Sheriff on missing teen: 'There are many unanswered questions'

SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - The Rowan County Sheriff is speaking out after accusations and concern about the investigation involving a teen who was reported missing nearly two years after she was last seen.

Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten says there has been "inaccurate information in recent media reports" about the search for 15-year-old Erica Parsons.

Parsons was reported missing by her brother on July 30th at the Rowan County Sheriff's Office. She has reportedly not been seen since November 2011.

Her adoptive parents, Casey and Sandy Parsons, say Erica went to live with her biological grandmother in Asheville. They have not had any contact, or conversations, with her since February 2012.

Several days into its investigation, the Rowan County Sheriff's Office was joined by state and federal investigators.

"The Rowan County Sheriff's Office, FBI, and SBI are working hand in hand on a daily basis to find Erica Parsons," Sheriff Auten told WBTV. "Each agency has the same goals and objectives to uncover the exact circumstances that lead to Erica's disappearance, to discover where she is right now, and to ensure her safe return."

Sheriff Auten says there are many leads to follow since there has been two years since Erica was last seen. He says lots of interviews must be conducted as a part of the investigation.

"The RCSO and FBI work together to follow leads and they also send investigators out separately to accomplish the most progress towards finding Erica in the shortest period of time," Sheriff Auten said. "When the investigators/agents are not together, they are in constant contact to share information."

On Monday, the attorney representing Casey and Sandy Parsons told WBTV that the couple has a "strained relationship" with local authorities.

Carlyle Sherrill said the Parsons feel federal agents are working to find their missing daughter, while local investigators are focusing on filing charges.

Sherrill says the Parsons have been more comfortable talking with federal investigators about the case.

"It is common in a law enforcement investigation for people to be more comfortable speaking to one officer/investigator/agent over another," Sheriff Auten told WBTV. "Unfortunately, there are times where tough questions must be asked especially to those who are closest to a victim and would have the most relevant information to solving a case."

In the weeks since Erica has gone missing, there has been some criticism of the Sheriff's Office for not being as vocal about the details of the case.

"I could give on camera interviews and statements about this ongoing investigation every day, but that would be counterproductive to finding Erica," Sheriff Auten said. "The people of Rowan County put their trust in me to uphold the law and to protect the citizens of this community.  There are many unanswered questions at this time, but I will continue to call upon my own department's resources as well as our state and federal law enforcement partners until we find the answers, until we find Erica," said Sheriff Kevin Auten, Rowan County Sheriff's Office."

Anyone with information on Erica's whereabouts is encouraged to call the Rowan County Sheriff's Office at 704-216-8700.

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