How Could You? Hall of Shame-Erica Lynn Parsons case-Missing Minor Adoptee UPDATED
This will be an archive of heinous actions by those involved in child welfare, foster care and adoption. We forewarn you that these are deeply disturbing stories that may involve sex abuse, murder, kidnapping and other horrendous actions.
From Rowan County, North Carolina, homeschooled adoptee Erica Lynn Parsons was just reported missing on July 30, 2013 by her older brother. She was last seen on November 19, 2011 when she was 13! The adoptive parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons, never reported anything amiss, have not fully answered police questions and “hope to be left alone”, according to ABCNews.
“A North Carolina teen’s adoptive family didn’t report her missing until two years after she disappeared, but the family’s attorney said they believed she was living with her birth family and wanted to be left alone.
Erica Lynn Parsons, who would now be 15 years old, was reported missing by her 19-year-old adoptive brother last week, according to Capt. John Sifford of the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office.
Parsons was homeschooled, according to her family’s attorney, Carlyle Sherrill, so she couldn’t have been reported missing by her school.
The last known sighting of Erica was in November 2011 at her family’s home in Salisbury, N.C., according to Sifford.
It was around that time that Erica’s birth mother contacted her adoptive parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons, and said she wanted Erica to come and stay with her and some relatives of Erica’s birth father for a while, Sherrill told ABCNews.com.
Erica called her adoptive parents a few months later and “made it known in no uncertain terms she didn’t want to come back to be with them,” Sherrill said.
They looked at it as being a rebellious teenager. That was an attitude they took,” Sherrill said. “I don’t know that at any time it dawned on them she was a missing person.”
Sherrill said he did not know the name of Parsons’ birth mother.
Casey and Sandy Parsons were questioned by authorities and fully cooperated with what questions they were able to answer, Sherrill said.
He said the Parsonses are hopeful authorities will locate Erica so they can be left alone.
“They’d like to know where she is and if she’s doing fine,” Sherrill said. “If she’s happy there, then they’d be accepting of it.”
Parsons’ grandparents, however, told ABC News’ Charlotte affiliate WSOC-TV they are “so worried” about the girl’s welfare.
“That is my fear, that something happened and nobody is telling us. I am not talking about the law, I am talking about my boy and daughter-in-law,” said Steve Parsons, Erica’s grandfather.
Authorities declined to release further information on the case, but did note on a missing persons flyer that Erica Parsons is “possibly in the Asheville, N.C., area.”
Erica Parsons is described as 4 feet 5 and weighing between 85 and 90 pounds. Authorities said she has brown hair and brown eyes and is known to be small for her age.
It was not immediately clear whether Parsons’ adoptive parents could be charged for the delay in reporting her missing.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory signed Caylee’s Law in May, making it a felony to fail to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement within 24 hours. For third parties who suspect a child is missing but fail to file a report, the penalty is a misdemeanor. The law will not go into effect until Dec. 1, 2013.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office at 704-216-8700.”
[ABC News 8/7/13 by Alyssa Newcomb]
“Investigators searching for a missing Rowan County teenager say nothing the girl’s adoptive parents told them during two days worth of questioning was true, and the family is not being cooperative.
Erica Parsons’ older brother reported her missing last week. It appears the last time people at the family home on Miller Chapel Road in Salisbury saw her was November 2011.
Attorney Carlyle Sherrill, hired by the Parsons family, says someone picked up Erica up claiming to be a friend or relative of Erica’s biological parents, and that it was someone the girl previously visited in the mountains a handful of times before.
Sherrill also says Erica called her adoptive parents a short time after she left home and told them she wasn’t coming back.
The family apparently did not resist because Erica told them she didn’t want to be with them and was happier elsewhere, plus the parents were dealing with illnesses and raising other kids, Sherrill said.
Sherrill says investigators questioned the Parsons family over two days, and just because they say the story isn’t true doesn’t mean the adoptive mother and father lied.
“They’re just relaying what their understanding of the situation was. If it’s wrong, it’s not because they fabricated anything. It’s because what they were told was wrong,” he said.
Sherrill says the parents stopped talking to investigators when the line of questioning became accusatory. Nobody has been arrested or charged in Erica’s disappearance.
