A close call turned into a scoop this week for WBTV (Channel 3) Salisbury bureau chief David Whisenant.
He was part of the media scrum Tuesday outside the home of Sandy Parsons, whose adoptive daughter Erica was reported missing July 30, two years after she disappeared. Whisenant was across the street with his camera as Parsons and his wife loaded a U-Haul truck to move away from the neighborhood and media scrutiny.
Parsons pulled out of his driveway, made a wide turn and drove toward the spot where Whisenant, Salisbury Post reporter Shavonne Potts and WCCB (Channel 18) photographer Darnell Hart were standing. Potts and Hart scattered, but Whisenant was peering into the camera and didn’t immediately realize where the truck was headed.
“Next thing I saw, my viewfinder was full of a GMC grille,” says Whisenant, WBTV’s Salisbury bureau chief for 21 years. After the truck lurched to a stop, he took down his gear and slowly retreated. He could see Parsons glaring at him through the windshield.
Wednesday morning, a neighbor tipped him that the U-Haul was back. He debated whether it was worth going out there again, but decided to swing by.
He set up his camera when Parsons came out of the house and walked toward him.
“I was a little worried frankly,” Whisenant says. “He got closer and said, ‘Cut your camera off. I want to talk to you a minute behind the camera.’ ”
Parsons started with an apology about the truck. “That is not me, that is not my character. I was frustrated by the cameras, the helicopters, all you guys being out here all the time,” Parsons said in the story on wbtv.com.
“He apologized three or four times,” Whisenant says. “Then he said, ‘I didn’t realize it was you until I got out of the truck and was looking at you. I think you guys do a great job. I think you’re the only TV station that’s been fair.’ ”
Parsons began talking about aspects of the case. He said the knives that were taken from the house during a search were his from his job as a butcher at Food Lion. He said he and his family had been getting death threats.
Then he lifted his “Duck Dynasty” T-shirt to show a barbed-wire tattoo with the initials of his children’s name on his arm. “He pointed at EP for Erica and he said, ‘I raised her and I love her and I still do,’ ” Whisenant says.
After 18 minutes, they shook hands and Parsons returned to his yard where a no-trespassing sign is up.
“That’s the last thing I thought would happen,” Whisenant says, “when I went out there.”
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