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Report reignites questions surrounding Erica Parsons’ disappearance

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr.
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com
GJN189P7R.4
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Erica Parsons

A report that dogs might have smelled human remains at a site where investigators were searching for clues in Erica Parsons’ disappearance has reignited questions about the missing teen’s fate.

The findings surfaced in a search warrant for a red storage building on Sutton Road in China Grove, according to the Salisbury Post. The property is owned by Erica Parsons’ adoptive grandfather, William Parsons. But Erica’s adoptive parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons, owned and used the storage building, investigators said in search warrants.

The searches where the dogs detected possible human remains occurred in October and November. The most recent search warrant, which was served Nov. 14, wasn’t returned to the clerk’s office by investigators until Monday.

Erica, 15, was reported missing in July. Investigators have said in search warrants that they suspect foul play, but the court documents unveiled Monday are the first time investigators indicated they believe Erica Parsons might be dead.

On Tuesday, the Rowan Sheriff’s Office reiterated that the case has not been ruled a homicide.

“The focus of our investigation hasn’t changed since the day Erica was reported missing,” spokesman Capt. John Sifford said in a statement. “We are searching for a missing 15-year-old girl.”

Erica has not been seen by anyone outside her family since late 2011, investigators have said. Her older brother told investigators about her disappearance after he was kicked out of the house during an argument with his parents.

During the search on Nov. 14, investigators took one board and a jacket, according to the search warrant, the Salisbury Post reported.

The search for Erica by Rowan County investigators and the FBI has gained international attention, with news crews camping outside the Parsonses’ home and the courthouse in Rowan, about 40 miles northeast of uptown Charlotte.

On Aug. 20 and 21, the Parsonses appeared on the “Dr. Phil” show to assert that they had done nothing wrong.

No one has been charged in the case.

The mystery of Nan

The Parsonses have said throughout the investigation that they are innocent of any wrongdoing. They’ve argued that Erica Parsons went to live with her biological grandmother, a woman they identified as Irene “Nan” Goodman, who they say contacted Casey Parsons on Facebook.

Nan knew all about Erica, the Parsonses said – her biological father’s name, the city she lived in. “She said Erica’s biological mother had given her information to contact us,” Casey Parsons said on Dr. Phil.

In an interview with the Observer this month, Carolyn Parsons, who gave Erica up for adoption when she was a baby, denied talking with the Parsonses about Nan.

“I don’t know Nan,” she said. “I’ve only seen Erica the one time in January (2011). Erica was not in my custody when she went missing. She was in Casey and Sandy’s custody.”

The Parsonses say they last saw Erica when they dropped her off at a McDonald’s in Mooresville to catch a ride to stay with Nan.

They say Nan called back a few months later to say Erica wasn’t coming back. But investigators say they’ve found no evidence that Nan ever existed. Erica’s biological family members say the girl’s grandmother died years ago. And Casey and Sandy Parsons haven’t released any correspondence with the woman.

Still scrutinized

Carlyle Sherrill, the attorney representing Casey and Sandy Parsons, said they continue to get questions about Erica’s disappearance. He does, too.

“I was out at lunch at Panera Bread and I could hear them saying ‘Erica Parsons,’ ” he said. “I had somebody stop me at the courthouse asking if she was dead.”

Sherrill told the Observer his clients are trying to return to a normal life. Their youngest two children were taken away by the Department of Social Services shortly after investigators searched their home on Miller Chapel Road in early August. And Sherrill said the increasing attention, which included candlelight vigils for Erica in front of their home and death threats, factored into their decision to move to Fayetteville, where their oldest son lives.

On Aug. 27, the day they moved, two television news helicopters followed their van up Interstate 85, providing live coverage.

They make the trip to Rowan County every week for a supervised visit with their two youngest children, Sadie and Toby, who are in DSS custody and have been placed with Casey’s mother, Sherrill said.

But investigators still seek them out.

“Casey was in the hospital ... to have a surgical procedure, and she was informed by the hospital security that there were two federal agents there to come up and see her,” Sherrill said.

‘I think about it every day’

When Erica was born in 1998, Carolyn Parsons said, she was unable to take care of her. Carolyn Parsons, who had grown up in foster homes, said she didn’t want her daughter to endure the same thing.

So she gave her up to the Parsonses, her relatives by marriage, who appeared to take a liking to the girl. They legally adopted Erica in Cabarrus County in 2000.

Erica had only intermittent contact with her biological mother. The last time was Jan. 5, 2011, at the What-a-Burger restaurant on Main Street in Mooresville. Erica’s arm was in a splint then, and she didn’t say much, Carolyn Parsons said. Casey Parsons, who did most of the talking that day, said the girl had injured herself while playing.

Carolyn Parsons said she wonders if she missed a sign.

“I didn’t think about it then, but I think about it every day,” she said. “ ... I just want to know where she is.”

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