Will Florida 'baby-in-box' conviction help solve a 1987 Beaufort County case?

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Will Florida 'baby-in-box' conviction help solve a 1987 Beaufort County case?

By PATRICK DONOHUE pdonohue@beaufortgazette.com 843-706-8152
Published Saturday, October 2, 2010   |  419 Words  |  news

Long suspected by law enforcement and other local officials in the disappearance of her stepson more than 20 years ago, Susan Baker received little sympathy in Beaufort this week after being found guilty Friday in Florida of hiding a 7-month-old child in a box beneath her bed.
A Chipley, Fla. jury found Baker guilty Friday of aggravated child abuse, interference with custody and giving false information to law enforcement in connection with her role in the high-profile disappearance of then 7-month old Shannon Dedrick last year.
Authorities found the infant unharmed under Baker's bed after she was reported missing her by her mother, Crystina Mercer.
Baker claimed Mercer no longer wanted the child and had agreed to give Baker permanent custody of Shannon.
A sentencing hearing for Baker is scheduled for Nov. 8.
Beaufort-area authorities still consider Baker a suspect in the 1987 disappearance of her 3-year-old stepson, Paul Baker.
Paul Baker disappeared from his family's home in Shell Point on March 5, 1987, and was never seen again.
Susan Cato, executive director of the Child Abuse Prevention Association, helped organize search parties when Paul went missing and followed the court cases against Susan Baker closely.
Cato said Saturday she was pleased with the Florida verdict and hoped the conviction might prompt Baker to reveal what happened to her stepson.
"When Susan Baker was arrested for this, I hoped it would shed some new light on what happened to Paul Baker," Cato said. "I'm glad that she was found guilty, and that she'll be serving some time in jail. At least she's going to be punished for her involvement in this child's disappearance."
Beaufort County Sheriff P.J. Tanner said it's unclear whether law enforcement will be able to leverage the conviction against Baker to get more information on the 23-year-old local case.
"It's hard to say because the case in Florida is absolutely separate from ... the Paul Baker case," Tanner said. "I can't predict the future and say how her conviction may help us with the Paul Baker case. Only time will tell, but we're glad she was convicted."
Tanner sent a Sheriff's Office investigator to Florida shortly after Baker's arrest in the Dedrick case in the hopes of uncovering new information in the unsolved disappearance of her stepson.
Interviews with the woman failed to shed new light on what happened to the toddler, according to authorities.
The Panama City (Fla.) News Herald contributed to this report.