Live

Watch CBSN Live

Erica Parsons case: Parents charged with murder years after N.C. girl vanished

ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. -- The parents of a North Carolina girl who was missing for years before her father led them to her skeletal remains in 2016 will be charged with murder, reports CBS affiliate WBTV.

A grand jury on Monday indicted Sandy and Casey Parsons on charges of first-degree murder, felony child abuse, felony concealment of death and felony obstruction of justice in the death of their daughter Erica, the station reports. Erica Parsons went missing in 2011, when she would have been 13, but wasn't reported missing until two years later by her brother.

Sandy Parsons and his wife Casey are both serving sentences in separate federal prisons after being convicted of fraud for taking federal adoption assistance money meant for the girl long after she was last seen, the station reports.

Testimony at the fraud trial unveiled a pattern of abusing Erica, who was adopted and lived with the family from 2000 until she disappeared in 2011.

parsons3.jpg
Sandy and Casey Parsons WBTV

Sandy Parsons was in prison in August 2016 when he allegedly admitted that the girl's body was "discarded" on Dec. 19, 2011, and that it could be found in Pageland, S.C., near property owned by his family, reported WBTV. A judge approved an escort team to transport Parsons from prison to help investigators locate the body, and they uncovered the girl's remains in a shallow grave the next month, the warrant said.

No plea deal was offered in exchange for the information, officials have said.

"That day in South Carolina was tough on all of us," Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten said in announcing the charges Tuesday.  "I saw some pretty tough cops take it pretty rough."

The body was returned to a Rowan County for an autopsy. On Jan. 9 the autopsy report was received from the medical examiner, which Auten called critical in moving forward with the case. The report, obtained by WBTV, found that Erica died of "homicidal violence of undetermined means." The coroner wrote "we cannot exclude the possibility of a terminal blunt force injury, suffocation or strangulation."

The autopsy found the girl was malnourished and had been abused over a long period of time. Sandy Parsons has allegedly admitted his "harsh treatment" of the girl, including beating her with a belt, bending her fingers backward, locking her in a closet and choking her. According to the warrant, UNC School of Medicine Dr. Cynthia Brown called the abuse "child torture."

Auten said he was at times critical that the medical examiner's report took such a long time to complete, but said the skeletal condition of the remains and the long period of time the body had been left undiscovered made the case unusual.

Auten said the case has "haunted" the community and law enforcement for years. He said he's relieved to be able to move forward with the prosecution phase and finally seek justice for the child.

"There's people that think the Parsons should have already been hung on the square," Auten said. "But they'll have their day in court. We'll let a jury decide their fate."

He said more than anything, he was glad that the girl's remains are back in Rowan County and that she was able to have a proper burial.

"We just did not want to leave a little girl out there," Auten said. "We wanted to bring her home."

View CBS News In