The last time Carolyn Parsons saw Erica, the daughter she gave up for adoption, was in January 2011, at the Whataburger on Main Street in Mooresville. Erica, who spoke little that day, wore a cast and a splint. Her adoptive parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons, had told her Erica had fallen out of a tree while playing.
Carolyn Parsons didn’t think much of the injuries until her daughter disappeared.
In an interview with the Observer on Wednesday, Carolyn Parsons recounted that meeting and other details about her daughter.
Casey and Sandy Parsons had arranged the meeting, saying they wanted Erica to know her biological mother. And Casey Parsons was having medical issues. Over burgers, Erica’s adoptive parents said they might have to give Erica back, Carolyn Parsons recalled.
As an adult, Carolyn Parsons married into the Parsons family. For a time, she was the wife of Steven Parsons, Sandy Parsons’ brother. But Carolyn and Steven separated – and Carolyn got pregnant with Erica by another man. Erica is her fourth and youngest child.
Erica was reported missing in July and has become the subject of an investigation by state and federal authorities, who suspect foul play. Her adoptive parents have been questioned several times by investigators, but they have not been charged with any crime in connection with Erica’s disappearance.
On Wednesday, Erica’s biological mother said she gave her daughter up so the girl would have a better life.
Carolyn Parsons feared her daughter would struggle as she did – spending a large chunk of her childhood in foster homes or homeless shelters. “I did not want my child to grow up like I did,” she said. “I did not want her to be bounced around from place to place.”
Carolyn Parsons said she was abused by her parents, and at one point she stayed in an emergency shelter so they couldn’t find her.
Erica’s father claimed she wasn’t his child, Carolyn Parsons said. Alone and struggling financially, Carolyn Parsons said she believed her in-laws could give her daughter a better future.
“She had started bonding with Casey and Sandy,” Carolyn Parsons said of Erica. “You know how little kids are. They coo and caw. They recognize a voice. I didn’t want to pull her out of a safe home.”
The adoption was finalized on July 20, 2000, when Erica was 2. Carolyn Parsons said she received updates from Casey Parsons through Facebook and believed her daughter was doing well.
But search warrants connected with Erica’s disappearance hint at abuse. Erica was always grounded and had bruises that indicated she’d been struck, family members told investigators. At one point, she went to stay with Casey Parsons’ sister, after her adoptive mother said she’d beat her, according to the search warrants. Like her adoptive siblings, Erica was home-schooled, so few outside her immediate family knew what Erica’s life with the Parsonses was like.
Erica was reported missing on July 30 by her older adoptive brother, Jamie, apparently after a fight with his parents. Casey and Sandy Parsons said they hadn’t seen Erica since 2011. They said they dropped her off at a Mooresville McDonald’s so she could go stay with Irene Goodman, her paternal grandmother. But police say they have been unable to locate an Irene Goodman. And family members – including Carolyn Parsons – say Erica’s paternal grandmother died five years ago.
The Parsonses remain under a cloud of suspicion. On Tuesday, they moved out of their house on Miller Chapel Road just outside Salisbury, though investigators have said they will keep tabs on them. Sandy Parsons told WBTV that his family has received death threats, although the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said none have been reported to them.
The Department of Social Services removed the Parsonses two youngest children from their household after Erica was reported missing. Sandy Parsons told the news station that his children won’t be returned as long as the case is ongoing.
“No judge in Rowan County will give me my kids back while this is going on,” Sandy Parsons said. “And people riding by, death threats, stuff like that, it just brings out the weirdos.”
Carolyn Parsons told the Observer she is not sure what happened to her daughter. But she said she believes the Parsonses have not been forthcoming with investigators – or with her.
“The people who were supposed to love her and care about her will not tell what they know,” she said.
Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson
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