KETTERING, Ohio (WDTN) – It is the 15th anniversary of Erica Baker’s disappearance.
She would be 24 years old, but on this anniversary, we now know with virtual certainty that she is no longer with us.
We are left with a familiar image and our memories of a little girl lost.
There is at least one man who wants nothing more than to bring her home.
“911. What’s your emergency?”
“My granddaughter has disappeared.”
For the past 15 years, it has been the Miami Valley’s greatest mystery, even for those who have been there since the beginning.
Outside of Erica’s immediate family, no one has lived and breathed it more, than Kettering police Sergeant Bob Green, the lead detective on the case for the past decade and a half and he’s still living it today.
“Honestly, when I look back on that time, we did everything we could. We pulled resources from Hamilton County, by having their helicopter come up here.”
Green has dedicated much of his life and career to Erica’s case, but has rarely talked about it. But recently, he and our Mark Allan returned to the pond where Erica was last seen alive and where Green says the once murky waters are now clear.
“I am 100% sure that Erica was struck by a van, that Christian Gabriel was driving, that her remains were removed. I don’t know if she died due to that accident or if she was killed later. Christian Gabriel claims she died as a result of that accident, but he won’t tell us where the body is,” said Sgt. Green.
“Do you think he knows?” asked Mark Allan.
“I know he knows.”
Christian Gabriel remains the only person ever convicted in the Baker case, serving six years for tampering with evidence and gross abuse of a corpse.
Green took us to the corner of Glengarry and Powhatten where he believes Erica was hit. It was a day of a busy hockey tournament at Kettering Rec.
“He knew because he was here that there were cars parked up and down this roadway, cuz both those parking lots were full and he said the little girl darted out and he hit her.
Next, the sergeant took Mark to the secret location where Gabriel’s van is still being held as evidence today.
“There’s some rolled up carpet right here yep.”
Gabriel has always claimed that he and his late accomplice, Jan Franks, were shoplifting that day, fueled by drugs and alcohol that dulled his memory. Green doesn’t buy it.
“He knew where he was. He knew how he was driving, so he had clear recollection of specific details, absolutely, he referred to her body as twisted and broken when he observed it underneath his van, his words twisted and broken. Don’t tell me he was drunk and then in detail told me the positioning of her body, how he rested it in the hole he dug, placed her arms across her chest and covered her face with Jan Franks’ jacket and a hood. That’s detail and you don’t just bury an individual and not know where it happens and where you’ve done it.”
At the Kettering Police Department, there are still file cabnets full of all the evidence collected over the past 15 years.
“These are all the phone tips they were marked categorized 1-2-3 one being most important.”
What’s most important now is bringing Erica home and Green has one final message for the man who holds the key.
“Keep looking over your shoulder because we’re comin’ and we’re still there. We know where you’re at, we know where you’re livin’ and we’re watching you and it’s not going away until you wise up.”