Several people, including family members, testified in federal court Wednesday in a sentencing trial for the adoptive parents of a missing Rowan County teenager.
The adoptive mother of missing teen Erica Parsons, 39-year-old Casey Parsons, and Erica's adoptive father, Sandy Parsons, appeared in federal court to learn their prison sentencing for fraud.
An attorney not affiliated with the case, told WBTV that witnesses can be called during the sentencing hearing, and that those witnesses would be allowed to speak about Erica Parsons, her life with Casey and Sandy, and her abrupt disappearance from the family's home on Miller Chapel Road in Rowan County.
The sentencing adjourned shortly before 5 p.m. and is scheduled to resume on March 27. The following is testimony from Wednesday's hearing.
**WARNING: Information from courtroom testimonies are disturbing and may not be appropriate for all readers**
The government's first witness was Amy Miller, who said said she hired Casey to be a surrogate mother and deliver her baby. Casey claimed she miscarried the child. She later successfully delivered the baby and tried to sell the child to her sister, Robin Ashley, for $10,000.
Ashley took the stand Wednesday saying that Casey beat Erica and made her stand in the corner often. Pictures were shown of Erica standing in that corner on five different occasions.
Ashley said she saw bruises and marks on Erica. Casey gave Erica to Ashley to look after for a few months so that she "wouldn't kill her," Ashley said. Adding that Casey "couldn't stand the sight of her face." Ashley said her sister told her she had lost control and assaulted Erica.
When Erica first started living with her adoptive parents, she called them "mom" and "dad." Casey didn't like that and decided she should call them by their names, Casey and Sandy, Ashley said. Casey told Erica to never call her "mom" again.
Erica Parsons was reported missing in late July of 2013 by her adoptive brother. She had not actually been seen for more than a year before the report was filed.
That brother, Jamie Parsons, took the stand Wednesday and testified that nearly everyone in the family had abused Erica routinely.
He admitted that he, Casey, Sandy and his sister, Brooke, had all abused her.
According to his testimony, Casey would often break Erica's fingers by bending them backwards. She would then make her own cast for Erica's fingers and would not take her for medical assistance.
Jamie testified that Sandy would often get mad and punch Erica with his fist in the back and the top of her head.
Erica was forced to live in a closet with the clothes, Jamie testified, and was often locked in the closet for hours at a time. There was no bed in the closet and she was forced to sleep on the floor.
She was not given access to a bathroom, he said in court, and when Casey found out that Erica had relieved herself she would be beaten, Jamie said. He also said food was often withheld from Erica and she was forced to eat dog food out of a can.
The night Jamie last saw Erica, in November 2011, he says she was standing in the corner being punished.
"She looked like a zombie," he said in court. He said her face was pale white and she told him that she "didn't feel good, couldn't breathe too good."
When Erica told Casey that she didn't feel well, she reportedly told Erica to "shut the [expletive] up" and Jamie went to bed, he testified.
The next morning, he says Casey and Sandy weren't home when he woke up. They didn't return until later in the day and when they did, Jamie says, Sandy looked sick, "like he was about to throw up," and didn't talk. Casey looked normal, he said.
Jamie says when he asked Casey where Erica was, she told him they took her to her grandmother's house.
Casey and Sandy continue to say they delivered Erica to a grandmother named "Nan" who lived in the Asheville area. Local law enforcement and the FBI have repeatedly said that "Nan" does not exist.
Despite an extensive investigation by the Rowan Sheriff's Office, the SBI, and the FBI, no trace of Erica Parsons, dead or alive, has ever been found. Investigators have collected evidence from the Parsons former home on Miller Chapel Road, as well as property owned by other family members.
In court on Wednesday, FBI Special Agent Tara Cataldo said there has been no trace of Erica Parsons that has been found. Cataldo said that the investigation was given such a high priority that other investigations, including some involving national security, were interfered with by the Parsons investigation.
Asked if there had been any "viable information" on the whereabouts of Erica Parsons, Cataldo replied "no." The agent said that several leads were followed, but that nothing was found.
Cataldo also that sections of a closet in the Miller Chapel Road home of the Parsons were removed from the house and examined. Blood and DNA from Erica Parsons urine and/or blood were found in the carpet and on the baseboard of the section recovered.
Cataldo also testified that no public records of the existence of Erica Parsons have been seen since 2011.
Sandy and Casey are both facing federal prison time for defrauding the government by continuing to accept federal adoption assistance money long after Erica Parsons was gone from the family home.
In November, Sandy was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to defraud the government, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; one count of aggravated identity theft, which carries a mandatory sentence of two years and a $250,000 fine; one count of false statement to a government agency, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and a $250,000 fine; twenty counts of theft of government funds which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; and twenty counts of mail fraud which carries a maximum sentence of twenty years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Casey pleaded guilty to 16 similar federal charges Oct. 1.
Once sentencing is announced, it is in the discretion of the judge to put them in handcuffs to be taken to a federal prison, or release them with a date to report to federal prison to being serving their sentences.
The hearing continued until approximately 5:00 pm on Wednesday, and then Judge Thomas Schroeder ordered the hearing continued until March 24.
Schroeder wanted the government's lawyer to provide additional information on several points before going forward.