Criminal complaint: Man, 31, ditches wife to run away with Clarion 13-year-old



CLARION, Pa. - Police said a Leeper, Pa., man is jailed on charges of kidnapping in South Dakota after he ran away with a Clarion County 13-year-old.

Police say the teen disappeared in the middle of the night March 28 from her home and was found unharmed in Martin, S.D., on Saturday.

“I would like to thank all the public support and prayers through this extremely difficult time,” the victim’s mother said. “Most of all I want to thank Officer Peck for all of his hard work and professionalism in finding my daughter.”

According to the criminal complaint, Joshua Baker, 31, had been in a sexual relationship with the girl several weeks before disappearing with the teen.

Police said Baker met the girl through the teen's mother, who is engaged to one of Baker's relatives.

Investigators said Baker was with his wife at a Clarion Ford garage on March 28 looking for a new car. Police said when Baker's wife went to use the bathroom, he left the dealership and never returned.

Baker's wife later told police that she was unable to get in touch with Baker and later found a note stating that he wanted a divorce. Baker's wife said he also had more than $5,500 in cash on him when he disappeared.

The criminal complaint stated that after interviewing several of the girl's friends, police discovered that she had said she was dating a 31-year-old man and was planning on running away with him to Florida.

On Friday, Clarion Borough Police Department officials said they received a call from a woman in Rapid City, S.D. The woman said she works at an optometry office in the area and had waited on Baker and the teen.

The woman said she became suspicious when Baker and the teen walked in holding hands and Baker told her that he was the teen's older brother.

After making an appointment for the next day, the couple left the optometry office, and the woman told police she wrote down the license plate number of the car they were traveling in.

The worker told police she searched the Internet and discovered that they were missing.

"She got on the Internet to do some research of her own and came across missing persons posters and pictures from Pennsylvania," Clarion County District Attorney Mark Aaron said.

Police in Martin, S.D., later arrested Baker on kidnapping and other charges.

Clarion police said they're moving forward with filing kidnapping charges, but since Baker is in federal custody, they expect federal charges for transporting and trafficking a minor across state lines could be filed soon.

"Please respect my family's privacy so we may begin healing from this traumatizing ordeal," the girl's mother said.