- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 25, 2002

PHILADELPHIA (AP) The 7-year-old girl who told authorities she gnawed her way through duct tape to escape her kidnappers was hailed as a "brave little girl" yesterday by the police officers who found her.

"Seeing the incidents out in California the one girl was taken and she was murdered it makes you feel good that you're able to find a little girl alive," Officer Andrew Skaziak said at a news conference.

As he talked about Erica Pratt, the little girl fidgeted in the arms of one of her uncles. She buried her face in a stuffed animal when asked to talk.

Erica was found Tuesday night, 24 hours after witnesses and police said two men carried her away kicking and screaming from in front of her grandmother's row house, where she was playing with her little sister

Police said Erica's grandmother, Barbara Pratt, received at least six calls from a man who threatened to kill the girl unless he received a $150,000 ransom.

Neighbors said one of Miss Pratt's adult sons was killed in March, and some wondered whether the kidnappers were motivated by a large insurance payment to the family. The family told police the insurance rumor was false.

Police sought two suspects yesterday and obtained a warrant for one of them.

An uncle, Joseph Moore Jr., said Erica was recovering well.

"She seems totally normal," he said. "She's just been playing, painting, making bead necklaces and enjoying her family."

Erica described an extraordinary getaway from the two men: She was bound with duct tape around her arms, legs and eyes and left in the dirty basement of an abandoned house 10 miles from her home. She was able to chew through the tape, break through the basement door and go up to the first floor. Unable to escape, she smashed a window and called out to children playing in front of the building.

The children pulled Erica out of the window, and one of them rode a bicycle to alert the police, Lt. Michael Chitwood said.

Erica was evaluated at a hospital. Police said she had a corneal abrasion on one eye, possibly from the tape.

"She's an amazing little girl," Chief Inspector Robert Davis said.

Police said she had only a can of water during her captivity. The officers who found her gave her part of a chicken sandwich.

"Our biggest concern is that the baby come back to us in good health, and this is what she did," said the girl's great-grandmother, Geraldine Tate.

Police were seeking James Burns, 29, and Edward Johnson, 23. Officers said the men live near some members of Erica's family in another part of the city and were known to the family. They said the men's names were provided by two witnesses.

Police said yesterday they had sought warrants for both men but so far had obtained only one, charging Mr. Johnson with kidnapping, luring a child and related charges.

Earlier this week, a factory worker was charged with murder in the abduction and slaying of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion in Southern California.

Her death followed the high-profile abductions of 14-year-old Elizabeth Smart in Salt Lake City and of two San Diego girls, 7-year-old Danielle van Dam and 2-year-old Jahi Turner. Elizabeth and Jahi are still missing; a neighbor is on trial in Danielle's slaying.

Sign up for Daily Newsletters

Manage Newsletters

Copyright © 2020 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

Please read our comment policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide