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Kidnapped Philadelphia girl breaks free

She's safe, and reunited with grandmother

Erica Pratt
Erica Pratt  

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- In an amazing escape, Erica Pratt, the 7-year-old girl abducted from a southwest Philadelphia street Monday, freed herself by chewing through the duct tape that bound her and breaking through a screened window to call for help, police said.

The little girl escaped from an abandoned house where she was bound and left alone for about a day.

"She was not harmed in any way," said Philadelphia Police Inspector Robert Davis. "She's a pretty happy little girl right now." A $10,000 reward for information leading to her safe return had been posted by police.

She was taken to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia's emergency room around 8:30 ET for observation -- still wearing duct tape in her hair.

The girl was reunited there with her grandmother, Barbara Pratt, 45.

"Before that she was crying cause they were trying to take the duct tape out and then her grandmother walked in and there was hugs and kisses and there wasn't anymore tears after that," Davis said.

"She's OK, she's fine, she's safe. That's all we're worried about," said the girl's mother, Serina Gillis, at an impromptu news conference in the girl's neighborhood. The little girl late Tuesday night was returned to her home.

"Everybody's happy," Gillis told reporters. A relative with Gillis praised law enforcement for their swift work.

Seven-year-old Erica Pratt was found alive and apparently unharmed a day after being abducted in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. WTXF's Sharon Crowley reports (July 24)

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The abduction was yet another in a series of brazen kidnappings of girls that have captured the nation's attention.

Young girl's ordeal

Witnesses told police Erica was kidnapped -- kicking and screaming -- from a street corner Monday night by two men in a white car, possibly a Buick, with tinted windows and a broken latch over the gas tank.

Erica was just a few feet from her home when she was grabbed by a heavy-set male wearing a white T-shirt and a baseball cap, police said, quoting a 5-year-old girl who had been accompanying her down the street.

Philadelphia Police Inspector William Colarulo said the car was driven by another man who was shouting, "Come on, let's get out of here." Gillis said at least one of the men called out Erica's name.

She was left for about 24 hours locked in the basement of an abandoned house, with her hands and feet bound with duct tape, which also covered her eyes, police said.

"They didn't come back all day," Davis said of the kidnappers. "I don't think they left her there to be found. She was in there and nobody came to help her."

Davis said Erica kicked open a door panel, worked her way upstairs, pushed out a window and called for help.

Police search for two men

A couple of hours before Erica was found, police released the names of two men they wanted to question in the case: James Burns, 29, and Edward Johnson, 23. Colarulo did not say whether the men were suspects.

He said investigators thought the two men are known by Erica's family and by others in the neighborhood.

Colarulo said the Monday night abduction did not appear to be random and that investigators believed the motive was money.

Colarulo said Erica apparently was the target because the 5-year-old accompanying her was not taken. The inspector would not comment on reports the kidnapping might have been gang-related.

Twenty minutes after the abduction, the girl's grandmother began receiving calls threatening the girl's life and demanding $150,000 in ransom money, Colarulo said. Erica lived with her grandmother.

Erica talked with her grandmother during one of the calls, police said.

Colarulo said police were unsure of the whereabouts of the girl's father. He said the FBI was assisting with technical support and some advanced investigative capabilities.

A neighborhood pastor, Stacy Adams, called Erica "a really sweet girl" who is "very kind-hearted and respectful."


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