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Supreme Court denies appeals by adoptive parents of missing Rowan girl Erica Parsons

Sandy Parsons, left, and Casey Parsons leave the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem in July 2014 after being arrested on financial charges related to the disappearance of their adoptive daughter. (Robert Lahser | The Charlotte Observer) Sandy Parsons, left, and Casey Parsons leave the federal courthouse in Winston-Salem in July 2014 after being arrested on financial charges related to the disappearance of their adoptive daughter. (Robert Lahser | The Charlotte Observer)

ROWAN COUNTY, NC (Mark Washburn/The Charlotte Observer) - Appeals by Casey and Sandy Parsons have been rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court, meaning the adoptive parents of missing Erica Parsons will not get reduced sentences.

Both had appealed their sentencings – Casey Parsons got 10 years and her husband Sandy Parsons got eight – to the U.S. Court of Appeals in Richmond and then to the U.S. Supreme Court, which this month refused to hear their cases.

They were sentenced to federal prison in March 2015 for financial schemes that included cashing monthly assistance checks of $634 for Erica Parsons more than a year after the girl disappeared.

In the original sentencing in Winston-Salem, U.S. District Judge Thomas Schroeder said he gave the couple stiffer sentences than the federal guidelines recommended because of testimony that described the couple’s cruel treatment of Erica, who was an infant when she came to the Parsons household in Rowan County.

Members of the Parsons family testified before Schroeder that the girl was trapped in a cycle of cruel physical and emotional abuse. Erica was fed dog food as punishment for stealing food or sweets, was often locked in a closet and was frequently made to stand in a corner rather than being allowed to play with other children, they said.

Erica was 13 when she vanished in 2011 and would be 16 now if still alive.

“You and your husband did something horrible, horrible with her,” Schroeder told Casey Parsons in a blistering statement during sentencing. “I have sentenced close to 1,000 people. I can’t think of a case that has troubled me more.”

No abuse charge

They were each being sentenced for for accepting government payments and tax deductions for Erica after she no longer lived in their home but were never charged with abuse of the girl.

Casey Parsons, 41, pleaded guilty in October 2014 to one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, five counts of mail fraud, four counts of aiding in the preparation of a false tax return, four counts of wire fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft.

Sandy Parsons, 42, refused a plea bargain and was found guilty in October 2014 of one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, one count of aggravated identity theft, one count of false statement to a government agency, 20 counts of theft of government funds and 20 counts of mail fraud.

Sandy Parsons had two prior convictions for assault on a female against his wife. Casey Parsons had no criminal record.

A normal sentence for their financial crimes would have been about three to five years. But under federal sentencing guidelines, prior adult criminal conduct can be considered by the judge even if there were no charges brought at the time.

Objection to abuse testimony

In the appeal, Casey Parsons’ attorney, Harvey Carpenter IV of Greensboro, argued that she was hit by a sentence more than three times as long as federal guidelines recommended.

“Defendant pled guilty to acts of fraud, not acts of violence,” the appeal said. “However, the most emotional and prejudicial evidence the government presented in this case at sentencing involved the unrelated and uncharged allegations of felony child abuse, homicide and failure to report a death.”

Sandy Parsons’ appeal, filed by attorney John Bryson of High Point, raised similar issues.

Casey Parsons is serving her sentence at Federal Correctional Center in Tallahassee, Fla., and Sandy Parsons is serving his at Butner Federal Correctional Institution north of Durham. 

RESEARCHER MARIA DAVID CONTRIBUTED.

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