Warrant details torture of Erica Parsons, how her body was ‘discarded’

Erica Parsons stares blankly in front of the family Christmas tree in a photo released after she was reported missing in 2013, the exact date unknown. In August, her adoptive father told a detective that he buried the 13-year-old’s body a week before Christmas in 2011.
Erica Parsons stares blankly in front of the family Christmas tree in a photo released after she was reported missing in 2013, the exact date unknown. In August, her adoptive father told a detective that he buried the 13-year-old’s body a week before Christmas in 2011. Observer file photo

From prison this summer, Erica Parsons’ adoptive father told investigators that he’d buried the dead 13-year-old six days before Christmas 2011, then agreed to lead them to the spot.

New revelations in the case came Wednesday with the release of a search warrant in Chesterfield County, S.C., used to locate Erica’s grave on Sept. 27.

Sandy Parsons, who broke his silence to investigators three years after they started looking for the missing girl, told Rowan County sheriff’s detective Lt. Chad Moose in August that Erica was long dead and her body could be found in rural South Carolina.

Moose said in the warrant that Parsons sought him out in August, more than a year after Parsons began an eight-year prison sentence for fraud in a federal prison in Butner.

Moose said in the warrant that he’d learned of the harsh treatment of the girl, which included “locking Erica in a closet, beating her with belt buckle, bending her fingers back and choking her. UNC School of Medicine Dr. Cynthia Brown characterized the treatment of Erica as child torture.”

Moose said that Parsons told him that Erica’s body was “discarded” Dec. 19, 2011. Erica would have been 13 at that time.

Parsons told investigators he’d buried the girl off Taylor Chapel Road near Pageland, S.C., near a house where his mother lived.

Led them to grave

Brandy Cook, Rowan County district attorney, got a Superior Court judge to issue an order of custody for Parsons. He led investigators to a mound of earth shaded by pines near a remote road.

He was back to prison while a team went to work that included investigators from Rowan County, the FBI, the N.C. State Bureau of Investigation, the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division and the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office.

For nearly 10 hours, they gathered clues and lifted Erica’s skeleton from the soil.

Kevin Auten, the Rowan County sheriff, has said that no plea deal has been struck nor any promises made in exchange for the information provided by Parsons. No one has yet been charged in Erica’s death. Her remains are still with the N.C. State Medical Examiner, and no cause of death has been released.

Parsons, 42, was convicted of cashing Erica’s adoption support checks long after she disappeared from their home near Salisbury. His wife, Casey Parsons, 41, is serving 10 years for the same crime in a federal prison in Tallahassee, Fla.

Last seen in 2011

Erica Parsons was reported missing in July 2013 by James Parsons, her adoptive older brother, after he had a quarrel with his parents. He said late 2011 was the last time he saw Erica, who was developmentally disabled.

He testified in his parents sentencing hearing that the last night he saw her, the girl was standing in the corner, a frequent punishment, and appeared unwell. “She looked like a zombie,” he said.

“She told my parents she did not feel good. She said she could not breathe too good.”

His mother, Jamie Parsons said, told the child “to shut the f--- up.”

Her face went on billboard, posters and national TV after the search for her began. Casey and Sandy Parsons said they had given the girl to her maternal grandmother, a woman called Nan Goodman who they met through Facebook.

Authorities could find no such woman, and confirmed Erica’s real maternal grandmother had died years earlier.

Federal agencies, including the FBI and IRS, became involved in the case. National databases were scoured to see whether Erica’s Social Security numbers – she had two, not unusual in adoption cases – ever appeared in Medicaid or any other records.

No school system in the state had any record of her enrolling after her disappearance. Even Department of Motor Vehicle records were checked in all 50 states after she would have turned 16 to see if she’d ever gotten a license or a ticket, but there was no trace.

Armed with search warrants, authorities went through the Parsons’ home on Miller Chapel Road. An FBI evidence team found a closet where the girl would be imprisoned for long stretches of time and found her DNA – either from saliva or urine – on the floor.

Break in case

This summer, Sandy Parsons told a relative that he was trying to work out a deal with authorities.

He boasted that Erica’s body would never be found without him. She was buried in a place where hikers, hunters and wandering children would be unlikely to find her.

Investigators checked old wells and looked for possible graves around China Grove, near the Parsons old house, and elsewhere in Rowan County. Nothing of note was found but a dialogue with Sandy Parsons continued.

In August, Parsons told Moose that Erica was indeed dead and buried near Pageland. Several trips were made by teams of FBI and Rowan investigators, but the grave was not pinpointed, leading to his temporary release from prison when he led them to the spot.

Mark Washburn: 704-358-5007, @WashburnChObs