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A 'Brave Little Girl' Gets Back to Normal

July 25, 2002|From Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA — The rumor going around 7-year-old Erica Pratt's blighted neighborhood was that her family had come into money. A lot of money.

Neighbors thought maybe that's why two men had snatched the little girl from the sidewalk in front of her grandmother's home Monday night and someone had called the family demanding $150,000 in exchange for Erica's life.

Whatever the motive, the plot was foiled Tuesday night. Police said the "brave little girl" chewed through duct tape binding her hands , and broke out of the locked basement in an abandoned home where she had been held for almost 24 hours.

The hunt for her two abductors continued Wednesday. Police say the two men wanted for questioning--James Burns, 29, and Edward Johnson, 23--are known to the girl's family.

If the kidnappers had planned a get-rich-quick scheme, they picked an unusual target.

The Pratts are far from wealthy, family members and neighbors said. Their home sits on a block peppered with abandoned buildings.

By midafternoon Wednesday, Erica was racing through her old neighborhood, smiling, waving to reporters and playing tag with friends who a day earlier had been talking solemnly about a playmate who might never return.

Dressed in bright pink, with barrettes in her hair, Erica fidgeted in the arms of a relative and buried her face in a stuffed animal when asked to talk.

Police said she suffered only minor injuries in her ordeal and relatives said she was recovering well.

"She seems totally normal," uncle Joseph Moore Jr. said. "If she's forgotten about what happened, I'd just as soon it would stay forgotten."

Police said Erica had only a can of water during her ordeal, and the officers who found her gave her part of a chicken sandwich.

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