“They were insinuating they had something to do with what happened to Erica,” Sherrill said.
Sherrill says the parents told him investigators threatened to dig up their yard in their search for the teen.
Sherrill says Erica’s brother was having trouble at home, got into a fight with his parents and got moved out of the house – and that it could be a reason why the brother reported Erica missing now instead of in 2011.
For now, it appears no one knows where Erica Lynn Parsons is, or who she left with in 2011.”
[Charlotee Observer 8/7/13 by Tony Burbeck]
The Answers that the Investigators Doubt Come from Claims in the following article about Asheville relatives
“Her adoptive parents contend they believed she was staying with relatives in Asheville, and they didn’t report anything to police because they didn’t consider her missing. Her 20-year-old brother filed a missing person report after moving out of the family’s home a few weeks ago.
Rowan investigators contacted Asheville police this week, Asheville police Sgt. Dave Romick said. Local officers are not actively working the case but are staying in touch with detectives in Rowan, he said.
He called the circumstances — including the length of time the girl was missing before it was reported — “extremely odd.”
He said he couldn’t speculate about whether the girl might be in danger.
Erica’s adoptive parents, Sandy and Casey Parsons of Salisbury, could not be reached for comment. But their attorney, Carlyle Sherrill of Salisbury, said the couple had been grilled by Rowan detectives in recent days, though no charges have been filed. Investigators are misguided in their efforts, Sherrill said.
“My clients have no reason to believe she’s in danger,” Sherrill said. “The sheriff’s department has been acting on this with a fertile imagination.”
Sandy and Casey Parsons, who adopted Erica when she was a baby, were contacted by the girl’s birth mother several years ago, Sherrill said. The mother, also a Salisbury resident, told the couple she had relatives in Asheville that she wanted Erica to get to know, and requested that the teen be allowed to travel to Asheville to stay with them.
“My clients allowed her to go to Asheville and stay with them awhile,” Sherrill said. “They wanted to see the child and establish a relationship.”
Erica made two trips to Asheville and returned home to Salisbury each time, but during a third trip indicated she wanted to stay permanently with her relatives in Asheville, Sherrill said.
In a February 2012 telephone conversation between Erica and her parents, “She let them know in no uncertain terms that she didn’t want to come back,” Sherrill said.
When the Parsonses tried to track down the Asheville relatives, they couldn’t be found.
“What my clients were told their names were, evidently that’s not who they were,” Sherrill said.
During each visit to Asheville, the Parsonses would meet the Asheville relatives in Mooresville to hand the child off, so they never went to an Asheville home, Sherrill said.
He said he doesn’t know the birth mother’s name but was told she recently moved to Louisiana.
“It seems to me they (sheriff’s detectives) should be asking her about this,” he said.
Erica was reported missing by her brother, James Parsons, who Sherrill said was unhappy with his parents after they forced him to move out of their home.
Sherrill said James Parsons “had to move out of the house because he has repeatedly assaulted people in the house, especially his mother.””
[Asheville Citizen-Times 8/7/13 by Sabian Warren]
Biological Grandparents Speak Out
“Eyewitness News talked to Parson’s grandparents on Monday.
They said they are sick not knowing what happened to her.
“That is my fear that something happened and nobody is telling us. I am not talking about the law, I am talking about my boy and daughter-in-law,” said Steve Parsons.
“I am so worried, I am so worried,” said Janet Parsons.
On Monday night, Eyewitness News knocked on the door of Erica Parsons’ home and no one answered.
Earlier on Monday, Eyewitness News was told the parents of Erica had turned photos of the teenager over to law enforcement, but had been advised by their lawyers not to comment.
Eyewitness News asked neighbors if they had ever seen Parsons.
Elizabeth Cardona said she saw a lot of police activity at the Parsons home last week. She said something else struck her as strange.
“I saw two ladies yelling at each other and I saw a moving truck but I didn’t know what was going on,” said Cardona.
Erica was adopted by the Parsons when she was just 2 weeks old and she could not have been reported missing by her school because she was also homeschooled.
Caylee’s Law was introduced in several states after the mother of a Florida toddler was acquitted.
Casey Anthony failed to report her 2-year-old daughter missing for nearly a month in 2008. The girl’s body was later found in some nearby woods.
