Baby Shannon Dedrick: Found Alive in Box, What Role Did Mother Chrystina Mercer Play?

(AP/ Jay Felsberg)
(family photo)
(AP Photo)
(AP Photo/Steve Cannon)
(AP/Washington County Sheriff)
Photo: Washington County Sheriff Bobby Haddock

CHIPLEY, Fla. (CBS/AP) Sheriff Bobby Haddock may still be basking in the glow of the rare happy ending in the case of 7-month-old Shannon Dedrick, found after five days of searching -- alive and well -- in a box under her babysitter's bed.

But now investigators have to figure out exactly how the toddler wound up in a 2' x 3' box, apparently hidden there by Susan Elizabeth Baker.

Photo: Shannon Dedrick

Authorities believe Shannon's mother, Chrystina Lynn Mercer, gave the infant to Baker, the child's babysitter, early Saturday, then reported her missing about 10 hours later.

After five days of frantic searching by Washington County, Fla. authorities, including in the swampy forests around the Mercer house, investigators began questioning Baker at her trailer.

After holding them off for a few hours, Baker finally relented and let them search the residence.

Photo: 2'x3'box where Shannon was found

That's when sheriff's deputies made the all-but-miraculous discovery: baby Shannon, seemingly just fine, stuffed in a 2'x3' cedar box under Baker's bed.

The box was apparently surrounded by clothes to muffle any sounds and baking soda was placed in the box to mask the odor of dirty diapers.

Investigators estimate that Shannon had been in the box for about 12 hours as investigator interviewed Baker and waited for warrants to search the house.

Photo: Chrystina Lynn Mercer

Haddock said Shannon apparently had been fed and cared for while she was with Baker, who lived about 12 miles from Mercer.

Mercer was charged Thursday with interference of child custody, desertion of a child and several other counts.

Charges against Baker included neglect of a child with aggravated circumstances and interference of child custody.

Photo: Susan Elizabeth Baker

Bond was set at $150,000 for Baker and $75,000 for Mercer.

Mercer was told she couldn't have contact with her daughter, who was in state custody, if she posts bond.

Both women said they understood the charges against them and their arraignments were scheduled for Dec. 14.

Baker's bond is twice that of Mercers in large part because of her 2000 conviction for beating her 6-year-old stepdaughter in Beaufort, S.C., breaking her bones.

She was sentenced to 10 years, but served only 80 days and received credit for time served. She is also being looked at in the disappearance of her 3-year-old stepson, Paul Leonard Baker, who vanished in 1987 from their Beaufort, S.C. home.

November 6, 2009 - Baby Shannon Dedrick: Found Alive in Box, What Did Babysitter Susan Baker Have to Do With It?
November 5, 2009 - Babysitter Susan Baker: Shannon Dedrick Found Under Her Bed; 22 Years Ago Stepson Never Found at All
November 5, 2009 - Shannon Dedrick Found Alive Under Babysitter Susan Elizabeth Baker's Bed, Say Cops
November 2, 2009 - Infant Shannon Dedrick Missing from Florida Panhandle Home