By David Boroff: The body of a 13-year-old North Carolina girl who vanished in 2011 was found this week — two years after her adoptive parents were convicted of tax fraud related to the child’s disappearance.
The skeletal remains found Tuesday in South Carolina were positively identified as Erica Parsons by the North Carolina Medical Examiner’s Office, officials said Thursday.
It was adoptive father Sandy Parsons, who was also her uncle, who told investigators where to find Erica, the Charlotte Observer reported.
“It’s been a long hard five years not knowing where she was,” aunt Teresa Goodman told the press.
Erica lived with Sandy and Casey Parsons in Rowan County from 2000 until her disappearance. She wasn’t reported missing until 2013.
The couple claimed Erica went to live in Asheville with a woman they believed to be her biological grandmother, who never turned up. They repeatedly insisted this was the case, and even went on national TV with “Dr. Phil” McGraw in 2013. The episode was titled “Missing or Murdered: Where is 15-Year-Old Erica?”
Casey and Sandy Parsons continued to collect benefits, including monthly adoption assistance checks for $634, according to prosecutors. Following their 2014 convictions, Casey Parsons was sentenced to 10 years in prison and Sandy received eight years.
“There is an absolute absence of records about Erica Parsons, who has disabilities, because she is dead,” IRS agent Robert Norlander testified, according to the Observer.
Testimony described in graphic detail the abuse Erica endured before she disappeared. She was fed dog food or no food at all, was excluded from family activities and her arm was broken by one of her siblings.
The couple’s son James said in court that the last time he saw Erica, who was partially deaf, she “looked like a zombie,” according to the press.
“I’ve sentenced more than 1,000 people,” U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Schroeder said to Casey Parsons before handing down her sentence last year. “I cannot think of another case that has troubled me more.”
Authorities say Casey and Sandy Parsons have been uncooperative — though neither has been charged in Erica’s death or disappearance.
Erica moved in with Sandy Parsons and his wife when she was a baby after the infant’s mother, Carolyn Parsons, said she could not afford to raise the child, according to the Observer.
“Erica wasn’t treated as kindly as the others,” relative Janet Parsons told the Observer. “She had to do more chores. She was kind of like a little Cinderella – she had to do the chores.”