North Carolina’s version of the law goes into effect in December. Any parent who does not report a child missing within 24 hours will be charged with a felony.
Anyone else who suspects a child is missing and doesn’t report it faces a misdemeanor.”
[WSOCTV 8/5/13 by Dave Faherty and Trish Williford]
FBI Join Investigation
“Federal investigators have joined in the search for a teen girl, who was reported missing nearly two years after she was last seen, after her parents became “increasingly uncooperative,” investigators say.
According to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI has joined deputies in the search for now 15-year-old Erica Lynn Parsons.
Parsons was reported missing on July 30 to the Sheriff’s Office by a step-sibling, investigators told WBTV. She was last seen on November 19, 2011 at a home along the 200-block of Miller Chapel Road in Salisbury.
Deputies say Parsons was last seen by her step-brother, James Parsons, when she was 13-years-old.”
“Deputies say Erica’s adoptive parents, Casey Stone Parsons and Sandy Parsons, initially talked with investigators, but became increasingly uncooperative. ”
[KHPO 8/8/13 by Chris Dyches]
REFORM Puzzle Pieces
Update: “The home of Erica Lynn Parsons’ adoptive parents in Salisbury, North Carolina is being searched today as the FBI join the hunt to find the 15-year-old who went missing two years ago.”
“On Friday, Erica’s adoptive aunt and grandmother were interviewed by investigators. Meanwhile, the Parsonses spoke to local reporters, saying that they believed the 15-year-old was OK, but afraid to contact them due to all the media attention.”
“Casey and Sandy Parsons told the press that despite accusations from police, they have done nothing wrong.‘[Police said] we had killed Erica and buried her in our backyard,’ Casey Parsons said. ‘We told them “Go do what you want to the house. Look. Go dig the yard up. Erica is not in this yard. Erica is fine.”‘According to the couple, they believed that their adopted daughter has been living with her biological grandmother, Irene Goodman, since December 2011, when the girl traveled to Asheville to visit her for Christmas.However, police and Erica’s birth mother, Carolyn Parsons, said that the teen’s paternal grandmother has died.
Despite Casey and Sandy Parsons’ protestations that they have never hurt Erica, the Department of Social Services has removed their two other children from their home and launched an investigation of its own.”
“According to DSS documents obtained by Channel 9, at least one person had been concerned that Erica was being abused as a child.The report stated that when Erica was 4-years-old, she was observed with ‘four marks on her rear end, a long one down the back of her leg and a couple on the side of her face.’
According to a woman involved in the case, the little girl was perpetually punished by her adoptive parents. The person who raised the alarm about Erica’s treatment told DSS at the time that Casey Parsons even carried ‘a belt’ and used it to whip the girl.
However, a DSS investigation into the allegations of abuse has yielded no evidence. According to a report summing up the investigation, ‘no signs of cuts, contusions, or scratches’ have been found, and Erica showed ‘no signs of fear with either of the parents going up and sitting on each of their laps without being asked.’
The person who reported the abuse, however, insisted that Erica was very submissive and would do whatever she was told out of fear of being punished.”
“According to Sherrill, James Parsons called police after being forced to move out of his parents’ house as punishment for assaulting his mother with a baseball bat in June.
Casey and Sandy Parsons described their son as an emotionally disturbed young man who is bi-polar, suicidal and at times violent.
In February 2010, James was charged with assaulting his then-3-year-old brother, Toby, by biting the toddler on the arm.
That summer, James was charged with assaulting his mother, who had just undergone surgery, his sister and brother, and also choking the sister’s dog.
According to the arrest warrant, the teen pulled his mother’s gastrointestinal bag tube, causing it to bleed, and kicking the woman while she was on the floor. James also allegedly threated his baby bother with a knife and grabbed his sister, Brooke, by the throat.
The charges against James Parsons were later dropped because his mother failed to appear on court.
‘He always told me he was going to get me. I never thought he’d do this,’ Casey Parsons said, implying that her son filed the missing person’s report to get back at her.Last year, authorities said Casey Parsons reported her daughter Brooke missing, but the child was later found and returned home.When the Parsonses, who adopted the girl when she was just 2-weeks-old, tried to contact Erica’s family in Asheville, they could not be found.
