ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. — The adoptive parents of Erica Parsons, the 13-year-old girl who disappeared in 2013 and was missing until her body was found three years later, faced a judge on Thursday.
Sandy and Casey Parsons were charged with first-degree murder in connection with Erica's death last January. They were also charged with felony child abuse inflicting serious injury, felony concealment of death and obstruction of justice.
Casey's trial date was set for the week of April 6, 2020. Sandy did not receive a trial date.
Several family members attended Thursday’s court hearing, including Carolyn Parsons, Erica's biological mother, who gave her up to relatives when she was just 2-years-old.
"I am very very happy,” Carolyn said. “It’s not both trials, but it's one. It's a baby step, but its a step."
Between now and the trial, both prosecutors and defense attorneys plan to continue the discovery process, including reviewing evidence and authorizing expert witnesses.
"There is no reason for a 13-year-old child to live the life that she did," said Carolyn.
In 2013, Erica was first reported missing by her adoptive brother. He told investigators he hadn't seen her since November 2011 when she was 13. Sandy and Casey refuted the claim, saying Erica went to live with relatives in Asheville. Investigators later proved that was false.
On July 30, 2014, exactly one year after Erica disappeared, Sandy and Casey were arrested on federal fraud charges. An indictment alleged that from February 2010 to August 2013, Sandy and Casey committed tax fraud, mail fraud, theft of government funds, identity theft and engaged in a conspiracy to defraud the government.
Casey pleaded guilty to 16 charges and was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Sandy chose to go to trial and was found guilty of 43 charges, leading to an eight-year sentence.
Two years later, on September 27, 2016, investigators revealed Sandy admitted Erica was dead. He led police to her body in a shallow grave in rural Chesterfield County. The remains were buried on property near his mother's home in Pageland.
"I'm glad that it finally ate him up to the point that he had to do something," said Carolyn.
An autopsy said Erica had broken bones and was malnourished. Her cause of death was homicidal violence.
Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against Sandy and Casey but Carolyn wants them to live out their final days in prison.
"I think they should be in population and I think they should let the population take care of them," she said.