Missing 7-month-old Shannon Dedrick found alive under sitter's bed

The case of a missing 7-month-old baby girl took a strange twist yesterday when the child was found unharmed beneath a sitter's bed, and her mother was arrested along with the sitter and the sitter's husband in the girl's disappearance.

Shannon Dedrick was reported missing by her parents Saturday, and the case quickly focused in on Shannon's sitter, Susan Baker. (Baker is related to the child's father.) The case is full of odd turns, as it was revealed that Baker not only wrote a letter to the Governor of Florida begging him to remove the child from her parents' custody, but also that Baker was involved in a similar child abduction twenty years ago. The boy in that case, Paul Baker, has never been located.

A summary of the case provided to the News Herald by The Center for Missing and Exploited Children shows that Paul's stepmother was named Susan Baker, the wife of his father James.

The couple were arrested in connection with the boy's disappearance and were later charged with aggravated assault and battery for allegedly severely beating him before he vanished March 5, 1987, according to the documents.

"Susan Baker told police she put him down for a nap that day and returned to find him missing," the synopsis says. "The Deputies and police searched the area around their home for several days but found no trace of the little boy.

Susan Baker's daughter was removed from her custody after the disappearance of Paul Baker, when it was revealed in the course of the investigation that Baker's daughter exhibited strong signs of chronic abuse. Shannon's parents, Chrystina Lynn Mercer and James Russell Dedrick Jr., have been under intermittent investigation since Shannon was two weeks old but no hard evidence had surfaced previously to warrant removing Shannon from her parents' custody. Although Mercer is believed to be involved in her daughter's odd abduction, Dedrick is not thought to have been aware of his daughter's whereabouts.

Investigators found Shannon in a box under a bed during a voluntary search on Wednesday night, deliberately concealed amongst household items. She was deemed healthy and placed into protective custody. Charges are pending for Mercer, Baker and Baker's husband.