Relatives told Channel 9 the girl has had a life filled with pain and fear. According to one family member, Erica could not speak to or look at anyone because she was always being punished and abused.
[Daily Mail 8/14/13 by Snejana Farberov and Associated Press]
“Casey Parsons and her husband faced tough questions from Dr Phil in a special show that airs today and insisted that her daughter Erica is in the care of her paternal grandmother, ‘Nan’.
Erica was last seen on November 19, 2011, when she was 13, and was only reported missing by her 19-year-old adoptive brother James on July 30. He told police that his parents had killed her.
Dr Phil pointed out that detectives say Nan, whose real name is Irene Goodman, died five years ago and that his team have found no records for a woman with that name connected to the family.
In a tense interview, Mrs Parsons claimed that she left Erica at a McDonald’s in December 2011 so her grandmother could collect her and take her to Asheville in North Carolina for three weeks
Nan initially made contact through Facebook and the girl went to live with her a few months later, she said. They have not heard from Erica, whom they adopted at two weeks old, since that day, she said.
‘After living with Nan for two months, Nan said that Erica did not want to return home,’ Mrs Parsons told Dr Phil of a phone conversation she said they had. ‘Erica wanted to stay with her permanently.
‘In the background, I could hear Erica saying, “I don’t want that b**** coming to my birthday party” and “Tell that b****” don’t come up here”. That hurt a lot… That’s the last time I heard from Erica.’
She added that Nan’s phone was disconnected weeks later and she removed her Facebook profile.
But even though she could not contact her daughter, she said she had not been concerned.
‘I wasn’t worried, I knew that Erica was safe,’ Mrs Parsons said. ‘I understood that Erica was probably scared I would bring her home. I wasn’t scared about Erica’s wellbeing. This was a mutual agreement, it’s not as if Nan had took her and run.’
She said that when she told relatives she wanted to contact the girl, they told her she was being selfish and that she should allow Erica to have a life filled with things the Parsons could not provide
Her husband, Sandy Parsons, added: ‘If it was OK with my wife, it was OK with me. I thought she was just being a rebellious teenager. It upset me – yes, I missed her. I still miss her.’
Dr Phil responded: ‘I have to tell you, that to me it is shocking. I can understand how you can be disarmed [by Nan]… but then you last talked to her in February 2012 and not ever again. It is shocking.’
On the second part of the two-part Dr Phil special, the couple undergo polygraph tests. This episode will air on Wednesday.
Dr Phil also revealed how Erica’s biological mother, a relative of the couple, expressed her concern on Facebook.
‘I am the birth mom,’ she wrote. ‘She has no family in Ashville and I nor her dad have no clue where she is and we love her and want to find her and know she is safe.’
Numerous relatives of the Parsons have told police that the couple inflicted years of abuse on Erica, but the Department of Social Services has not turned up any evidence to support this.
However, last week, investigators searching the Parsons’ home uncovered a treasure trove of evidence they think may answer some questions about the missing girl.
In affidavits filed to obtain search warrants for their Salisbury, North Carolina home, authorities alleged that they ‘routinely abused’ the girl before she went missing two years ago.
Officials found red stained drywall and baseboards that are being tested for the presence of blood, the documents said.
Two large knives were also taken from the house, along with a book detailing the disappearance of JonBenet Ramsay which contained notes about home remodeling, the paper reported.
A plastic bag filled with magazine about Ramsay was also removed, as well as laptops, cell phones and a desktop computer, the paper noted.
‘They’re just looking for anything they can find that’ll help,’ Carlyle Sherrill, the Parsons’ attorney, told media outside his office. ‘We want to help anyway we can to find Erica.’
A separate warrant was also issued to search the family’s financial records after it was discovered they continued to receive payments from the state for the girl’s care even after she left.
The Parsons told officials they collected the checks because they were tied to the teen’s health insurance, according to WSOC.
The warrants also detailed allegations of abuse made against the parents by family members.
Relatives told investigators the missing girl was often covered in bruises and that Sandy Parsons told them ‘she couldn’t tolerate her and does not claim Erica as her daughter’.
When confronted, the woman would accuse other children of beating the innocent girl, they said.
Casey Parsons also allegedly forced the girl to live outside the home like a punished dog, the warrants said.”
