KETTERING, Ohio (WDTN) – Twenty-three years later, the Miami Valley is still asking what exactly happened to Erica Baker.
“It’s almost like a dream that never happens – things that happen to people in movies and not in real life, but unfortunately, we have had to live that life,” said Greg Baker.
Baker remembers his daughter as a little firecracker, full of spunk and energy. She loved cheerleading and fishing. She was “daddy’s girl.”
“She was a very outdoorsy girl. She could be a princess too on top of it,” recalled Baker.
Erica Baker was last seen walking her dog near the Kettering Rec Center on February 7, 1999. When she didn’t return, her family called police.
“Everything got really, really big really, really fast. And it’ll make your head spin. And you don’t know whether you’re coming or you’re going,” described Baker.
Weeks after her disappearance, the family made a string of media appearances on the local news as well as on Oprah, Dateline, and America’s Most Wanted, pleading for Erica’s return.
Years went by without answers. Then, the family got a break after one of the suspects police were looking at confessed.
Christian Gabriel admitted to hitting Erica with his van and driving off with her body. While there were other people in the van, Gabriel was the only one convicted. He served six years in prison for tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse and was released in 2011. Aside from Gabriel’s initial confession, he’s been tight-lipped and won’t say what happened to Erica’s body.
“He’s still a major key to this whole thing,” said Baker. “He knows exactly what happened.” While there are a lot of theories about what happened, Baker has his own speculation.
“They took her over and buried her in a very shallow grave by the river back over towards the Eastwood, Huffman Dam area,” speculated Greg.
Searches have come up empty. Over the years, hundreds of people have helped look for her. Baker is grateful for the community support.
“There’s no way we could ever repay these people back for the countless and thousands of hours they’ve put in – blood, sweat, and tears – to find Erica,” said Baker.
Baker has created a final resting place for his daughter at David’s Cemetery, but he vows to never give up until he know exactly where her remains are buried.
“They’re still working on this case. This case has not been closed yet,” said Baker. If you have any information that could help, call Kettering Police at (937) 296-2555.