KETTERING, Ohio (FOX19) - Twenty-two years after a young girl vanished in Kettering, a trained team of volunteers from Cincinnati are preparing to conduct a new search for her.
Erica Baker was only 9-years-old when she disappeared in February 1999. According to police, the last time she was seen, she was walking a dog near the Kettering Recreation Center. A short time later, a couple came across the canine, but Erica was gone.
Erica’s grandmother, Pam Schmidt, said the pain has never faded away.
“She liked dressing up and looking nice and having her hair done. She loves animals, had lots of friends,” Schmidt said. “It hasn’t been easy, and we have prayed for answers for years.”
Court records show that a man named Christian Gabriel served time in prison in connection to the case. He was charged with tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse.
Investigators said Gabriel confessed that he was driving a van that hit and killed Erica. Since then, Gabriel has made several claims about where Erica’s body is buried, but her remains have not been found in any of the places he has mentioned.
“I’ve done everything I can to try to convince him to tell me,” Schmidt said. “I even picked him up. He was released from jail, and I even picked him up and took him to his mother, hoping that he would talk to me.”
Texas EquuSearch Midwest teams are now helping police with the case. On Saturday, they will be on the ground near the Huffman Dam, looking for any sign of Erica.
“It’s going to be just good old fashioned ground-pounding at this point. We’re going to be using cadaver dogs of course,” Director Dave Rader said. “It’s woods. It floods every single year, three and four times a year, so it’s a brutal scenario, and everything changes in 22 years.”
Schmidt said Erica’s loved ones are thankful and encouraged knowing that complete strangers will be using their skills to hopefully help detectives find Erica.
“I am delighted that people are still going to be looking for her. If she’s there, we absolutely want to find her and bring her home,” Schmidt said.
Rader said Saturday’s search is not open to the public, adding that both the current detective and a retired detective who worked the case will be there.
Rader wants the public to know that police have never given up on the case or on Erica.
Anyone with information is urged to call Kettering police at 937-296-2555.
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