CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Investigators released more information Monday afternoon about the discovery of Erica Parsons' remains and the investigation into her disappearance that began more than three years ago.
Sandy Parsons, Erica Parsons' adoptive father, led investigators to her body last week, according to Chesterfield County Sheriff Jay Brooks.
At Monday's press conference, Rowan County Sheriff Kevin Auten gave more details about that process.
"We never had a chance to find her alive, which has always been our goal and our hope," Auten said.
Auten said Rowan deputies took Sandy Parsons into custody at federal prison, where he is serving a sentence for fraud after cashing adoption assistance checks for Erica after she was no longer living with him.
Erica Parsons was reported missing from Rowan County in July of 2013, but had reportedly not been seen for two years prior to that time. Jamie Parsons, her adopted brother, reported her missing, telling authorities that Erica had not been seen since November 2011.
Erica was adopted by Sandy and Casey Parsons when she was two-years-old.
Brooks said Sandy Parsons, under the watchful eye of prison guards, pointed to a shallow grave in a heavily wooded area off Blair Hendrix Rd, in between the towns of Pageland and Mount Croghan.
"The guards that were with him took him into the woods and within a minute they were coming back out, and he was crying when he came back out," Brooks said.
A cadaver dog indicated on the spot where Erica Parsons' body was discovered, Brooks said. Within 30 to 45 minutes, investigators began finding evidence.
Sheriff Auten said he was there when the skeletal remains were found. He described the scene as heartbreaking.
'This has been a very tough, difficult case for us," Auten said. "Everybody involved in this case has children and it touches you. I was there at the graveside when her body was recovered and I'll tell you there's some pretty tough officers who had a pretty tough time."
Sheriff Auten also emphatically said that Sandy Parsons was not promised any kind of deal for leading investigators to Erica's grave.
"There have been no pleas, no arranged agreements, no promises, anything to anybody that may or may become a suspect in this case," Auten said. "Nobody has been promised one thing. We're not in a position to do that and it hasn't been done."
The case is being investigated by the Rowan County Sheriff's Office. So far, no charges have been announced in connection with Erica Parson's death. Chesterfield County is an assisting agency.
Auten said at Monday's press conference that he hopes the North Carolina Medical Examiner's Office, which positively identified the remains as Erica Parsons, will help determine what charges are appropriate for the case.
Auten said investigators believe the young girl was deceased long before she was reported missing.
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Sandy Parsons' mother and step-father live within two miles of the crime scene. WBTV contacted Parsons' step-father Friday, who said he and Parsons' mother's nerves were shocked.
He told WBTV that they did not own the land where Erica Parsons' body was found, but said they rent a house nearby. Sandy Parsons' step-father said his stepson would visit a couple of times a year, particularly for holidays.
Occasionally, he said, Erica Parsons was with him. He said he had not seen the girl since 2008 or 2009.
Sheriff Auten said Lyerly Funeral Home in Salisbury volunteered to handle Erica Parson's funeral. West Lawn Memorial Park in China Grove donated a plot for her. There is no date set for Erica's service.
The public will also be able to make donations to cover the cost for "Erica's Angel" and marker, which will also help the group Prevent Child Abuse Rowan County.