Sunday, June 18, 2000

Dad longs for missing child

Still holds hope of finding Erica

By By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        KETTERING, Ohio — A gift from his daughter four Father's Days ago still tugs at Greg Baker's heart.

        A handmade clay, beaded necklace with a big red heart in the middle and “Happy Father's Day” on the back is a poignant, constant reminder that one of Mr. Baker's three children has disappeared.

        And he often blames himself.

Erica Baker
Greg Baker
        Mr. Baker's only daughter, Erica, vanished Feb. 7, 1999 — the same day that he was supposed to have taken her to a father-daughter dance. They couldn't go because he failed to make a reservation soon enough.

        “It's something that haunts me every day,” he said. “I keep trying not to blame myself, but it's hard. I feel basically that I let her down. If I had only been able to take her to that dance, maybe we wouldn't be in this situation.”

        Police have said they believe a stranger snatched Erica, then 9, while she walked her dog near her home. Investigators have ruled out all relatives as suspects.

        As police continue work ing the case, so too do Mr. Baker and a core of about nine loyal volunteers. They continue searching for any of Erica's clothing or any sign of what happened to her.

        Mr. Baker said he does not like talking about his feelings about Erica's disappearance, but he's willing to do almost anything to keep her name — and face — in the news.

        “Erica was the sunshine of my world. I have to keep trying to find out what happened to her. All it takes is that one person who knows something to come forward, and maybe this will be the time that happens.”

        At this point, Mr. Baker said he would prefer receiving the worst possible news — that Erica was dead — instead of hearing nothing.

        He plans to let Father's Day pass quietly, he said.

        “My boys, I love them to death,” he said, referring to sons Greg, 14, and Logan, 12. “But it's the longing for a father's little girl, a little daughter, that keeps getting deeper.”

        Anyone with information is asked to contact their local police or the Erica N. Baker Recovery Center at (937) 254-0242.


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