ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. - It's been more than six years since Rowan County teenager Erica Parsons was last seen alive, and following the release of her heartbreaking autopsy report, the district attorney is one step closer to filing charges against her adoptive parents.
The Rowan County Sheriff's Office told Channel 9 that Erica's adoptive parents, Sandy and Casey Parsons, will likely face new criminal charges but that it could take months.
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.
Sandy and Casey are already in federal prison. They were arrested in 2014 for accepting federal benefits for Erica after she disappeared.
Erica's body wasn’t found until 2016, when her adoptive father, Sandy, led investigators to a wooded area in Chesterfield County.
The sheriff made it clear at the time that they did not make a plea deal.
Several family members reported that Erica was subjected to physical and emotional abuse by her adoptive parents, according to the documents.
According to the report, which was released Tuesday, Erica 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 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 says it's possible Erica died from blunt force, suffocation or strangulation and classified her cause of death as “homicidal violence of undetermined means.”
Now that investigators finally know how she suffered, Erica's other family members want Casey and Sandy charged with murder.
Teresa Goodman was Erica Parson's aunt on her biological father's side.
“I want to see them get the death penalty,” Goodman said Tuesday. “That's what I want because that's what they deserve.”
For years, Goodman has been waiting for charges to be filed in her niece’s death.
(Casey and Sandy Parsons)
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.
The autopsy report showed that Erica suffered multiple blunt force injuries over a prolonged period of time, and a growth deficit and low bone density show she was malnourished.
Channel 9 coverage on the Erica Parsons case:
- Sheriff: Erica Parsons was likely dead before reported missing
- Search warrants paint disturbing picture of Erica Parsons life
- Frequently asked questions in the Erica Parsons case
- Rowan Co. investigators add $10K to reward in Erica Parsons case
- New hearing set for Erica Parsons' adoptive parents
- Investigators search home of missing teen Erica Parsons
- Jury convicts Sandy Parsons for embezzlement, mail fraud
- Expert: Feds to closely monitor adoptive parents of Erica Parsons
- Rowan Co. Sheriff: ‘Progress being made in Erica Parsons' case'
- Erica Parsons' biological mother says 3 years since seeing daughter
- Tuesday marks two years since Erica Parsons' disappearance
- No promising leads nearly 1 month after Erica Parsons reported missing
- Erica Parsons' biological family: 'There is no Nan'
The description of her by her siblings suggests that Erica may have been suffered 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 from a blunt force injury, suffocation and strangulation.
Goodman believes more people in the family knew about the abuse and was deeply disturbed by the medical examiner's findings.
"I can't imagine anyone doing something like that. My mind can't wrap around it. How can anybody do something like this to a child?" Goodman said.
Goodman said she wants to see Casey and Sandy charged in Erica's death.
She asked, "that they get charged and be sent away forever, if not electrocuted, or whatever."
Eyewitness News has been in constant communication with the Rowan County Sheriff's Office since Erica's body was found. They told anchor Allison Latos that they had been waiting on the medical examiner's report in order to present a case to Rowan County District Attorney Brandy Cook.
Once Cook looks over the evidence and autopsy report, she will meet with investigators to determine the type of criminal charges that will be filed against Casey and Sandy.
Channel 9 asked a legal expert if the new autopsy results could finally help charge someone with murder.
“It doesn't tell you who did it, exactly how it happened, what the circumstances were,” said attorney James Wyatt. “So, it leaves a lot of questions open for other forms of proof.”
He said prosecutors only use autopsies as part of their evidence.
“So, even though this is the most proof we've ever seen, the autopsy alone still can't close the case,” Wyatt said. “In other words, the police department will have to have more than this autopsy report to bring criminal charges.”
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