Erica Parsons’ adoptive parents declared on national TV Tuesday that they did not kill Erica, who has been missing since 2011 and is the subject of a widening hunt by investigators from Rowan County, the state and the FBI.
“Erica is not missing. Erica is with her grandmother,” Casey Parsons said on the “Dr. Phil” show on Tuesday. “This would all be over if … Erica would just pick the phone up and call.”
On the show, Casey Parsons and her husband, Sandy, said they dropped their daughter off with her biological grandmother, whom they identified as Irene Goodman or “Nan.”
The Parsonses told talk show host Phil McGraw that they hadn’t seen Erica, then 13, since they left her with “Nan” in December 2011 at a Mooresville McDonald’s.
Police, however, say they haven’t been able to locate “Nan” or determine whether she exists.
The show was taped in Hollywood last week – two weeks after Erica Parsons was reported missing by her adoptive brother James. A second episode featuring Casey and Sandy Parsons will air today at 9 a.m. on WRAL-TV.
The episode will reveal results of polygraph tests the Parsonses have taken, according to a news release. The episode also will delve into a 2002 agreement in which Casey Parsons served as a surrogate for a Michigan couple trying to have a child. The couple claims Casey Parsons lied about a miscarriage and tried to sell their baby, a charge that Casey Parsons denies.
While no charges have been filed in Erica’s disappearance, authorities have said in search warrants that they suspect foul play.
On the “Dr. Phil” show Tuesday, Casey and Sandy Parsons denied any wrongdoing: “I never harmed Erica. I never abused Erica. I never beat Erica. I did not kill Erica,” Casey Parsons said.
Sandy Parsons denied allegations from Erica’s stepbrother that Sandy chopped Erica up and buried her in his backyard.
“Everything I’ve been accused of is a lie,” he said.
The Parsonses’ attorney, Carlyle Sherrill, told WSOC-TV that the couple went on the show to help find Erica.
“The purpose for my clients to go out there and to do the show is to try to get national exposure to the search for Erica,” Sherrill said. “They’re trying to find Erica. That’s their only goal.”
But Charlotte defense attorney George Laughrun said the Parsonses television appearance is risky.
“That could be a death sentence for them, going on that show,” Laughrun said.
With people involved in criminal cases, he said, “the less you say, the better. Dr. Phil’s going to get under their skin to try to get the ratings. He’s going to be out for blood.”
Casey and Sandy Parsons said they believe Erica is still with the grandmother, who they said lived in the Asheville area.
But according to search warrants in the case, the Parsonses weren’t able to provide police contact information for Goodman. An Observer search of public records found no Irene Goodman within 50 miles of Asheville.
Also, Erica’s biological mother says on her Facebook page that Erica “has no family in Asheville.” Other family members have said Erica’s paternal grandmother died five years ago.
Investigators have said Casey and Sandy Parsons aren’t cooperating.
Casey Parsons said she became acquainted with Irene Goodman through social media. She said Goodman told her she was Erica’s biological grandmother. She knew Erica’s biological father’s name and all about her birth mother and other family details, Casey Parsons said.
They arranged a meeting at a McDonald’s in Mooresville, and Erica spent a weekend with Goodman in September 2011, Casey Parsons said. Erica spent another weekend with Goodman in November and came home saying that “Nan” had treated her well, Casey Parsons said.
Finally, they took her to meet Goodman in December.
Erica was supposed to stay with the woman for three weeks, but “Nan” asked to keep her longer. After two months with Nan, Erica said she wanted to stay with her, Casey Parsons said.
Casey Parsons said she had phone contact with Erica and Goodman until February 2012, when they were “uninvited” to Erica’s 14th birthday party. “That was the last time we heard her speak.”
Dr. Phil: Who is ‘Nan’?
Casey Parsons said she tried later to call her daughter, but the number no longer worked. The Parsonses also said they didn’t have Goodman’s address.
Dr. Phil pressed the Parsonses on what they knew about “Nan.”
“You never went to her house; you never verified her name,” he said. Could she have been an “impostor?”
“I really believe there is an Irene Goodman, and she is Erica’s grandmother,” Casey Parsons said.
No school reported Erica missing. The Parsonses said they homeschooled Erica and that Goodman had her tutored by a neighbor and did not enroll her in public schools.
Sandy Parsons said he never met Goodman and relied on his wife’s statements that she was a good woman.
“I just knew what my wife told me,” he said. “If it was OK with my wife, it was OK with me.”
But Dr. Phil then asked Sandy Parsons: “No contact for a year and a half? How is that OK with you?”
“I just thought she was being a rebellious teenager,” Parsons replied.
Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson