Erica Pratt

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Erica Pratt (kidnap victim)
Born 1994/1995
Nationality American
Known for Kidnapping Victim
Home town Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Erica Pratt (born 1994/1995) is an American kidnapping victim. She was abducted on July 22, 2002 from a Philadelphia sidewalk, at 7-years-old. There was one witness present, a 6-year-old child named Rani Byrd. Rani tried to help Erica but was pushed to the ground before two men pulled off. When Erica's grandmother called for Erica and her sister, a crying Rani stated that Erica had been kidnapped, but her sister was around the corner. Erica's abductors bound her hands and feet and held her captive in a vacant house until she was able to free herself by gnawing at the tape on her wrists and then smashing a window, a day after the kidnapping.[1] Both Pratt's bravery and the media's handling of the situation attracted considerable attention.

Reaction and recognition[edit]

Philadelphia's police inspector William Colarulo commented on Pratt's escape from captivity, stating, "I have twenty-one years in the Police Department, and I have never seen this kind of heroic act of bravery committed by a seven-year-old."[2] Her problem-solving[3] and actions, including her cries for help,[4] have been cited as lessons for others[5] and as an inspiration for African American leadership.[6] She was named Time's Person of the Week "as a reminder that not all abductions end in tears".[2] In May 2003, United States Attorney General John Ashcroft presented her with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's National Courage Award "for her unyielding persistence and boldness."[7]

In a year that had already seen several other high-profile kidnappings, including Danielle van Dam, Samantha Runnion and Elizabeth Smart, Pratt's story caused several media outlets to consider whether these crimes were actually becoming more commonplace,[8] concluding that reporting was distorting perceptions of their frequency.[2][9] This case, especially in comparison to those earlier in the year, led to suggestions that the media was selectively reporting about victims on the basis of racial or social class grounds,[9][10] a claim sometimes generalized as missing white woman syndrome. Salon writer Margot Magowan also suggested the non-sexual nature of the Pratt kidnapping contributed to the media's attention. "If raped women were granted the same status as Erica Pratt," she wrote, "there would be no reflex to make them disappear."[11]


Edward Johnson, who performed the physical kidnapping, and James Burns, the getaway driver,[12] were arrested three days after the kidnapping,[13] which they had committed in an effort to collect ransom money from Pratt's grandmother. Johnson pleaded guilty in May 2003 while Burns was convicted a month later.[14]


  1. ^ "Abducted Philadelphia Girl Escapes Captors". CNN. 2002-07-24. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  2. ^ a b c Coatney, Mark (2002-07-26). "Person of the Week: Erica Pratt". TIME. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  3. ^ Cooper, Eric (Apr 2003). "Teachable Moments" (pdf). National Urban Alliance for Effective Education. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  4. ^ "News Conference on Escaped Abducted Girl". CNN. 2002-07-24. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  5. ^ Smith, Charles A. (Jul 2004). Raising Courageous Kids: Eight Steps to Practical Heroism. Sorin Books. ISBN 978-1-893732-76-6. 
  6. ^ Rose, Sylvia (Jun 2004). Rise Up: A Call to Leadership for African American Women. InterVarsity Press. ISBN 978-0-8308-3212-5. 
  7. ^ "Attorney General Honors Law Enforcement Officers for Efforts in Missing and Exploited Children Cases". United States Department of Justice. 2003-05-20. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  8. ^ "Men arrested after girl escapes". BBC News. 2002-07-25. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  9. ^ a b Irsay, Steve (2002-07-24). "A parent's worst nightmare: Are child abductions on the rise?". CNN. Archived from the original on 2006-12-11. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  10. ^ Goldberg, Bernard (2003-11-03). Arrogance: Rescuing America From the Media Elite. Warner Books. ISBN 978-0-446-53191-7. 
  11. ^ Magowan, Margot (2002-09-09). "The "shame" of rape". Archived from the original on 2007-05-09. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  12. ^ "Conviction In Kidnapping". The New York Times. 2003-06-14. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  13. ^ "Philadelphia Police Arrest Pratt Kidnappers". CNN. 2002-07-25. Retrieved 2007-05-28. 
  14. ^ "Sentence For Two Kidnappers". The New York Times. 2003-07-30. Retrieved 2007-05-28.