Nearly seven years after Erica Parsons was last seen alive, her adoptive parents have been indicted in Rowan County for killing and dismembering the girl to hide their crime.
Sandy Parsons and his wife Casey Parsons are charged with first-degree murder, felony concealment of death and obstruction of justice for lying to North Carolina investigators.
No one knows for sure when Erica died, but it’s believed she was 12 or 13 at the time. The exact cause of her death is not listed in the indictment, other than to say the girl died of “homicidal violence.” Her remains were found in September 2016, and an autopsy determined the girl suffered terribly before she was killed.
The indictment, announced Tuesday, accuses her parents of carrying out a plot of murder and grisly concealment that included cutting the corpse into pieces.
It was a plot investigators spent six years trying to unravel under the scrutiny of national media coverage.
In the process, they have learned that Erica Parsons – who had been given up for adoption as a newborn – suffered countless abuses in her short life, including beatings by her adoptive family, starvation as a form of punishment and, finally, burial in an unmarked grave in a South Carolina field.
Even her disappearance was ignored for years. The girl was last seen alive in 2011, but wasn’t reported missing until July 2013. Her body was found in 2016, and it has taken nearly two years for anyone to be charged with her murder.
In the end, authorities charged the two people who were supposed to protect her from harm.
Testimony has revealed that the undersized and partially deaf girl lived a life of servitude and abuse during the years she was with the Parsons family. Part of what she went through is depicted in the indictment, which accused the couple of intentionally inflicting “serious bodily injury, broken and fractured bones which resulted in a permanent and protracted condition that (caused) extreme pain on Erica Lynn Persons...”
Once Erica died, investigators said, the couple dismembered and destroyed her body “by any means, including removing body parts,” then lied to cover up her disappearance.
Both Sandy Parsons and his wife were convicted in 2016 of financial crimes that include cashing $12,000 in adoption assistance checks after her disappearance. Sandy Parsons, 44, is serving eight years in a prison in Butner and his wife, Casey Parsons, 43, is serving 10 years in Tallahassee, Florida.
At a 2015 trial, their oldest biological son, James Parsons, revealed that he and other children in the family routinely abused Erica, often at their mother’s urging. He once broke her arm, he said.
Erica was often locked in a closet in the various homes the family lived in, James Parsons testified, and was sometimes beaten for relieving herself on the floor when she didn’t have access to a bathroom.
James Parsons told the court that the last time he saw her was in the fall of 2011, when she was standing in a corner as punishment. “She didn’t look too good – she looked like a zombie,” he testified. “She said she did not feel good. She said she could not breathe too good.”
Erica was gone the next morning, he said. His parents had left early that day, which he said was unusual. When they came back home, they told him Erica had gone to live with her biological grandmother.
A missing persons report was filed a year and a half later, in July 2013. Casey and Sandy Parsons were arrested the following year on fraud charges connected to cashing the adoptive assistance checks.
On Sept. 27, 2016, Sandy Parsons was released long enough from prison to lead investigators to a rural field in Pageland, South Carolina, where Erica’s skull and bones were found. The site is near the property where Sandy Parson’s mother lived.
The autopsy of Erica’s remains showed she could have died of “blunt force” injury suffered over years, or she could have been suffocated or strangled. Erica had broken bones all over her body, the autopsy report said. Fractures in various stages of healing were found in her nose, jaw, upper right arm, nine ribs and several vertebrae. Erica’s bones showed she was also malnourished, the autopsy found.
She was buried last Feb. 25 in China Grove’s West Lawn Cemetery, in a funeral paid for through community donations.
The marker lists her death date as 2011 and reads: “Protected by angels for ever more.”
Had she lived, Erica would turn have turned 20 on Saturday.