‘I’m not scared for her wellbeing’: Mother whose adopted daughter, 15, was only reported missing TWO YEARS after she vanished insists girl is with her grandmother as she faces tough questions from Dr Phil
[Daily Mail 8/20/13 by Lydia Warren]
Update 2: Lie detector test on Dr. Phil and the unethical behavior in surrogacy arrangement. Also closed-door child custody hearing of other children in Parsons’ care was held.
“Rowan County investigators say they’re reviewing Erica Parsons’ parents’ appearance on the “Dr. Phil” show, including a polygraph expert’s characterization of the father as “strongly deceptive” about the teenager’s disappearance.
The show about Erica’s disappearance was taped last week but broadcast across the nation Tuesday and Wednesday. The polygraph results were presented as the finale to the second part Wednesday.
The show’s expert, Jack Trimarco, a former FBI polygraph examiner, said he asked Sandy Parsons, two questions: Did he deliberately cause Erica’s disappearance, and did he have a plan to cause her disappearance?
“He was what I consider strongly deceptive to both relevant questions,” Trimarco told the host, Dr. Phil McGraw.
“Do you think he knows something he’s not telling us?” Dr. Phil asked.
“He does,” Trimarco responded.
Erica, who has been missing since 2011, is the subject of a widening hunt by investigators from Rowan County, the state and the FBI. In search warrants, investigators say they suspect foul play, and Erica’s parents hired an attorney when they say the questions turned accusatory. No one has been charged in connection with Erica’s disappearance.
Sandy Parsons’ wife, Casey, did not take the polygraph exam because she described herself as being in severe pain. Her attorney says she was hospitalized last week following emergency surgery. Trimarco said he opted not to give her the test because the body’s response to pain can be confused with deception.
Trimarco also said he didn’t ask whether Sandy Parsons had killed Erica because “we don’t know if she is dead, so that would not be a good question.”
The results of polygraph examinations are not admissible in court in North Carolina. And scientists question whether polygraphers can accurately identify liars by interpreting measurements of blood pressure, sweat activity and respiration.
Wednesday’s show aired in Charlotte just hours after search warrants were released showing investigators searched a red storage shed at the home of Sandy Parsons’ parents in China Grove, according to the Observer’s news partner, WCNC. Investigators retrieved vacuum pieces including a filter, a hammer, school records and teeth.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children on Wednesday also released an age-progressed picture of Erica, who was 13 when she was last seen by anyone outside her family.
Rowan County authorities say they are reviewing the Parsonses’ appearance on the show and have received about 100 tips from people who’ve watched them, but a spokesman said “no beneficial information has been received” from the calls.
Casey and Sandy Parsons have said they dropped their daughter off with her biological grandmother, whom they identified as Irene Goodman or “Nan.”
The Parsonses told Dr. Phil that they hadn’t seen Erica, then 13, since leaving the girl with “Nan” in December 2011 at a Mooresville McDonald’s. Police, however, say they haven’t been able to locate “Nan” or determine if she actually exists.
Dr. Phil said it defies common sense that they would leave a girl with someone, have no contact for almost two years, and never report her missing.
Perhaps due to a family dispute, Erica’s adoptive brother James filed a missing person’s report on July 30.
The Parsonses’ veracity is at issue in the case, and a Michigan woman who hired Casey Parsons to be a surrogate mother in 2002 told Dr. Phil that she distrusts Casey.
The woman, whose identity was masked on the show, said that Casey Parsons claimed she had had a miscarriage after a few weeks of pregnancy. Then about six months after she had supposedly lost the baby, the Michigan woman found out Casey Parsons was still carrying the child.
The woman said she believes Casey Parsons was taking money from two other couples for the child.
A healthy baby boy was born and turned over to the couple, the woman said. But the woman told Dr. Phil she believes Casey Parsons only went through with the agreement because the couple threatened legal action.
Casey Parsons said her sister caused the controversy by calling the intended parents and saying Casey Parsons was trying to sell their baby.
She also told Dr. Phil that the Michigan woman had wanted Casey to abort the pregnancy because she thought she was carrying a girl; the couple wanted a boy. The Michigan woman said that was “a complete lie.”
The sister involved was the same relative who Erica lived with for eight months at one point.
Search warrants say Erica left the Parsonses home after Casey Parsons “lost control and beat her.”
