SALISBURY — Acknowledging “hurdles” in the search for missing Rowan County teen Erica Parsons, the FBI on Thursday offered up to $25,000 for information that leads to the girl’s location.
The announcement at the Rowan County courthouse came six months after Erica was reported missing and caused some connected to the case to question whether the investigation has stalled.
The Rowan County Sheriff’s Office said detectives have followed up on hundreds of leads since July but conceded that time was their biggest hurdle. They refused to take questions from reporters after the announcement.
Erica was 13 years old when she was last seen on Nov. 19, 2011. She is the adopted daughter of Casey and Sandy Parsons, who told authorities that Erica went to stay with her biological grandmother, Irene “Nan” Goodman.
But nearly two years passed between when they claim they dropped Erica off near a McDonald’s in Mooresville and when police began looking into her disappearance. She was reported missing by her adoptive brother, Jamie, after he had been kicked out of the family home following a fight with Casey and Sandy Parsons.
On Thursday, Deron Roberts, assistant agent in charge for the FBI’s Charlotte office, said Erica’s adoptive parents haven’t been truthful with investigators.
“We know Erica did not go to live with Irene Goodman,” he told reporters. “Nan does not exist.”
Later, he added, “Erica did not disappear on her own.”
Carlyle Sherrill, an attorney for Casey and Sandy Parsons, told the Observer on Thursday that his clients had done nothing wrong and had cooperated fully with investigators.
He said his clients were happy about the reward because it increased the chance of finding Erica. But he said he thinks investigators made the announcement because leads in the case have dried up.
Investigators “need to stir some things up,” Sherrill said. “They haven’t called us to try to identify anyone, pick anyone out of a lineup or ask us questions in months.”
The $25,000 reward by the FBI comes on top of a $10,000 reward offered by the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, the lead agency.
Investigators particularly want to speak with people who saw Erica or had dealings with the Parsonses in November 2011.
Casey and Sandy Parsons have been questioned by investigators several times but have denied any wrongdoing in Erica’s disappearance. In search warrants, investigators said they suspect foul play, but neither of Erica’s adoptive parents has been charged with a crime in connection with the case.
Their youngest two children were taken away by the Department of Social Services shortly after investigators searched the Parsonses’ home for clues. According to relatives, a judge said the Parsonses have to produce Erica in order to get their children back.
Authorities have conducted a number of searches on the property where Casey and Sandy Parsons lived, in the 200 block of Miller Chapel Road near Salisbury. And in November, cadaver dogs indicated the possible presence of human remains during searches at a building on the property of Sandy Parsons’ father. Casey and Sandy Parsons used the building for storage, investigators said in search warrants.
Erica’s biological mother, Carolyn Parsons, who gave Erica up for adoption as a baby, said she hoped the increased reward would lead to more tips about her daughter’s disappearance. But she said she felt key details are “still in Casey and Sandy’s hands.”
She offered a message for her daughter. “I want to see you. I want you safe. I want you back. You don’t have to be afraid. I know you’ll be 16 in February. I hope you don’t wait that long.”
Wootson: 704-358-5046; Twitter: @CleveWootson