Left and Center: Paul circa, 1987
Right: Age Progressed to age 22
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: March 5, 1987
Missing From: Beaufort, Beaufort County, South Carolina
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: June 29, 1983
Age: 4 years old
Height and Weight: 3’0″ and 40 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: White Male, Blonde hair, Blue eyes, Paul has scars on his right index finger and on his chin, one of his teeth was pushed into his gum at the time of his disappearance
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A blue jacket, a camouflage shirt, red pants, and gray sneakers
NCMEC Number: 600583
Details of Disappearance
Paul Baker was last seen in Beaufort, South Carolina on March 5th 1987. His stepmother, Susan Baker, stated she put the child down for a nap at approximately 11:00 am and fell asleep herself under the influence of alcohol and muscle relaxants. She claimed that she woke up between 12:30 pm and 1:30 pm to a call from Paul’s father, James Baker. He stated that stations family services notified him that a woman called them and claimed she had Paul and that he was okay. Paul was discovered missing after that and was never seen again afterwards.
Paul’s parents had divorced in the mid-1980s after James had an affair with Susan whom was Paul and his older sister, Nina’s babysitter at the time. Paul’s mother, Lynda Solorzano, stated she moved out of the home with Paul and Nina shortly after the divorce occurred. However, Lynda has limited financial means after the separation and James never paid child support after the divorce. She applied for public assistance. The judge that finalized the divorce sided with James and stated that Lynda did not have the means to support her children and she lost custody of both children.
James was given full custody of both his children and married Susan afterwards. They purchased the home in South Carolina and settled there. James was a sergeant at the Marine Corps Air Station at the time and Susan cares for both children regularly.
After Paul’s disappearance, James accused Lynda of making the phone call and taking Paul. It was determined, however, that she was not even in the state at the time of Paul’s disappearance and had nothing to do with it. In the days after Paul’s disappearance, Susan and James were subjected to polygraph exams. Susan’s results were ruled inconclusive and James failed his. Susan did admit she did not like the task of caring for Nina of Paul and no longer wished to do it. She said she wanted to send the children back with Lynda. She stated she was stressed by the entire responsibility.
James initially told investigators that Susan harshly punished both Paul and Nina. He once suggested that Susan had killed Paul and disposed of his body in the Battery Creek. He also stated that Nina might be in danger from her. The next day, he recanted his theory and said he did not believe Susan to be responsible for whatever happened to the child. On March 24th, the Baker residence was searched and authorities uncovered what appeared to be blood spatters which were sent away for analysis. It’s unknown as to what happened to them.
State authorities removed Nina from the Baker residence on March 23rd 1987 after Paul’s statements about Susan came to light. Investigators soon learned that Nina suffered untreated broken bones and had ulcerated sores located on her back. Nina stated that Susan beat her with a stick and made her stay in a closet for very long periods of time. She stated that Susan also abused Paul, she would whip him in response to his wetting of his bed. She would also make him stand in a corner for more than a few hours.
James did say that Paul was ill in the days prior to his disappearance. In addition to that, he soiled his pants and his bed. On the day of his disappearance, Nina said she couldn’t recall seeing Paul or hearing his voice at all that day. She came home from school at 11:00 am and Susan told her that Paul had felt better and was playing outside in the backyard. Shortly afterwards, she could hear Susan yelling for Paul to come and take his nap. Nina fell asleep and when she awoke Susan told her Paul was missing.
Susan was charged with assault and battery with intent to kill in connection to the abuse to brought upon Nina. She was convicted on a lesser charge of assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. She was originally sentenced to 10 years in prison but only served 80 days when her sentence was suspended. She completed a five year term of probation.
In the years after Paul’s disappearance and Ninas removal from James custody, Lynda fought to have her daughter back in her custody. She was in a legal battle for years. Nina spent time in foster care and was eventually placed with her maternal grandmother. During this time, Lynda was given the opportunity to improve her life.
Nina went to live with Lynda in 1992. She hadn’t seen her father since she was removed from his custody in 1987 and only saw him again in 2000. She remains estranged from him and has since married, become a nurse, and has three children of her own.
In 1999, James was discharged from military service in 1999 after authorities reopened the investigation into Paul’s disappearance. A former cellmate of Susan came forward and stated that Susan told her the truth about what happened to Paul. Susan allegedly told her that Paul was killed by James after he severely beat the child and that Paul’s body was buried in a neighbor’s yard. The statement was never verified nor confirmed.
Susan and James were both extradited from their residence in Florida in 2000 and taken back to South Carolina in connection to Paul’s disappearance. After Paul’s disappearance was reopened, both Bakers were charged with assault and battery of a high and aggravated nature. A grand jury refused to indict either of them but Susan was indicted for child neglect. They decided not to go forward with the charge and Paul’s case went cold once again.
In 2009, Susan was arrested along with the mother of Shannon Lea Dedrick who disappeared from her home in Chipley, Florida in November of 2009. Susan was the child babysitter and half sister to Shannon’s father, James Russell Dedrick Jr.
Five days after Shannon’s disappearance, she was found alive and in good health. She was concealed in a cedar chest under a bed in Susan’s home located in the 3300 block of Orange Hill Road in Chipley. She was in the chest for approximately a day and a half.
Susan and Shannon’s mother, Cynthia Lynn Mercer, were both charged with several felonies and misdemeanors which included child neglect, custodial interference, child desertion, filing a false report and contribution to the delinquency of a child. Susan claimed that Mercer willingly gave the child to her. James was arrested shortly after Shannon was found but has been released without charge. He stated he was unaware of the kidnapping and had no idea his own child was hidden in his own home.
Two months prior to Shannon’s disappearance, Susan wrote to the FL governor saying that both Cynthia and James were drug users and feared for the child well being. CPS investigates both of Shannon’s parents who were entered into assistance and treatment programs afterwards. The child remained in their custody. At her trial, Susan claimed she had only taken the baby to protect her from her parents.
Shannon was removed from her parents custody and now lives out of state. Both parents have lost the possibility of having contact with her. Susan was convicted of 3 felony charges in October of 2010 and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Shannon’s mothers role in her daughters disappearance cannot he proven.
After the news of the kidnapping incident came to light, Paul’s disappearance received publicity but nothing has been found in his case to indicate his whereabouts. Paul’s disappearance remains unsolved. Some agencies may refer to his disappearance as a non family abduction.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Naval Criminal Investigative Service 202-433-9183