Erica was returned to the Parsonses’ home because they were afraid of losing the payments they received from the state for Erica’s care, search warrants say. The payments could total at least $623 a month.
A risky choice?
It’s unclear why the Parsonses agreed to appear on the “Dr. Phil” show.
Doing so presents risks if Casey or Sandy Parsons is ever charged in the case, according to defense attorneys reached by the Observer. And statements the couple made on television shows have already been used as probable cause in search warrants.
Many defendants choose not to take the witness stand, said George Laughrun, a Charlotte defense attorney. But the Parsonses have already spoken about the case – and faced probing questions – on a nationally televised show.
“The (District Attorney) in Salisbury is probably going to be there with every VCR he can find, recording every little sound bite they make,” Laughrun said.
A spokesman for the “Dr. Phil” show said the show doesn’t pay for guests to appear and that the Parsonses didn’t ask to be compensated.
But Batt Humphreys, former executive producer for “The Early Show” on CBS, said talk shows can dangle incentives such as first-class flights, upscale hotels and a large meal budget to attract guests.
“There can be a ‘wow’ factor for a couple like this,” Humphreys said. “… The producers know what they’re doing, and they know how to build confidence.
“If they think that they’re going on ‘Dr. Phil’ and Dr. Phil is going to help them and they get all these goodies thrown in, that’s pretty good.”
On air, Dr. Phil said the couple told him they were motivated by their desires to tell their side of the story and to help find Erica.
After Sandy Parson’s polygraph test was done, the “Dr. Phil” show invited the couple back on the show to see the results.
Their attorney, Carlyle Sherrill, said they “were in a hurry to get back to North Carolina.”
Sherrill appeared on the show via satellite feed when the polygraph results were revealed. The Parsonses did not.
Dr. Phil said his show offered to have the Parsonses return or appear by a satellite feed, but they refused.“
[Charlotte Observer 8/21/13 by Cleve R. Wootson Jr and Bill Arthur]
“A child-custody hearing took place behind closed doors Thursday for the family of missing teen Erica Parsons. No one would talk about what happened in the courtroom.
Casey and Sandy Parsons, Erica’s adoptive parents, had been summoned to court in connection with an allegation that two juveniles in their family had been abused or neglected.
The Parsonses left the Rowan courthouse around 4:20 p.m. without their two youngest children. The Parsonses have said the children were taken away from them shortly after Erica was reported missing July 30.
Casey and Sandy Parsons declined to comment as they left the courthouse. Their attorneys also refused to talk with reporters.
Earlier in the day, a Rowan County judge closed the hearing. When petitioning the judge to close the courtroom, a Department of Social Services official said since there is an ongoing criminal investigation into Erica’s disappearance, opening the courtroom could compromise the investigation.
“This is not just about Erica. This is about the other children who may not be in the media spotlight,” Judge Beth Dixon said in explaining her decision to close the hearing.
The judge would not hear a request from an Observer reporter to allow the hearing to be open to the public.
Before Erica was last reported seen in 2011, family members had suspected the girl was being abused, according to search warrants released last week.
William Parsons, Sandy Parsons’ father, said Thursday that he hopes that the Parsonses’ children go back to live with Casey and Sandy.
On Wednesday, investigators returned a search warrant in connection with a shed on William Parsons’ property in China Grove. William Parsons said the shed belonged to Casey and Sandy Parsons and that only they had access. Investigators retrieved vacuum pieces including a filter, a hammer, school records and teeth.
Erica Parsons’ disappearance gained national attention this week when Casey and Sandy Parsons appeared on the “Dr. Phil” show.
Sandy Parsons was “strongly deceptive” to questions on “Dr. Phil” about whether he deliberately caused Erica’s disappearance, a polygraph expert said on the show.
The expert, Jack Trimarco, said he asked Sandy Parsons, two questions: Did he deliberately cause Erica’s disappearance and did he have a plan to cause her disappearance?
Trimarco told Dr. Phil he fully explained the meaning of the questions to Parsons, and he understood them.
“He was what I consider strongly deceptive to both relevant questions,” Trimarco told the host, Dr. Phil McGraw.”
