SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - The Rowan County Sheriff is answering some questions in the case of missing teenager Erica Parsons, despite canceling a schedule briefing on Tuesday afternoon to discuss the case.
A briefing was scheduled for Tuesday afternoon to talk about the Erica Parsons case, but the briefing was canceled Tuesday morning. Reporters had been asked to submit questions to the sheriff ahead of the briefing to have the questions approved.
Parsons was reported missing July 30, 2013, nearly one year ago, by her adoptive brother Jamie Parsons. At the time, Parsons told investigators that Erica hadn't been seen in nearly two years, since November 2011.
Allegations were made by Parsons against his parents for abuse of Erica before her disappearance.
Casey and Sandy Parsons, Erica's adoptive parents, claim they allowed Erica to visit her biological grandmother, Nan, after she reached out to the family. They haven't seen Erica since.
In the same notice of canceling the briefing slated for Tuesday, sheriff's office officials released the list of questions submitted by reporters along with answers from Sheriff Kevin Auten.
WEB EXTRA: Click here to read the full Q & A email
Auten wouldn't get into the specifics of the case, citing the need to protect the ongoing investigation into her disappearance, but did say the sheriff's office was making "progress on a continuous basis."
The sheriff's office is working with the FBI and state investigators on the case.
Auten says they are still working the case as a missing persons case, even though Erica has not been seen in nearly three years.
"The sheriff's office has no confirmed information that Erica is deceased," Auten wrote. "The physical evidence has been processed by the FBI's lab, and we cannot disclose the results to protect our ongoing investigation."
Many people in the community have questioned why it has taken so long for officials to make an arrest in the case, but investigators say the case isn't as open and shut as many believe.
"We are still collecting and analyzing evidence to determine what, if any crime has been committed and by whom," Auten said.
While Auten wouldn't speak to the emotional toll the case has put on investigators, he did make a plea for information.
"Somebody knows what happened to Erica and they have not provided us the information we need to find her," he said."
Investigators have not received any tips recently about sightings of Erica Parson, which typically occur in a case that makes national headlines, such as this one.
Casey and Sandy Parsons took part in a two-day special on the Dr. Phil show after Erica was reported missing.
Auten says much of the recent progress on this case comes from the investigative work of Rowan County Sheriff's Office detectives and FBI and SBI agents.
Investigators have questioned the Parsons' story about leaving Erica with her biological grandmother since the beginning. Investigators have told WBTV that "Nan", legally known as Irene Goodman, does not actually exist.
"The name and relationship provided to us regarding the name Irene Goodman was not correct," Auten said.
Investigators have previously said that Erica's biological grandmother died more than five years ago.
"The truth is Erica is missing. Certain statements made by the Parsons are inconsistent with the evidence we have gathered," Auten told the media. "It is not in the best interest of solving this case and finding Erica to release the details of that evidence publicly."
Regardless, he says that doesn't automatically make the Parsons suspects or persons of interest in the case.
"In our legal system, just because statements are inconsistent with the evidence doesn't make someone a person of interest of a suspect in a crime," he said.
"It's very easy to say, why hasn't this person or that person been arrested, again we deal in evidence and facts," Auten continued. "There is a new law in North Carolina about how much time you have to report a child missing, but it did not go into effect until December 2013."
He was referencing Caylee's Law, which now makes it a crime for a parent or caregiver not to report a child missing. The law was based on a high-profile Casey Anthony trial.
But when it comes to Erica's disappearance, Sheriff Auten says investigators are following every new lead they can find, the most recent within the past several days.
"We are not opposed to using the resources of any agency that can help us locate Erica," Auten said. "We've called in the SBI, the FBI, and used K9 search dogs from outside agencies when it would benefit our investigation."
Timing in the case, he admits, has hindered investigators as they search for Erica.
"Erica was not reported missing to our department for more than a year and half after the last time she was seen," Auten said. "Every investigator knows that when a child is missing, seconds count."
The missing teen's adoptive brother, Jamie, admits that last year he told detectives his parents beat Erica.
But when he sat down with WBTV last week to discuss the case, the 21-year-old pulled back a little on his accusations.
"Half the time I didn't see stuff just like that - no," he told WBTV. "I didn't see physically abusing as what people are trying to put."
Sheriff Auten says Jamie has not told investigators anything about this apology to his parents.
Casey and Sandy Parsons continue to face questioning and the couple's two youngest biological children, Sadie and Toby, have been removed from the home.
Jamie Parsons said he recently wrote his parents two letters "that I would try to fix Sadie and Toby's lives."
"I'm apologizing it got out of control. I mean, yeah, mama wants to find Erica too," Jamie Parsons told WBTV. "People think mama doesn't want to find Erica. She does. People think she killed Erica and she doesn't want to find her."
The sheriff's office has vowed to keep investigating.
"We will keep this case open until we find Erica."