WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Casey and Sandy Parsons, adoptive parents of missing teen Erica Parsons, were sentenced in federal court Friday. However, the sentencing was for defrauding the government and was not directly related to Erica’s disappearance – even though the judge blamed them for it.
“I have sentenced close to 1,000 people,” said Federal Judge Thomas D. Schroeder. “I cannot think of a case which has troubled me more.”
The Parsons are guilty of accepting benefits from the government – benefits intended for Erica – even though Erica was no longer with them.
Erica had gone missing late in 2011, but her disappearance was not reported for nearly two years.
Judge Schroeder called the Parsons “morally bankrupt,” saying he believed they “embarked on a plan to get rid of [Erica],” and “in the dark of night, did something to or with her.”
Judge Schroeder said the court has no reason to believe Erica is still alive.
“My heart, my gut and my soul tell me my child is no longer alive,” said Carolyn Parsons, Erica’s biological mother. “Until there is a body, until the DNA or whatever, for sure comes from the FBI, that she is passed away – don’t give up looking, don’t give up praying, don’t give up hope.”
Casey was sentenced to 10 years in prison, while Sandy was sentenced to eight years.
“And that’s not the only judgment they’re going to have,” said Carolyn Parsons. “When they die, they have to answer for abuse of a child.”
Judge Schroeder said he took testimony from family members into consideration when deciding on a sentence for the adoptive parents.
Earlier, family members had testified that Erica was abused by the adoptive parents. Testimony found credible by the court said that Casey had broken Erica’s fingers, and that the girl was forced to stay in a closet. Inside that closet, the judge said, Erica would soil herself and was then punished for doing so. The judge cited further testimony that Erica was given dog food to eat, and that she was made to stand at attention, facing a wall, while other children opened gifts. The court then showed pictures and cited DNA evidence corroborating those allegations.
“My daughter had a horrible life. She was treated very badly,” said Carolyn Parsons. “I’m very sorry for her. Erica I love you. I wish I would have known.”
A family member also testified about the night that Erica went missing. The judge recalled him saying, the last time he saw Erica, she was “zombie-like,” white and couldn’t breathe well. That family member then testified that he later awoke, and Erica – along with Sandy and Casey – were gone. He said that they later returned without Erica, and that Casey appeared to act normally, while Sandy seemed “sick” and sat with “a blank stare.”
Judge Schroeder said he believed the Parsons kept defrauding the government, for if they stopped accepting the benefits, someone would ask questions about Erica’s whereabouts. Schroeder said after the adoptive parents “abandoned or disposed of” Erica, they thought the longer they “held out, and colder the trail [to Erica] would become.”
Casey Parsons’ aunt, Angela Laubscher, painted a different picture of Casey than what was depicted in the courtroom; saying, “people just don’t realize what a nice, wonderful person Casey was.”
“We were hoping that the court would punish [Sandy] for the offense he was convicted of,” said Sandy Parsons’ lawyer, John Bryson. “Not consider the other allegations.”
Sandy Parsons was found guilty of forty-three federal fraud charges after a trial in October 2014. The charges included one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, one count of aggravated identity theft, one count of false statement to a government agency, twenty counts of theft of government funds, and twenty counts of mail fraud.
Casey Parsons pleaded guilty on Oct. 1, 2014, to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, five counts of mail fraud, five counts of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return, four counts of wire fraud, and one count of aggravated identity theft.
In addition to the eight years in prison, Sandy Parsons was sentenced to three years supervised release, $14,062 in restitution and a special assessment of $4,300. Casey Parsons was sentenced to the 10 years in prison, three years supervised release, $41,814 in restitution and a special assessment of $1,500.