[Charlotte Observer 8/21/13 by Cleve R. Wootson Jr]
Update 3: “Eyewitness News was not allowed inside a Rowan County courtroom Thursday, when a judge made a decision about who would be awarded custody of the Parsons’ two youngest children.
But family members told Channel 9 afterward that for now the children are staying with their aunt and are not going back to their parents, Sandy and Casey Parsons.
The children were taken from them last summer after their adoptive daughter Erica was reported missing.
The Sheriff’s Office said she had not been seen for two years before that. Investigators are still working to figure out where she is.
Casey and Sandy Parsons did not speak with Eyewitness News after court, but extended family members on both sides did.
A family member told Channel 9 the judge told Casey and Sandy Parsons if they want to regain custody of their children they will have to produce Erica Parsons.
An aunt on Casey’s side of the family told Eyewitness News that things are staying the same right now.
“For today we’re just relieved that the kids are staying with their aunt and that things are just the same. Nothing has changed, it’s just like it was, so that was a relief for the whole family,” said Angela Laubscher, an aunt.
Sandy’s parents said they were relieved as well.
“It’s been horrible, and there’s still parts of this that are not over. But this one part is settled for today,” said Janet Parsons, grandmother of the children.
Another family member told Eyewitness News that the aunt who has custody now will be back in court in about 90 days to check in with the judge.”
Update 4:“A North Carolina teenage girl’s adoptive parents were indicted on Wednesday on charges of collecting federal benefits following her disappearance, which went unreported for nearly two years, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Federal prosecutors accused Casey and Sandy Parsons of taking Medicaid, Social Security, food benefits and adoption assistance for their adopted daughter, Erica Parsons, despite her going missing in November 2011. They are also accused of listing the girl as a dependent in documents filed with the Social Security Administration in August 2012 and June 2013, as well as collecting $12,680 from the Cabarrus County Department of Social Services for adoption assistance between January 2012 and August 2013.
WSOC-TV reported that the suspects shoved reporters away as they exited the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem following their appearance. Sandy Parsons can be seen swatting at one reporter’s microphone after getting into a car. The suspects were released on a $25,000 bond and have been placed on house arrest. They are also required to wear electronic monitoring bracelets.
According to the indictment (PDF) against the Parsons, they gained custody of Erica Parsons in March 1999, after her biological parents, Carolyn Parsons and Billy Dean Goodman, gave up their parental rights. The adoption was approved by Cabarrus County officials 11 months later.
Social services workers in nearby Rowan County, however, investigated the suspects in June 2004 after receiving reports that they were abusing the girl. Within a month, Casey Parsons reported that Erica Parsons was living with her sister. The case was closed that November, and Erica Parsons moved back in with her adoptive parents in March 2005.
But Erica Parsons’ disappearance did not come to light until July 30, 2013, when one of her adoptive brothers, identified by federal officials as “J.W.P,” told sheriff’s officials in Rowan County that he last saw her on “an unknown date in or about November or December 2011,” nearly a year since the last time she saw her biological mother.
The suspects have blamed Erica’s disappearance on a woman they identified as Irene “Nan” Goodman, her biological grandmother. They have argued that the girl went to live with Goodman and never returned. But investigators have rejected that explanation, saying Goodman never existed.
A month after the girl’s disappearance, Casey and Sandy Parsons appeared on the syndicated Dr. Phil Show. During the episode, a polygraph test called Sandy Parsons’ statements regarding her “deceptive.” But polygraph exams are not admissible in North Carolina courts.
The reward for information on Erica Parsons’ whereabouts is currently at $50,000. She would now be 16 years old. Meanwhile, her biological mother told the Observer she went outside and screamed in happiness after being told about the suspects’ arrest.
“Hopefully, this teaches them that they’re not untouchable,” Carolyn Parsons was quoted as saying.”
Missing NC teen’s adoptive parents accused of taking federal benefits after she disappeared[The Raw Story 7/30/14 by Arturo Garcia]
Update 5: “The adoptive parents of missing North Carolina teen Erica Parsons appeared in court on Wednesday as they face more than 75 charges of fraud.
Casey and Sandy Parsons are accused of continuing to collect benefits for their adopted niece after her disappearance. They plead not guilty to the charges in Greensboro Federal Court.
Erica was 13 years old when she was last seen in November 2011, but wasn’t reported missing until July 2013 when her 20-year-old adoptive brother informed authorities of his sister’s absence after getting into a fight with his parents.
