Erica Parsons was likely dead long before she was declared missing in 2013, Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said Monday.
Charges against her killer may rest on the results of examination of her skeletal remains, which are now at the state medical examiner’s office, Auten told reporters.
Auten said detectives “hope the (state) medical examiner will soon give us information that will lead us to what charges are appropriate.”
The girl’s body was found in South Carolina last week, five years after she was last seen alive.
Auten confirmed the Observer’s report last week that Sandy Parsons, the girl’s adoptive father, had begun talking with detectives from a federal prison in July and August.
Parsons bragged that only he could lead officers to Erica’s body, a family member said. A family member had hired a private investigator last year to help look for her.
Those conversations led to several trips to Pageland, S.C., by Rowan investigators and the FBI, Auten said. Initial searches found nothing.
Last month, with the help of District Attorney Brandy Cook, the sheriff’s office took temporary custody of Sandy Parsons, who is imprisoned at a federal facility in Butner, “for the purpose of showing investigators the location of Erica Parsons in Pageland, S.C.”
Auten took no questions from reporters and did not elaborate. Cook, citing professional rules of conduct, said she couldn’t comment.
Investigators found Erica Parsons’ remains in a shallow grave just outside Pageland, Auten said. After three years of searching for the girl, the scene was emotional for hardened law officers.
“Everybody involved in this case has children,” Auten told reporters. “I was at the gravesite when she was found and those were some tough officers but I can tell you those were some tough times.”
The remains were positively identified as those of Erica Parsons on Friday. The state medical examiner’s office declined to comment on its work on the remains.
Auten said no immunity or other legal arrangements have been reached with either Sandy or Casey Parsons in exchange for information or cooperation.
A local funeral home, Lyerlys, has donated funeral services and West Lawn Memorial Park a grave plot.
Prevent Child Abuse Rowan is collecting donations to pay for an angel grave marker, noting angels were a “passion” of Erica’s. Checks can be sent to that office at 130 Woodson St., Salisbury, NC 28144. Designate the donation in the name of Erica Parsons. Online donations can be made at www.preventchildabuserowan.org/how-you-can-help.
Both Sandy Parsons and his wife Casey were convicted last year of financial crimes that included cashing adoption assistance checks totaling more than $12,000 after her disappearance and are both in federal prisons.
Sandy Parsons, 42, is serving eight years in a prison in Butner and his wife, Casey Parsons, 41, is serving 10 years in Tallahassee, Fla.
Home-schooled, developmentally disabled and isolated from other children, Erica lived a life of punitive discipline and degradation, according to federal court testimony in 2015.
Food was often withheld from her as punishment, her adoptive brother James Parsons testified. If Erica stole a cookie or something else to eat, she’d be fed canned dog food by Casey Parsons, he said, an event that would occur up to twice a month.
It was James Parsons who reported her missing on July 30, 2013, after a squabble with his parents.