Fla. baby missing for 5 days found alive under bed

November 5th, 2009 by

CHIPLEY, Fla. (AP) – A baby missing for five days was found alive and well under her baby sitter’s bed, and Florida authorities said Thursday they plan to charge the sitter, her husband and the child’s mother.

Investigators found 7-month-old Shannon Dedrick in a box tucked under a bed surrounded by items intended to hide the child at Susan Elizabeth Baker’s home near Chipley, a rural Panhandle town, Washington County Sheriff Bobby Haddock said in an interview early Thursday. The baby was placed in protective custody.

“Statistically speaking this should not have ever happened, that we found this child alive, especially after so many days. Time was against us,” Haddock said.

Shannon was taken to a hospital but appeared healthy, Haddock said.

“It was a very emotional for us, because once got her to hospital, we called our wives and every one of us was crying. Grown men crying. It’s just such a relief” that the child was found, he said. “We’ve had missing children cases in the past, but nothing like this.”

Haddock said deputies were working to charge Baker, her husband James Arthur Baker and the child’s mother, Chrystina Lynn Mercer. He wouldn’t provide details about the possible charges but said more information would be released later Thursday. Authorities don’t believe the child’s father, James Russell Dedrick Jr., was involved but the case is still under investigation, Haddock said. He said Susan Baker and the father are related.

Haddock confirmed that Baker was the Susan Elizabeth Baker cited in court records as being convicted of assault in South Carolina in 1987, and questioned but not indicted in 2000 for a 3-year-old child’s disappearance, also in 1987. He confirmed that Baker wrote an e-mail to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist’s office in August, pleading for the governor to help Shannon Dedrick.

“And my response is, ‘We saved the child, Ms. Baker,” Haddock said.

Court documents released Wednesday showed that child welfare workers in Florida began looking into allegations Shannon was being abused less than two weeks after she was born.

Her parents reported her missing around 11 a.m. Saturday. They told authorities that they had not seen her since about 3 a.m.

About 100 law enforcement agents and others scoured the woods around the couple’s home, Haddock said. Investigators contacted the Bakers again on Wednesday and they allowed them into their home, Haddock said.

“They gave us consent to search the home and found the baby in a box under a bed, with stuff pushed around the box to hide the baby,” he said.

Court records released Wednesday said investigators frequently went to the infant’s home from August to late September and reported that both parents used marijuana and kept a messy home.

But investigators reported that Shannon seemed to be cared for and repeatedly cited that the risk to the baby was “intermediate.” In September, an investigator said a physician determined that the child was healthy and expressed “no concerns regarding the baby.”

Court records show Elizabeth Baker was charged in South Carolina with assault and battery with intent to kill and assault and batter of a high and aggravated nature in 1987. After being convicted, she was sentence to 10 years in prison. The sentence was suspended to 80 days.

She was extradited to South Carolina from Chipley in 2000, and charged in the disappearance of 3-year-old Paul Leonard Baker. The child was never found, according to the Beaufort County, S.C., sheriff’s office.

Police reports don’t indicate the child’s possible relation.

A sheriff’s investigator from Beaufort County was sent to Florida to assist in the missing child case, sheriff’s spokeswoman Robin McIntosh said Wednesday.

Associated Press Writers Erin Gartner in Chicago and Katrina A. Goggins in Columbia, S.C., contributed to this report.


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