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Rowan sheriff: New leads still coming in Erica Parsons case

By Cleve R. Wootson Jr. and Steve Lyttle
cwootson@charlotteobserver.com slyttle@charlotteobserver.com
G082H98E8.3
- NATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN
An age-progression photo shows how Erica Parsons likely looks today.

A year after Rowan County teen Erica Parsons was reported missing, investigators say they are continuing to get new leads and are making progress toward solving the case.

The sheriff’s office had scheduled a news briefing on the case for Tuesday afternoon but abruptly canceled the event Tuesday morning. Instead, Sheriff Kevin Auten released a series of answers to written media questions.

When asked why the Sheriff’s Office canceled, Capt. John Sifford, a spokesman, replied: “At present, we had to cancel due to reasons which are in the best interest of the ongoing investigation.”

“Our detectives and FBI agents followed a lead within the last several days,” he said in a statement. He wouldn’t give details about the lead.

Erica, who was adopted as a baby, was reported missing last July 30. Investigators said she hadn’t been seen by anyone outside her family for nearly two years. The search for her by Rowan County, state and federal authorities cast suspicion on her adoptive parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons. Investigators suspect foul play and say Erica was likely abused. No one has been charged in connection with Erica’s disappearance.

Sandy and Casey Parsons have never been named as suspects in Erica’s disappearance. Authorities have questioned them several times – including at least twice since they moved to Fayetteville in August to avoid publicity and death threats, their attorney said.

In Auten’s written reply, he said the case has not stalled, adding, “I cannot provide any details, other than to say yes, we are making progress.”

The sheriff would not answer questions about whether he thinks Erica is alive and whether she ever will be found.

“Erica is missing,” he said. “We are doing everything we can, along with the FBI and SBI, to find her and determine what happened.”

Carolyn Parsons, Erica’s biological mom who gave her up for adoption as a baby, said she hopes the sheriff’s office canceled the news conference because of a big lead in the case.

“I can say I’m not really and truly happy with the (sheriff’s offices’) effort so far,” she told the Observer. “But there again, I hope that them canceling the press conference today is on behalf of something huge.”

Auten said the delay in reporting Erica missing has made the case more difficult to solve.

“Erica was not reported missing to our department ... more than a year and a half after the last time she was seen,” he said. “Every investigator knows that when a child is missing, seconds count.”

Erica was last seen by family members in November 2011, when she was 13. Her stepbrother reported her missing last July 30.

In a question about what investigators believe actually happened to the girl, Auten responded, “We cannot lay out the evidence we have gathered to date in this case. Erica is missing. When we locate her, the circumstances we uncover will determine what, if any, crime has been committed, and by whom.”

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