AURORA, CO — Victoria Baker knew that she’d been adopted as a infant, and attempted to track down her birth mother.
Victoria was pregnant, and become obsessed with the idea of being reunited with her biological mother. She admitted that her chances were “slim to none” of actually finding her mom, but her new maternal instinct led her to persist.
Her adoptive parents were able to help her search with some information. They knew that she’d been born in a hospital in Amsterdam, New York, for instance.Her first step was simple enough — she called the hospital and requested her birth records, which they released to her without asking for proof of her identity. When the records arrived, they contained the name of her birth mother — Carolyn Coleen Baker — and Victoria was elated. “Seeing that was profound,” she shares.
Victoria then began contacting women with that name, and wrote more than 100 letters, from which she only received one response, merely wishing her well in her quest.
Six years later, with no progress in her search, Victoria hired a private investigator. She was able to discover that Carolyn had four other children. Once she got in touch with her half siblings, Victoria learned that they were aware of her existence, that their mother had told them about her.Carolyn had explained to her other children that she was heartbroken to have to give Victoria up, but that she had not been financially able to care for her at that time, as Victoria was born legally blind. This revelation was reassuring to Victoria, who says, “It made me feel like I mattered to her.”
Although by all accounts Carolyn was a happy and devoted mother, everything changed after she and her husband divorced. She withdrew, and her kids, who were grown by this time, lost touch with her. The situation became dire after a wedding invitation that was sent to Carolyn was returned.
Her family posted flyers and contracted the police, but Carolyn had disappeared. They learned that on February 6, 2002, she had worked her last shift, a night shift, as a waitress at a Waffle House restaurant. But after that, nobody had seen or heard from Carolyn — and she never even picked up her last paycheck.
Victoria was frustrated with the lack of results from the police investigation. “I’d come too far, and spent too much energy, and loved her too much, to think about the hopelessness of it,” she says. So she persisted with her own efforts and prodded the police to continue to search for Carolyn.
In June of 2005, Victoria heard the tragic news from her step-sister that human remains had been found — that detectives were sure were Carolyn’s. Victoria had to face the reality that after her lifetime quest, she would never be able to meet her biological mother.
An autopsy determined that Carolyn had been murdered by a blunt impact to her head. Her body had been in the rubber tub for approximately three years. Johnson explained that the container had been on his property for a while, along with other boxes and clutter. Despite being the person who reported the body, Johnson himself ended up the subject of the police investigation into Carolyn’s homicide.
When questioned by the police Johnson did admit that had known Carolyn, but claimed that he hadn’t seen her in years. He said that he’d had no idea there was a human body stored on his property. But when authorities searched his house, they noticed some belongings that had been Carolyn’s, displayed in his house as if they belonged there.Despite how sketchy that made him look, Johnson was cooperative with the police and continued to deny any involvement in Carolyn’s death. He told them that the rubber tub had been being stored on his property for a friend of his — John Harrington, known as J.D. Related: Watch High School Student Defend Blind Friend, Knock Out Bully With 1 Punch
Harrington had been not only Carolyn’s coworker at Waffle House, but also her rooommate. Johnson recalled Harrington telling him that Carolyn had gone missing, and that she’d taken their rent money. Being evicted over the loss of rent, Harrington asked Johnson if he could stay with him and store his belongings at his place.
Johnson also had an explanation for how some of Carolyn’s possessions were in his home. He claimed that as he was helping move Harrington out, he noticed them left behind and thought he should take them to safeguard them, in the event that Carolyn returned.
Despite Johnson’s kindness to Harrington, it was paid back by him stealing from Johnson, who called the police. Harrington was not only convicted for what he’d done to Johnson, but it turned out he had previous felonies on his record.
On Victoria’s part, she never relented in her efforts to find the truth of who had committed her mother’s murder. “My God would not give up on me in my pursuit of justice,” she said. She eventually wrote a book based on her experience, called Positive ID: A Young Woman’s Search for Family., in which she also details how the whole experience gave her strength and confidence in herself, despite her disabilities and physical limitations.
Watch Victoria Baker’s story in the “A Daughter’s Quest” episode of Investigation Discovery’s On the Case With Paula Zahn on ID GO now!
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Main photo: Victoria Baker [screenshot from episode/Investigation Discovery]