183 posts Aug-13-02, 01:07 PM (GMT)
Missing girl's picture found
with porn ring suspect
Sunday, August 11, 2002
No evidence he's connected to Erica Baker
By Susan Vela firstname.lastname@example.org
The Cincinnati Enquirer
KETTERING, Ohio - Misty Baker was enjoying a peaceful Friday night when a report on the 11 p.m. news triggered her worst fear - that perhaps her daughter Erica was abducted by child pornographers when she disappeared in February 1999.
On Friday, U.S. Customs Service officials announced that 10 Americans and 10 Europeans, including one who possessed Erica's missing person's poster, would face federal charges because of their involvement in an international child pornography ring called “the club.”
The man possessing the poster - Jeffrey Naimo of Killeen, Texas - already has pleaded guilty to conspiring to sexually exploit children. In July, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the crime. Kettering police said there is no evidence that Mr. Naimo or other ring members put the poster on the Internet. But to unexpectedly see Erica's blond hair, hazel eyes and smile on the TV was too much for Ms. Baker. She burst into tears while questions raced through her mind.
How did Mr. Naimo get the poster? Had he actually seen Erica, who disappeared while walking her pet Shih Tzu, Jaime, in this suburb of Dayton, Ohio? What did he know about the child who, if alive, would have celebrated her 13th birthday in June? “My imagination took over. It was just so totally shocking,” she said. “I was afraid to go asleep again - to have those nightmares (of) a terrible person out there, torturing my child.”
By Saturday morning, Ms. Baker had talked to Kettering police and learned that they pursued a tip about Mr. Naimo in April but declined to tell her because of the numerous leads they receive each day. “This is still an open case,” Officer Kent Tischler said Saturday. “We want to do the best we can. It's something we'll never stop investigating until we know exactly what happened to her.”
According to Officer Tischler, federal authorities grilled Mr. Naimo for several weeks, learning that he picked up the posterat a hotel in the Killeen area. But the questioning did not lead to any knowledge about Erica's whereabouts, Officer Tischler said.
The update kept hope alive for Ms. Baker, Erica's father and other relatives. “I always said I would do anything within my power to find her,” Ms. Baker said, “and I'll never stop because there's always the hope that one day she'll come home.” Federal officials have said that pictures swapped by “the club” were so heinous that they were nauseated to see them. To learn that one member possessed Erica's poster was like a punch in the gut for her father, Greg, also of Kettering. Like his ex-wife, he wishes police had told them sooner about Mr. Naimo's arrest so that they could have avoided the shock.
“That's been one of my biggest fears,” he said. “The bad guys are also looking for the missing kids. It's a racing game to see who can get to them first. With all these new cases of missing children coming up, it's probably driving every parent crazy across the United States.” He refused to be bothered by the latest lead. “That's one thing that I've learned,” he said. “I cannot let myself get emotionally wrecked by everything that I hear.”