Birth mother of Erica Parsons holds vigil for daughter

Published 12:05 am Tuesday, August 2, 2022

GRANITE QUARRY — Saturday, July 30, marked nine years to the day since Erica Parsons was reported missing by her adoptive brother, Jamie, and, as she does every year, her birth mother, Carolyn Parsons, held a vigil in her memory.

When Erica was reported missing, and a search was initiated, Carolyn Parsons was uneasy. The last time Jamie reported having seen his adoptive sister was in November of 2011. So much time had passed. Where was Erica?

Initially, Erica’s adoptive parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons, insisted that Erica had left of her own volition, even claiming at one point that she had chosen to go live with a grandmother. It turned out that grandmother did not exist.

In the ensuing years, Casey and Sandy had other children removed from their home, were evicted from one house, and were arrested and charged for continuing to cash checks meant to help cover the cost of caring for and homeschooling Erica. Then, in 2016, Sandy Parsons, while in prison on fraud charges for cashing the checks, led investigators to Erica’s body, buried in a shallow grave in S.C. Autopsy results were horrific, and showed the abuse Erica had suffered. The damage to Erica’s too-small body meant the coroner “cannot exclude the possibility of a terminal blunt force injury, suffocation or strangulation.” She had suffered so much abuse, was so malnourished, that they were unable to determine exactly which trauma caused her death, stating in the report that the cause of death was “homicidal violence of undetermined means.”

And in February 2018, Casey and Sandy Parsons were charged with first-degree murder, felony child abuse, felony concealment of death and obstruction of justice in connection with Erica’s death. Casey is now spending life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to first-degree murder, child abuse and obstruction of justice, and Sandy was sentenced to serve between 33 and 43.5 years in prison on charges he plead guilty to, including second-degree murder, child abuse, concealment of death and obstruction of justice.

Carolyn Parsons has always said she thought Erica deserved a better life than she could give her. At the time that Erica was born, she was dealing with her own past, struggling in her marriage and saw a bleak future for her baby. She agreed to let her then-husband’s brother, Sandy, and his wife, Casey, adopt Erica, believing she was sending her daughter to a loving family who could provide the kind of healthy, happy life she could not. And because the couple was legally adopting Erica, Carolyn moved to the background, giving her daughter the chance to become truly a part of her new family.

Which means she did not have a chance to truly get to know the child she gave up. She trusted that Erica’s new parents were taking care of her.

Casey and Sandy, meanwhile, according to court records and statements from neighbors, friends and even family, isolated Erica, so no one outside of their family got to know the little girl, either. And no one could see the bruises.

Since her death, and the conviction and sentencing of Casey and Sandy, Carolyn has made a point to honor Erica every year on July 30, often releasing purple balloons, which she believes was her favorite color, and singing her favorite song, “Concrete Angel.”

“I do this every year because I don’t want Erica to have gone in vain,” she said at Granite Lake Park Saturday. “If Erica’s story can save even one child from suffering abuse like she did, if it can help one child know that they can tell, and make grown-ups believe them, then her life had a purpose.”

Amber Fowler, who planned the first vigil after Erica was reported missing, said she made it to the vigil Saturday because she saw the purple balloons and realized the date.

“It still saddens me,” she said. “Every time I think of it, it leaves me wordless.”

Brittany Parsons, Erica’s sister (they are both Carolyn’s children), said she has a tremendous amount of guilt that she was not the big sister Erica needed, saying “I was nine years older, and going through my own issues, and I was not paying attention.”

More than anything, both Carolyn and Brittany believe Erica was let down, again and again, by numerous adults in her world, and their goal is to keep that from ever happening again.

“Children don’t tell because they think no one will believe them,” said Carolyn. “We cannot do that. When children say what is happening to them, adults need to listen, and believe. I was adopted at 10, and abused. Erica’s abuse was mine times 10. My hope is that someone will read or heard her story and know they are not alone.”

Carolyn and Brittany went to West Lawn Cemetery in China Grove after the short vigil and let the last three balloons go over the statue of an angel that keeps watch over Erica’s final resting place.

“For me, my calendar year starts today,” said Carolyn. “I still talk to her all the time, and I know she’s with me. I know she hears me.”