Judge blames couple for Erica Parsons' death
Casey and Sandy Parsons were sentenced to federal prison Friday for financial schemes that included cashing monthly assistance checks of $634 for Erica Parsons more than a year after the girl disappeared.
Erica’s adoptive father, Sandy Parsons, was sentenced to 8 years. Her adoptive mother, Casey Parsons, was sentenced to 10 years.
They were sentenced in Winston-Salem by U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder, who said he gave the couple stiffer sentences after testimony last month described the couple’s cruel treatment of Erica, who was an infant when she came to the Parsons household in Rowan County and 13 years old when she vanished in 2011.
“I have sentenced close to 1,000 people,” Schroeder said during the 2 ½ -hour hearing. “I can’t think of a case that has troubled me more.”
The couple did not speak in court. They were ordered into custody immediately, even though their attorneys had asked that they be allowed to report to prison on their own. The judge said he could not be sure they wouldn’t pose a threat to other people, based on what they did to Erica.
“You and your husband are responsible for the death of Erica,” Schroeder told Casey Parsons. “You and your husband did something horrible, horrible with her. What happened to her is known only to you and God. In the dark of the night, you did something to her.”
Schroeder said the story originally told by the Parsonses about giving the girl to her grandmother was unbelievable.
“It doesn’t pass the smell test,” he said.
In sentencing Casey Parsons to 10 years, he said that she was a serial swindler. The court record shows she had run an eBay scam in which she sold items but never delivered them, and also that she took money to be a surrogate mother and then lied about losing the baby.
“By all appearances you were the brains of this operation,” he said. “... In my view, you are morally bankrupt.”
Schroeder then sentenced Sandy Parsons.
“I cannot fathom the hatred you had for this little girl,” he said. Schroeder pointed out that there was convincing evidence that Erica Parsons was often locked in a closet and sometimes was fed dog food from a can.
“There was just a little girl who wanted to be loved,” the judge said.
Casey Parsons, 40, pleaded guilty in October to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, five counts of mail fraud, four counts of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return, four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.
Sandy Parsons, 42, refused a plea bargain and was found guilty in October of one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, one count of aggravated identity theft, one count of false statement to a government agency, 20 counts of theft of government funds and 20 counts of mail fraud.
Sandy Parsons has two prior convictions for assault on a female against his wife. Casey Parsons had no criminal record.
They were charged for accepting government payments and tax deductions for Erica after she no longer lived in their home.
A normal sentence for their financial crimes would have been about three to five years. But under federal sentencing guidelines, prior adult criminal conduct can be considered by the judge even if there were no charges brought at the time.
In addition to prison time, the couple was ordered to make restitution to the government for about $41,000 for tax evasion.
Mysterious case continues
Authorities have been vexed by the case since Erica Parsons was reported missing July 30, 2013, by her adoptive brother, James Parsons, who went to authorities after a fight with his parents and said no one had seen Erica for 20 months.
A year later, the Parsons were arrested on fraud and tax charges. Despite an intense investigation that has included the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI, the Rowan County Sheriff’s Department, the Social Security Administration and other agencies, no trace of Erica – nor the biological grandmother that Casey Parsons said she gave the girl to – has ever been found.
Though the Parsons were convicted of financial crimes, the case opened a window into the investigation into Erica’s disappearance when Assistant U.S. Attorney Anand Ramaswamy introduced evidence about it in a February sentencing hearing. Ramaswamy indicated that he believes the girl has never been found because she is dead.
Erica was adopted by the Parsonses as an infant, and the couple received government payments because Erica had hearing problems and a learning disability. Her biological mother had at one point been married to Sandy Parsons’ brother, but Erica’s father was another man.
In the February hearing, James Parsons and other members of the Parsons family described a pattern of cruel physical and emotional abuse aimed at Erica, including that Casey Parsons encouraged the family’s other children to abuse Erica from infancy.
Erica was fed dog food by Casey Parsons as punishment for stealing food or sweets, was often locked in a closet and was made to stand in a corner rather than being allowed to play with other children, family members said. Only a small portion of the testimony during the day-long February hearing concerned the federal fraud charges.
During the sentencing hearing on Friday, Erica’s biological mother, Carolyn Parsons, sat on the back row and listened as her former in-laws were sentenced.
Outside the courthouse, Carolyn Parsons said she is completely sure Casey and Sandy Parsons killed her daughter.
“What do I have to say to Casey and Sandy?” she said. “Enjoy your day in hell. I’m enjoying it.”