In 1997, two children, a boy and a girl, clawed a hole in the room of their trailer home prison and escaped into the Arizona desert. Their story began ten years before, when their mother went to prison for theft and forgery and they were placed in the custody of their grandfather, John Pierre Baker. When their mother was paroled four years later, Baker and his grandchildren had disappeared. The two older children originally attended public school, and in 1991 a concerned teacher called child protective services regarding the older child, a girl in second grade. The girl told social workers she was not abused, and the case was closed. Later that year Baker removed the two children from public school to homeschool them. Baker and his girlfriend, Betty Jo Miller, locked the two children in a barren room in their trailer. The children were deprived of food, psychologically tortured, and frequently beaten. Miller was the instigator, whipping the children with a belt for infractions like talking with each other. The two children were only let out of their room for brief meals and were given only scanty rations of water. They were not allowed out to relieve themselves, but were then punished when they defecated on the floor. There was a third grandchild, the youngest. She was also homeschooled and was, like her older siblings, sorely uneducated. However, she was treated less harshly than the older two and was not locked up. The second child, a boy, ran away several times in the early to mid 1990s, but each time Baker convinced authorities that he had fetal alcohol syndrome and did not know what he was saying. From 1995 to 1997, the two older children never left the trailer. Then came 1997 and their escape into the desert, then aged 13 and 11. Baker called the two children in as runaways and told authorities that they were mentally challenged and would lie. Once found, the children were removed from the home, along with their younger sister, then 10, and Miller’s 3-year-old son. Baker and Miller were convicted of child abuse and kidnapping, and the three children were returned to their mother and father. Neither child had fetal alcohol syndrome, and both were mentally normal.
Date: May 26, 1997
Location: Tucson, Arizona
|Abuse Stirs Home-School Worry||1999-02-22|