The Parsons continue to claim that they sent Erica to live with her ‘Nan’, though the girl’s biological mother says no such grandparent exists.
The charges against the Parsons are not related to Erica’s disappearance, but their actions after she went missing.
Federal prosecutors say the Parsons continued to collect several benefits intended for Erica, including a $634 monthly check for adoption assistance.
The Parsons are also accused of receiving state funds for Erica’s Medicaid, Social Security and food.
Additionally, prosecutors say the Parsons lied on their income tax returns by using different identities to make up false dependents.
According to the indictment, Erica was home-schooled, had hearing problems and learning disability.
Adoptive mother Casey Stone Parsons faces 76 charges including theft of government funds, making false statements regarding healthy care matters and aiding the filing of a false tax return.
Her husband Sandy Wade Parsons faces 49 charges including conspiracy to commit offenses against the United States and theft of government funds.
The Erica Parsons case has continued to baffle investigators, and she has never been found.
The Parsons have insisted that they were not worried about her safety because they believed she was with ‘Nan’ – even though it later emerged that both of Erica’s biological grandmothers were in fact dead.
The missing teen’s biological mother Carolyn Parsons spoke out against the couple’s claims, saying she will not give up looking for her daughter, who is now 15.
‘I’m in somebody’s nightmare and they will not wake up and let me out,’ she previously told WBTV.
Casey and Sandy’s lawyer, Carlyle Sherrill, said that it was Carolyn who introduced Erica to ‘Nan’, adding: ‘That’s who brought Nan to them and probably knows who Nan is.’
But Carolyn said: ‘Nan and Irene don’t exist. The only two people that know the truth are the only two people that won’t give the truth.’
She also said she had not wanted to hand her daughter over to her in-laws, but felt she had to because she was unable to bring up the child properly.
‘No mother wants to have children and just give them up,’ she said. ‘I didn’t want to. She didn’t deserve the life that I had.’
Carolyn says she has not seen Erica since January 2011, 10 months before she went missing.
A polygraph test carried out on Sandy Parsons was found to be ‘strongly deceptive’ when he described how he had nothing to do with her disappearance.”
[Daily Mail 8/7/14]
Update 6:“A judge has granted a continuance for the adoptive parents of missing Rowan County teenager Erica Parsons.
WSOC reported that Casey and Sandy Parsons filed motions last week to continue their case. The Parsons pleaded not guilty to more than 70 counts of federal fraud and identity theft.
They are accused of stealing government funds for accepting assistance after Erica’s disappearance.
The original trial date was set for early September, but will now be Oct. 14.
If convicted, the couple could face life in prison.”
Update 7:“Casey Parsons pleaded guilty on Wednesday in Winston-Salem to 16 federal fraud charges.
She and her husband Sandy Parsons are the adoptive parents of missing Rowan County teen Erica Parsons and were arrested in July on more than 70 counts. She was reported missing last year.
The couple was accused of accepting government money for Erica while she was missing.
“She’s looking at anywhere from two to 40 years,” said former Union County district attorney John Snyder.
Snyder is not associated with the case, but he said it’s likely Parsons’ attorney worked out a deal with prosecutors.
“Those folks decided to look at her, look at her offer, look at the information she was going to give, which probably means testifying against her husband, in exchange to get the best possible sentence,” he said.
The Parsons were arrested for accepting more than $600 a month from the government to provide for their adopted daughter Erica, even though the girl was missing for nearly two years.
“There are a lot of different emotions with this,” her biological mother Carolyn Parsons said.
Parsons said she was surprised to hear Casey admitted to the crimes, and she’s hopeful the news brings answers to questions she’s asked since Erica was reported missing more than a year ago.
“What did you do to or with Erica?” she said.
The couple’s trial date was set for later this month, but now that Casey pleaded guilty, attorneys expect Sandy to soon follow suit.
“I would have to think that he’s planning on coming in and pleading guilty himself, or he may be the least wise person on the face of the earth,” Snyder said.
Casey Parsons is set to be sentenced next February. The charges against her husband are still pending.”
Casey Parsons Pleads Guilty to 16 Federal Fraud Charges [Coastal NC 10/02/14 ]