Save Money in this Sunday's paper

comments

Search begins at property where missing Rowan teen lived

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Steve Lyttle
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com slyttle@charlotteobserver.com

SALISBURY Rowan County authorities say they collected some evidence Wedneseday during a 12-hour search of the property where a missing teenage girl lived before she disappeared nearly two years ago.

The search, which included help from the FBI, was aimed at finding Erica Lynn Parsons, who was 13 when she was last reported seen in November 2011.

Sheriff’s Capt. John Sifford said Thursday that crews “did collect a number of items of evidence,” which he said was taken to an FBI laboratory for analysis. He said it is not clear when investigators will get results of the analysis.

The story took another twist Thursday, when Casey Parsons, Erica’s adoptive mother, was hospitalized at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center. The hospital said Parsons is in good condition.

There was no word as to why Casey Parsons was hospitalized, but WCNC-TV, the Observer’s news partner, is reporting that Parsons has been hospitalized several times in the past due to complications from stomach surgery.

On Wednesday, deputies blocked roads a half-mile from the ranch-style home on Miller Chapel Road during the search, which has captivated this city 45 miles northeast of Charlotte and made international headlines.

Local, state and federal investigators swarmed the property and partially dismantled a wooden deck in the backyard Wednesday. Late in the day, aerial video footage showed authorities setting up a tent canopy and lights in a corner of the backyard near an above-ground swimming pool. Investigators later could be seen working under the tent, but it was unclear what they were doing.

“It was long overdue,” neighbor Vickie Yates told WCNC-TV. “That girl had been missing for a long time. I just wish somebody would have reported it a lot sooner.”

no one has been charged in connection with Erica’s disappearance.

Erica was not reported missing until two weeks ago, when her stepbrother filed a report July 30 with the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.

Her adoptive parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons, told reporters last week that they never filed a missing-person report because Erica told them she was going to live with a biological grandmother in Asheville.

But Rowan County sheriff’s investigators say they have found no evidence to support the parents’ claims.

‘Increasingly uncooperative’

Last week, the Rowan Sheriff’s Office called in the FBI’s Charlotte office to help.

Capt. John Sifford, a spokesman for the Sheriff’s Office, said Erica lived at the home on Miller Chapel Road with Casey and Sandy Parsons and their biological son James, now 20.

Sifford said Casey and Sandy Parsons initially cooperated with investigators, but he said they “became increasingly uncooperative.”

Sifford cautioned people against reading too much into Wednesday’s search.

“A search of this type is one of many investigative tools in our efforts to find Erica,” he said in a statement.

The Parsonses have hired a Salisbury-based attorney, Carlyle Sherrill, to represent them. Then they approached the media, saying they wanted to tell their side of the story.

Accompanied by Sherrill, the Parsonses met with reporters last week. They said Erica left home in November 2011 to visit the grandmother in Asheville and said the girl later called them and said she was moving in with her grandmother.

“They believed she was being a rebellious teenager who didn’t want to come home with them,” Sherrill said.

When Rowan County authorities investigated the claim that Erica had moved in with her grandmother, they “determined that the information the parents provided was not true,” Sifford said.

Sherrill had not returned calls from the Observer, and the parents have not spoken with the media since last week.

But he said last week that his clients cooperated “entirely with the Sheriff’s Office for two days, underwent extensive questioning by them,” but hired him when the questions turned accusatory.

Reports of violence

Court documents obtained by the Observer show reports of violence in the Parsonses’ home, although none involved Erica.

Sandy Parsons was twice found guilty of assaulting his wife, according to a criminal records check.

After the 1994 conviction, he was ordered to serve three years probation, during which a judge ordered him not to assault, harass or molest Casey Parsons.

After again being convicted of assaulting his wife in 1997, Sandy Parsons was sentenced to a year of probation and required to do community service.

The Parsonses’ oldest son, James, has been accused of assaulting his mother, two biological siblings and, at one point, trying to strangle a dog, although he was never convicted.

In February 2010, he was charged with biting his then 3-year-old brother, Toby, on the arm. The charges were later dismissed.

In August 2011, he was charged with assaulting his sister, Brook, and his mother shortly after the woman had undergone surgery.

The document says he assaulted her by “striking her in the face four times with his closed fist, pulling her gastrointestinal bag tube causing bleeding at the surgical site, and kicking her while she was on the floor.”

The charges were dismissed when Casey Parsons did not show up in court. Staff researcher Maria David contributed.

Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more



Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

The Charlotte Observer welcomes your comments on news of the day. The more voices engaged in conversation, the better for us all, but do keep it civil. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.

Have a news tip? You can send it to a local news editor; email local@charlotteobserver.com to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Charlotte Observer.

  Read more


Quick Job Search
Salary Databases
Your 2 Cents
Share your opinion with our Partners
Learn More