Editorial: Erica laid to rest at last
On a sunny day when daffodils danced outside in the wind, the community gathered at First Baptist Church to bid Godspeed to a child most of us never knew.
The search for Erica Parsons started in the summer of 2013. Authorities used words like “disappeared” and “missing.” The investigation became a community obsession, complete with age-progression sketches and the offer of a reward. Everyone had a theory about where the diminutive teen might be.
But as month after month passed, a sense of resignation set in. Our fears were confirmed when Erica’s adoptive father led investigators last September to a small, hidden grave in South Carolina.
It’s said grown men wept to see the skeletal remains of the girl they so wanted to find alive. Five months later, as he addressed the funeral crowd Saturday, Sheriff Kevin Auten fought back tears again.
There was much Auten could not say, since charges have yet to be filed in Erica’s death. Her adoptive parents are in prison for fraud, but more charges are likely to come. The sheriff asked for patience.
Seldom has the connection between sorrow and sorry been as manifest as at this funeral on Saturday. The Rev. Kenneth Lance said that mixed in with our rage at the injustice done to this child is anger directed at ourselves. How could we let this happen? Why didn’t someone see? Why didn’t our community help?
You can have all the safeguards in the world, but when heartless souls decide to do evil to a child, they find the weak spots. State payments for Erica’s care involved minimal accountability, and home-schooling allowed the family to isolate her from the rest of the world. Those laws must be strengthened.
Often when tragedy takes a young person, grieving parents lobby for a new law to prevent other children from the same fate. Erica had no champions until law enforcement got involved, yet all their strength and hard work could not save her. And it was left to someone other than her parents to wrest something positive from her too-short life. Auten urged hope. Lance counseled attentiveness to the needs of all children. Every child deserves to be educated and safe, to have the opportunity to flourish in the way that God designed, the pastor said.
And every child struck by tragedy deserves to be mourned. People filled the church to bear witness to a life that mattered. If we failed to protect Erica while she was alive, we would surely see that she was buried with respect.
“This child has changed us a little, hasn’t she?” Lance said. “Maybe this time we will carry on and do what is right for each other, for all the children of this world.”
The congregation sang “Jesus Loves Me” and silently filed out. Erica left this world a few years ago. Only now, though, has she truly been laid to rest.