Dr. J Searches For His Son

Young people wearing T-shirts with portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin and reading "Happy Birthday" decorate a huge cake marking the president's birthday in downtown Moscow, Oct. 7, 2006. President Vladimir Putin celebrated his 54th birhtday in St. Petersburg. AP Photo/Dmitry Lovetsky

Cory Erving went out to buy bread and hadn't been seen since, so his father, basketball hall of famer Julius Erving, is taking his appeal of help to Philadelphia Monday, scene of his greatest on-the-court triumphs.

The last time the family heard from Cory Erving was May 28, when he went to buy bread for a family cookout. A $50,000 reward has been offered for information leading to his return.

"Dr. J" made an impassioned plea June 13 for help in finding his troubled 19-year-old son, who has had a past history of drug and alcohol abuse as well as run-ins with the law.

That produced 661 tips, with 86 of them coming from Philadelphians. Julius Erving had previous plans to visit Philadelphia before Cory's disappearance became public but he decided to use the opportunity to make a statement in Philadelphia.


AP
Cory Erving.

"We're back at Square One, even though the sheriff says we're not because there are 620 other leads," Erving told CBS News Early Show anchor Bryant Gumbel.

Why Philadelphia?

"He just feels he needs to talk to Philadelphia because they've been so good to him," said Joel Glass, public relations director for the Orlando Magic, for whom Erving is executive vice president.

"My visit coincides with the kickoff of my son's basketball league," Erving said, "and we just felt it would be remiss not to say thank you to the mayor and to law enforcement here, to the 76ers and our friends and family and the fans here who have been so great in terms of responding to our situation, sending us e-mails and calling us and calling the tip line and just, you know, being there for us and showing love for the family."

He still has hope.

"I feel very optimistic that he's out there somewhere and that he will return to us or be returned to us and we just have to maintain that posture," he said. "Something happened that day and something triggered this, and there's a clue to this puzzle...We have to figure it out and come away with some sort of solution."

"Nothing's really panning out," said Steve Olson, spokesman for the Seminole County Sheriff's Department. "We're sending people out to investigate tips. They hold a powwow at the end of the day and there's no new developments."

The sheriff's department is keeping the toll-free information line —{888} 609-2529 — open, but calls are now being taken by sheriff's department dispatchers, Olson said. The specially staffd telephone bank has been discontinued because the number of calls has dwindled.


AP
The Erving family, minus Cory.

But, he said, Erving's disappearance will remain an active investigation because "foul play cannot be ruled out."

"I haven't ruled it out," Erving admitted. "And if that was the case, too, then it certainly needs to be solved."

Cory's car still hasn't been sighted in the past month.

"I haven't thought about it as to whether it's positive or negative," Erving said. "I think it's very strange. Vehicles don't just disappear, particularly when we did statewide searches and implemented the technology to flag the car nationally if it was seen anywhere."

Although Erving didn't say it, he seems to feel foul play is likely in the disappearance of his 19-year-old son.

"To disappear without a trace and have a car disappear without a trace would be a little beyond his scope of planning."

Before he disappeared, Erving's younger son was trying to put drug use behind him and earn his high school equivalency diploma, after years of dealing with a learning disability.

Erving told CBS News his son sometimes stayed out all night with friends, but on the Saturday night before his disappearance, family and authorities can reconstruct his whereabouts right up until his disappearance Sunday afternoon "and then, you know, everything stops right there, two o'clock."

Officials are searching neighborhoods known for street drug deals because they think Erving may have been on a crack-cocaine binge. Erving reportedly had a confrontation with a man and may have tried to buy a gun "to settle a score" in that drug area before he disappeared, an official said recently.

Also, a teen acquaintance of Erving's told investigators that Erving had given him his wallet in exchange for a compact disc the weekend he disappeared. The teen gave investigators an item from the wallet, but investigators wouldn't say what it was.

The most credible tip to date is a reported June 10 sighting of Erving with an unidentified blonde woman in Altamonte Springs, Fla., just north of Orlando.

But there's a possibility that Cory Erving may not be alive.

The $50,000 reward includes $25,000 posted by Julius Erving, his friends and the Magic and $25,000 posted by the 76ers.


©2000 CBS Worldwide Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report

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