ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. — Casey Parsons, the adoptive mother of slain Rowan County teenager Erica Parsons, pleaded guilty Friday morning to murder and child abuse in the girl’s death.
Casey Parsons entered a guilty plea to all three charges against her -- murder, child abuse and obstruction of justice -- and will spend the rest of her life in prison.
Prosecutors last year had announced that they would be seeking the death penalty against Casey Parsons.
The plea in Rowan County Superior Court came six years after Erica Parsons was reported missing by her adoptive brother.
She would have turned 21 earlier this year.
Erica moved in with her aunt Casey and uncle Sandy as a baby in 1998.
Her biological mother Carolyn Parsons told the court she now wishes she had kept her baby.
"I gave Erica for what I thought would have been a better life," said Carolyn Parsons. "What I thought was best for her. Had I known then what I know now, I would have risked it. I would have took her different places every night."
There was a lot of emotion inside the courtroom as Casey said she’s guilty of abusing and murdering her adopted daughter.
Prosecutors laid out the years of abuse they said Erica Parsons endured while in the custody of Casey and Sandy Parsons. Before sentencing, Casey addressed the court and seemed remorseful, saying God gave her a gift in Erica, but she didn’t value that gift.
"God gave me a precious gift, a baby girl Erica and he trusted me to take care of her and I failed Him and I failed Erica and I failed her horribly," she said.
One question Casey couldn't answer was why she abused her adoptive daughter.
"I can't tell you why. I don't know why I did the stuff I did and I'm so sorry," she said.
Friday’s admission was shocking. Since Erica Parsons was reported missing, both Casey and her husband Sandy have denied having anything to do with her disappearance.
Erica Parsons was last seen in November 2011, when she was 13, but was not reported missing until July 2013 by her adopted brother.
Her adoptive parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons, told investigators that Erica had gone to Asheville to visit her grandmother, Nan, but authorities later said that Nan did not exist.
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Casey and Sandy Parsons were already in federal prison when they were charged with the girl’s murder last year. The pair was arrested in 2014 for accepting federal benefits for Erica Parsons after she disappeared.
Erica Parsons' body wasn’t found until 2016, when her adoptive father, Sandy Parsons, led investigators to a wooded area in Chesterfield County.
Casey and Sandy Parsons were both charged with the girl’s murder.
(Casey and Sandy Parsons)
Several family members reported that Erica Parsons was subjected to physical and emotional abuse by her adoptive parents.
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According to a report released last year, Erica Parsons was tortured and malnourished and suffered through beatings that were so horrific they broke her bones. The medical examiner discovered she had broken and fractured bones from her face to her fingers.
The report also said Erica Parsons was choked, thrown, forced to sleep in a closet and eat dog food and was beaten with a belt buckle.
In the report, the medical examiner said it was possible Erica Parsons died of blunt force, suffocation or strangulation and classified her cause of death as “homicidal violence of undetermined means.”
According to the autopsy report, in the week before her 2011 disappearance, Erica’s siblings described her as looking gray with sunken eyes, smelling bad with open, oozing cuts, very weak and complaining of not being able to breathe.
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The autopsy report showed that Erica Parsons suffered multiple blunt force injuries over a prolonged period of time, and a growth deficit and low bone density show she was malnourished.
The description of her by her siblings suggests that the teen may have been suffering from an untreated infection or sepsis, rhabdomyolysis, renal failure or poisoning at the time, according to the autopsy report.
The medical examiner also wrote that because of the history of physical abuse, it can’t be ruled out that she died of a blunt force injury, suffocation and strangulation.
Prosecutors said in 2018 that they were also seeking the death penalty against Sandy Parsons. At this point, it appears he will still stand trial for the charges against him.
Check back with wsoctv.com for updates on this story.