"The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything."
It was the 30th of July 2013. A Tuesday. Jamie Parsons went to the Rowan Sheriff’s Office to report that his adopted sister, Erica Parsons, was missing. As with all missing person cases, especially involving children, time is very much of the essence. In that regard, Jamie's report stunned police. Erica had been missing for some time. Jamie believed Erica had been missing from the family home on Miller Chapel Road, Rowan County, North Carolina, United States since sometime in November or December of 2011. Erica was just thirteen years old at that time.
Erica’s birth mother, Carolyn Parsons,gave up Erica when she was just a baby because she didn't have enough money to look after her. Carolyn had had a difficult childhood herself and she wanted Erica to have a happier life than she had. Carolyn had spent a lot of her own childhood in foster care and homeless shelters and she thought Erica would have a better life with Sandy and his wife Casey Parsons.
Sandy and Casey
Erica went to live with her uncle Sandy and his wife Casey when she was five months old. The couple adopted Erica in 2000.
Police needed to immediately speak to Erica's parents. Jamie told the police he had been in a physical altercation with his parents, Sandy and Casey Parsons, and as a result of that argument, they told him to leave the house. It was then that he went to the police to tell them about Erica.
When police spoke to Sandy and Casey, they assured police that Erica was not missing. Casey told police that Erica went to live with her paternal grandmother “Nan” in Asheville. The problem with that though was that police could not locate "Nan".
A huge search for Erica began. It gained a lot of media coverage and interest. Casey and Sandy even appeared on the Dr Phil show. Casey told Dr Phil about the last time she saw Erica.
As police investigated, a picture began to emerge of the life that Erica endured living with Sandy and Casey.
Erica was home schooled which was why some people in the community did not notice that she was missing. She was not allowed to play or interact with children. Erica suffered discipline and abuse within the home, the extent of which later became apparent when Sandy and Casey were convicted in federal court of keeping federal adoption assistance money. Sandy and Casey had continued to accept the money even after Erica disappeared. Casey was sentenced to ten years in prison and Sandy was sentenced to eight years in prison. While that Trial did not give any indication as to where Erica was, testimony at the Trial unveiled a pattern of abusing Erica.
Family members testified about abuse that Erica suffered. They said that she was beaten with a belt buckle with such force that she was left with broken skin. They also recalled times that she was thrown to the floor, abused and strangled. On other occasions, Erica's fingers were bent all the way back and her hand slammed in a door.
The Trial also revealed that Erica was not allowed to eat at certain times and food was often withheld from her. Jamie told the Court that Erica would have to eat dog food at times and she was forced to sleep in a closet.
Other witnesses saw bruises and marks on Erica.
The night Jamie last saw Erica's in late 2011. She was standing in a corner being punished. That was not an unusual occurrence. Erica was often told to stand in the corner to face her punishment. But that night in particular, Jamie recalled that she "looked like a zombie.” Jamie remembered that she was extremely pale and Erica too him she couldn't breathe.
Despite the evidence of abuse that was revealed at the fraud Trial, police still did not know where Erica was. But that was about to change. In 2016, Sandy told police that he would tell them where Erica was. Sandy and Casey were both serving their sentences for the fraud charges.
Sandy confirmed that Erica was dead. Sandy led police to a property near to a house owned by his family in Chesterfield County, South Carolina. A cadaver dog led police to the exact spot where Erica’s remains were.
Casey and Sandy
Sandy blamed his wife Casey. He told police that Casey told him that Erica had taken pills and was dead. According to Sandy, Casey had already put Erica's body inside two plastic trash bags inside a plastic tote.
An Autopsy was carried out and it stated that fractures were consistent with multiple blunt force injuries over a prolonged period. It identified there was growth deficit and low bone density which were consistent with malnourishment.
The Autopsy revealed that based on how Erica's appearance was described before she disappeared, she may have been the suffering from "untreated infection/sepsis, rhabdomyolysis, renal failure, or poisoning at that time, all of which could have caused her death.” In the week before Erica's disappearance, Erica's siblings described her as looking gray. They said that she had sunken eyes and open, oozing cuts.
The possibility of a terminal blunt force injury, suffocation or strangulation could not be ruled out either as Erica had suffered from severe physical abuse. Erica suffered multiple blunt force injuries over a prolonged period of time. The Autopsy revealed that Erica was tortured and the beatings were carried out with such severity that her bones were broken. The medical examiner confirmed Erica had broken and fractured bones from her face to her fingers.
Erica's cause of death was determined as "homicidal violence of undetermined means."
Casey pleaded guilty to murder and child abuse and was sentenced to life in prison.
Sandy Parsons also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to serve between thirty three and forty four years in prison.
Sandy did not get a life sentence because he led police to where Erica was buried. His lawyer had argued that Casey was the parent who beat Erica as she looked after her while Sandy went to work. The reality is that every single person in Erica's life let her down. Family members saw Erica's bruises. They knew she was being abused and did nothing about it. The issue was not in their home so they did not get involved in it. But Erica was a child. She could not defend herself and needed someone to speak out for her and to protect her and stop the abuse. Nobody was willing to do that. Erica suffered a horrific life in a home where she should have felt safe and loved. Instead, she suffered prolonged physical,mental and emotional abuse. And nobody spoke out until it was too late.
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"The criminal justice system will take a hard look at what happened to Matthew Eappen. It is up to the rest of us to take an even harder look at who is minding our children."
- Eileen McNamara, the Boston Globe
"The effects of abuse are devastating and far reaching. Domestic violence speaks many languages, has many colors and lives in many different communities."
- Sandra Pupatello
"My family and myself are good, decent and very honest people."
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