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Work of local deputy stops kidnapping

By Richard Greene | Published Saturday, March 23, 2019
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Standing Out

STANDING OUT – Wise County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joseph Baker received a letter of commendation from the Cedar Hill Police Department for his work that helped prevent a kidnapping last month. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

Wise County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joseph Baker’s intuition told him something didn’t add up with a story told to him by a female driver during a traffic stop Feb. 13.

Acting on his hunch, Baker alerted his supervisor, who then contacted Cedar Hill authorities. The next day the information from Baker was credited with stopping a possible kidnapping in the Dallas suburb.

Earlier this month, Baker and Lt. Chad Lanier received a letter of commendation, along with Cedar Hill Police Department coins, as a token of thanks for their assistance.

“I wanted to personally say ‘thank you’ for Deputy Baker and Lt. Lanier for their outstanding contribution to the law enforcement profession and for their outstanding service to not only your department, but also to the City of Cedar Hill and the Cedar Hill Police Department,” wrote Steve Lafferty, Cedar Hill assistant chief of police in a letter to Wise County Sheriff Lane Akin. “Your deputies truly reflect your goal ‘represent the citizens of Wise County and to present a professional office of steadfast service and unwavering protection.'”

Baker stopped a vehicle on U.S. 81/287 Feb. 13 with two women from Sacramento, Calif. inside.

“They told me they were driving straight through from [California] to pick up a daughter that was dropped off Christmas break,” Baker recalled. “I asked if the daughter was going to school. They said yes, she had enrolled in Texas schools while she was down here, which usually doesn’t make sense. I wasn’t sure what they were up to.”

Baker asked for consent to search the vehicle, and his inspection didn’t turn up any contraband.

“I did a find a notepad that said a male’s name and said he didn’t have rights to a child,” Baker explained. “From there, we figured they were going to cause issues in Cedar Hill.”

Troubled by what he found, which included a birth certificate for the 10-year-old, Baker alerted Lanier about the traffic stop that afternoon.

“Their stories just weren’t making sense. You don’t normally put a child in another school district just to go for a custodial visit,” Baker said. “Just their behavior and driving was consistent with criminal activity. Once I saw the notepad, I knew they were going to cause an issue with someone, a biological father or whoever.”

With school being out for the day, Lanier forwarded the information to the Cedar Hill Police.

“They got me in contact with one of the [school resource officers],” Lanier said. “It was kind of odd the way she had some notes written down in the car that we knew something was up. We gave them the females’ names, the vehicle description and the license plate.”

The next morning Lanier received a call from a Cedar Hill officer reporting they had a child abduction.

According to a letter from Cedar Hill Police Sgt. Chad Cooley, the department received a 911 call from a child saying she was being kidnapped at 8:42 a.m. Feb. 14.

“The child was screaming, and there was a struggle for the phone before the phone line went dead,” Cooley said in the letter. “The child was unable to provide any information about a vehicle or the person taking her before dispatch lost contact with her.”

What Cedar Hill officers did have was the information Baker and Lanier relayed to them the afternoon before. Officers flooded the area, and using the potential suspect vehicle description, found it less than a mile away from Interstate 20.

“Without the information provided by Deputy Baker, our responding officers would have been going into the situation blind,” Cooley said. “The information he provided was instrumental in locating the child quickly and safely, giving Cedar Hill officers the ability to ensure the child was returned safely to the location that was in her best interest.”

Baker and Lanier were grateful to hear their help was able to keep the child safe and bring a positive outcome to the incident.

Lanier said this is a prime example of Baker’s work as a criminal interdiction officer.

“He probably saved a little girl from a lifetime of misery,” Lanier said. “Going back to Sacramento, it would have been a long time before anyone figured out where this little girl was, if they ever found her.”

Lanier pointed out the suspects’ vehicle turned out to be a rental, which would have complicated the investigation without Baker’s tip.

The letter of commendation was a surprise to Baker, who said he didn’t know all the details of the case until he received it.

“I was just glad my lieutenant forwarded the information so we could get it out there, so they had something to go off of,” he said.

Lanier was glad to see Baker recognized.

“It was nice for them to reach out and thank us for the hard work he did do,” Lanier said. “That doesn’t happen very often. Ninety percent of the things we forward never turns out into anything … We forward a lot of information. It’s nice when some of it comes back to help.”

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