by Jennifer Kay, Associated Press
PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Bound, blindfolded and left in a dirty basement for
nearly 24 hours, a 7-year-old kidnapped girl gnawed through duct tape and
made her way to freedom, ending the latest in a series of high-profile
abductions around the nation.
While being held in a police officer's arms, Erica Pratt waved to TV
cameras and beamed as she was returned to her grandmother's home late
Tuesday. Police said she suffered only minor injuries.
Authorities were searching for James Burns, 29, and Edward Johnson, 23,
who are considered suspects in the abduction. Police said the men were known
to the girl's family and that their names had been provided by two
"Our biggest concern is that the baby come back to us in good health
this is what she did," said the girl's great-grandmother, Geraldine
Erica was playing Monday with her 5-year-old sister in front of their
grandmother's rowhouse in southwest Philadelphia when two men drove up,
called her by name and dragged her into their car as she screamed and
resisted, witnesses told police.
The girl had been left on a mattress in the basement of a building 10
miles from her home. Duct tape was wrapped around her eyes, arms and legs
and she only had a can of water for nearly 24 hours, police said.
She was eventually able to free herself from the tape, break through
basement door and go up to the first floor. Unable to escape, she smashed
window and called out for help to some children playing in front of the
The children pulled Erica out of the window, and one of them rode their
bike from the abandoned building to where police officers were on patrol,
Lt. Michael Chitwood said.
Erica was taken to a hospital, where doctors evaluated her and removed
the duct tape stuck in her hair. Police said she had a corneal abrasion
one eye, possibly from the tape.
"She's an amazing little girl," Chief Inspector Robert M. Davis said.
The news of Erica's escape comes a day after a factory worker was charged
with murder in the abduction and slaying of 5-year-old Samantha Runnion
Santa Ana, Calif.
Her slaying followed the high-profile abductions of 14-year-old Elizabeth
Smart in Salt Lake City, 7-year-old Danielle van Dam in San Diego and
2-year-old Jahi Turner, also in San Diego.
Danielle' body was found and a neighbor is on trial. Elizabeth and Jahi
Less than 20 minutes after Erica was abducted, the girl's grandmother
primary caregiver, Barbara Pratt, received the first of at least six calls
from a man who threatened to kill the girl unless he received a $150,000
ransom, police said.
During one call, police said the kidnappers allowed Erica to speak
briefly with her grandmother.
Residents said many adults in the neighborhood were down the street at
block party at the time of the abduction. The area is pockmarked with
abandoned buildings and roamed at night by drug dealers.
The abduction is the second tragedy to strike the family this year. One
of Barbara Pratt's adult sons was murdered in March, neighbors said.
Police were investigating whether a neighborhood rumor that the family
had gotten a large insurance payment after the murder may have motivated
ransom demand. The family told police that the rumor was untrue.