only wanted to say she’s glad Erica can have a proper resting place.
“My heart is broken,” she said.
Sandy and Casey’s former attorney, Carlyle Sherrill, said he spoke with Sandy’s federal attorney in May and learned Sandy had been in an “ongoing dialogue” with Rowan authorities.
“I’m sure he’s worked out some arrangement to benefit himself,” Sherrill said.
The Parsonses hired Sherrill after initially answering Rowan investigators’ questions in July 2013. When detectives pressed for more details, the couple failed to provide any. Sandy and Casey even went on Phil McGraw’s “Dr. Phil” television show.
Even the nationally recognized television host did not believe the two. Sandy failed to pass a polygraph test and Casey refused to take it. Sherrill appeared via satellite.
In a statement Friday to the Post, Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook said her office is thankful Erica has been located and her body recovered.
“While this was not the outcome anyone had desired, we hope that it does provide some sense of closure for Erica’s family members, now that she has been found and can have a proper burial,” Cook said.
She said the District Attorney’s Office will work closely with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office throughout the investigation.
“Due to the N.C. Rules of Professional Conduct, our office cannot make any comments concerning the specifics of the investigation,” she said.
When Jamie Parsons reported Erica missing in 2013, he immediately pointed the finger at his parents, Sandy and Casey. The couple have denied any wrongdoing in Erica’s disappearance.
In 2014, the Parsonses were charged in a 76-count indictment for charges including mail fraud, tax fraud and identity theft. They both wound up in prison. In 2015, Casey accepted a plea agreement and is serving 10 years. Sandy was found guilty on part of the indictment and is serving an eight-year sentence.
The couple told authorities that Erica went to live with her paternal biological grandmother, Irene “Nan” Goodman, who turned out not to exist. Teresa Goodman said Erica’s biological grandmother, Cloie Goodman, had died in 2005.
Jamie Parsons testified in federal court that his parents regularly abused Erica and that he did, too, until he turned 16. The Parsonses have four other biological children and Jamie said his parents encouraged them to abuse Erica. Jamie said he stopped because he just didn’t want to hit Erica anymore.
He said Sandy punched Erica and Casey once broke the child’s fingers by bending them back as punishment. Casey created a makeshift cast for Erica instead of taking her to see a doctor.
Jamie testified that Erica had a bald spot on the top of her head where scabs formed and healed from being struck in the head. As a form of punishment, Erica was locked in a closet at their home.
A Rowan story
The search for Erica Parsons has been followed closely by Rowan residents since the summer of 2013. Several local residents who spoke with a Post reporter Friday said closure was what they most wanted to see for the family and the community.
Christina Gordon said she’s recently been re-reading some of the stories written about this case to refresh her memory.
“Your heart goes out to her. She never had the love a child should get. She could’ve had a loving family,” Gordon said.
She was glad Sandy led investigators to the area where Erica was buried, she said.
Nancy Vick said she had no doubt that from the beginning foul play was involved in Erica’s disappearance.
Vick was at the Rowan County Fair when someone received a text message that Erica’s remains had been found. She said the news traveled fast and people immediately began sharing the news.
“I’m glad the community and that neighborhood got closure,” Vick said.
It is her hope that people in the community will take up a collection to help bury the young girl.
Vick believes “people will absolutely step up.”
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.