Inside The Mysterious Disappearance And Death Of Erica Parsons

People are typically reported missing to authorities soon after they disappear. So when Salisbury, North Carolina detectives were alerted to a missing child case in 2013, they took note that she hadn't been seen in nearly two years. If she'd been missing for that long, why didn't anyone report her sooner?

The missing girl was 13-year-old Erica Parsons. She was reported missing by her adoptive brother on July 30, 2013, who claimed he had not seen her since December of 2011. When questioned about their son's statements, Sandy and Casey Parsons (the girl's adoptive parents) claimed he was angry about an unrelated situation at home and was lashing out with a false story. Erica Parsons had been living happily with her biological grandmother since 2011(via NBC News). 

Erica Parsons' family history is a complicated one. She had been adopted by Sandy and Casey Parsons shortly after she was born. Erica Parsons' biological mother felt as though she couldn't care for her properly, so a legal adoption was arranged. This adoption was finalized in 2000. It turned out to be a horrible mistake.

Federal charges for financial fraud

Investigators' suspicions continued to grow. The Parsons claimed that their adopted daughter was living with her biological grandmother. But this woman could not be located (via NBC News). It was alleged that the Parsons sold off the missing girl to pay off mounting debt, which was steadfastly denied by the couple. However, an ongoing investigation did uncover that the family owed a good amount of money, largely medical debt.

Federal agencies got involved. Since the Parsons admitted that Erica was no longer living with them, then the couple had no legal justification to claim her on their federal income taxes. Nor did they have any legal right to receive financial assistance for a minor child that was no longer in their care. According to the Salisbury Post, "Parsons received government funded adoption assistance, Medicaid, Social Security, and Food and Nutrition Services benefits for a dependent that did not live with them and used the mail to commit the fraud." 

Casey Parsons pled guilty in federal court and received a ten-year sentence. Sandy Parsons took his chances at trial, and though convicted of 43 charges, was only sentenced to eight years in a federal prison (via NBC News). The judge in their sentencing made no secret that he was aware that the Parsons were hiding relevant information as to the whereabouts of Erica. U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder said from the bench, "You and your husband did something horrible, horrible with her," Schroeder told Casey Parsons. "I have sentenced close to 1,000 people. I can't think of a case that has troubled me more (via NBC News).

Once safely behind the prison walls, Casey began to seriously contemplate coming clean about murder.

A chilling jailhouse admission

According to NBC News, investigators in the missing person case didn't relent once both the Parsons were in prison. After one fateful interview with authorities, Casey Parsons knew that his time was up. He decided to come out with the truth.

In 2016, he admitted to the murder and told investigators that he could lead them to where he had placed the body. Erica Parsons had been buried outside of Pageland, South Carolina, on wooded property that belonged to his mother. He led authorities down a dirt road, where he instructed them to stop. He pointed over to a small dirt mound, just off the side of the road, the spot where he had buried her in 2011.

Erica Parson's body was unearthed from that very spot. And the Parsons were each charged with new counts, including murder. What the autopsy revealed, combined with witness accounts, painted a horrific picture of a lifetime of severe abuse.

A long history of horrific abuse

The autopsy concluded that Erica Parsons had died due to homicidal violence (via People). There were multiple fractures in her bones, at varying degrees of healing, when she was murdered. Broken arms, a fractured jaw, and multiple hairline fractures were in various places on her body.

In court, family members testified as to the extent of the severe physical abuse and psychological torture to which Casey and Sandy Parsons subjected their adopted daughter. The Parsons' son testified that he and his biological sister would often join in with their parents while they beat Erica. He also spoke of how Casey would often bend Erica's fingers until they broke, and then denied her any medical care.

For additional punishment, food was routinely withheld from Erica. Casey would force her to eat dog food from a can.

Other witnesses told the court that Erica would also be locked into closets. She was also subjected to multiple burns as punishment (via NBC News).

The Parsons were revealed to have kept Erica out of public school, which would help explain why no one outside of the family had ever reported the abuse. The Parsons home-schooled Erica, in an attempt to keep her away from anyone who might have become suspicious of her abusive treatment.

Delayed justice for Erica Parsons

Already serving time in prison for federal financial crimes, Sandy and Casey Parsons were now being charged with multiple counts of abuse and the murder of their adopted daughter. Prosecutors announced prior to trial that they would be seeking the death penalty against the couple.

In a desperate attempt to save their own lives, both Sandy and Casey offered up plea deals through their attorneys. Casey Parsons would spend life in prison without the possibility of parole, while Sandy Parsons would be spending up to 53 years behind bars (via NBC News). The courts accepted their plea arrangement, and the couple is now serving their time in a North Carolina prison.

At the sentencing hearing, Erica Parsons' biological mother Caroline Parsons was satisfied with the results. She stated "I still 100% agree with that because their life in prison, living her life in prison will be worse than any death sentence she could ever get. I don't know that I believe she is sorry."

If you or someone you know may be the victim of child abuse, please contact the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child (1-800-422-4453) or contact their live chat services.