ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. - Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten announced Tuesday morning that Casey and Sandy Parsons, the adoptive parents of Erica Parsons, will be charged with murder in the death of Erica, nearly five years after the girl was reported missing.
A Rowan County grand jury indicted Casey and Sandy on charges of first-degree murder, felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury, felony concealment of death, and felony obstruction of justice.
"Her birthday would have been Saturday. She would have been 20 years old," Sheriff Auten said..
Erica's case has haunted the community since 2013, and Auten expressed pride when announcing authorities had gotten the break they had been waiting for that allowed murder charges to be brought forth.
"You don't get a first degree murder indictment by chance, you have to have some pretty good evidence," he said.
"This case has weighed on us pretty heavy," the sheriff said. "We just did not want to leave a little girl out there. We wanted to bring her home."
Erica's adopted brother reported her missing in July 2013, but investigators discovered the Rowan County girl had not been seen since 2011.
Channel 9 coverage of the Erica Parsons case:
- Search warrants paint disturbing picture of Erica Parsons life
- Frequently asked questions in the Erica Parsons case
- New warrants detail life of 'child torture' suffered by Erica Parsons
- Sheriff: Erica Parsons was likely dead before reported missing
- Medical examiner says Erica Parsons died from 'homicidal violence'
- Parsons' former attorney: Erica's autopsy doesn't add much to evidence
- 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'
Her remains were eventually discovered in September 2016 in rural Chesterfield County, South Carolina, and the horrific details of her autopsy were released last month.
Sheriff Auten said Tuesday that their big break in the case was when Sandy Parsons led investigators to Erica's remains.
"We probably would have never recovered the body which made some other investigations possible," he said.
Sandy's cooperation has led to speculation he may testify against his wife.
"That's a possibility. That's what they have always tried to do. Law enforcement has always tried to turn Sandy against Casey," offered attorney Carlyle Sherrill who used to represent the couple.
Casey and Sandy Parsons are both in federal prison, sentenced in 2015 for accepting Erica's federal benefits after she disappeared. Neither had been charged with her death until Tuesday.
The pair will be brought back to Rowan County sometime in the coming weeks to answer for the state charges.
And although the couple has now been indicted on murder charges, deputies are not patting themselves on the back.
"It's gonna take all of us to finish this case and get that final justice for Erica," said the sheriff.
The case captured the attention of the entire community. When Erica was first reported missing, dozens held vigils hoping she’d be found alive.
When her remains were found in September of 2016, the community came together to raise money for Erica’s funeral.
Tuesday many of them breathed a sigh of relief.
“For a lot of people this gives it a little bit of closure, or at least starts to,” said Beth McKeithan Executive Director Prevent Child Abuse Rowan.
Some said they want the case to prompt more adults to report child abuse.
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