Aug 12, 3:06 PM EDT

Vet with PTSD pleads guilty in teen sex case



PITTSBURGH (AP) -- A veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder pleaded guilty to a charge that he took a 13-year-old family friend across state lines for sex.

Joshua Baker, 33, of Leeper, was charged by state authorities with kidnapping a girl he had met through relatives and begun a sexual relationship with when she was 12. Those charges have been on hold since federal authorities took over the case weeks after Baker was found with the girl and arrested in Martin, South Dakota, in April 2013. Baker has been in custody since.

Baker faces at least 10 years in prison when he returns for sentencing Dec. 2 before a federal judge in Pittsburgh. Baker's public defender declined to comment after the guilty plea.

At Tuesday's hearing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Shaun Sweeney laid out the series of events that led to the interstate trip and Baker's capture.

Baker was a married father of two young children when he met the girl at a family gathering in 2012.

Baker allegedly told his cousin that the girl - then 12 - "looked sexy when she wore a certain kind of stockings," Sweeney said. That was the only fact Baker disputed as Sweeney detailed the case to U.S. District Judge Cathy Bissoon.

Baker began a sexual relationship with the girl and planned to run away with her the following spring, Sweeney said.

Without announcing his plans, Baker went with his wife to a car dealership with $5,000 from an insurance claim, looking to purchase a vehicle the day before he and the girl left Pennsylvania, the prosecutor said. When Baker's wife went to the restroom, Baker left with the money, dropped a letter in his home mailbox telling his wife he wanted a divorce and drove away in the couple's car, he said.

Baker then drove to the girl's house and waited outside until her mother went to sleep about 1 a.m. March 28, 2013, the prosecutor said. The girl left the house about an hour later and joined Baker for a trip through several states, during which they had sex several times, Sweeney said.

The couple aroused the suspicious of an alert optical store clerk in Rapid City, South Dakota. The clerk told police Baker told her the girl was his sister, even though they were holding hands.

Another employee wrote down Baker's license plate number, and that evening, the clerk searched the Internet and found a notice that the girl had disappeared from her home several days earlier. She called the police in Rapid City and in Clarion, Pennsylvania, where Baker was charged with kidnapping.

Rapid City police tried to catch Baker when he was scheduled to bring the girl back for an appointment at the eyeglasses store on April 5, but they never showed. Instead, police in Martin, South Dakota, spotted the car at a Dairy Queen on April 6.

Earlier this year, Baker's father told a judge his son's behavior changed for the worse since serving with the military in Iraq and that he had sought counseling and taken medication for PTSD.

Clarion County District Attorney Mark Aaron said he expects to drop the state kidnapping charges once Baker is sentenced to the 10-year federal minimum prison term.

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