Police arrest trucker who had runaway with him

WOLF CREEK TOWNSHIP State police arrested a trucker Tuesday after pulling him over for a traffic violation and finding a 17-year-old girl reported missing from Illinois in his sleeper cab. Billie J. Baker, 44, of Nashville, Tenn., was jailed on $250,000 bond. State police working a seat-belt detail spotted Baker s tractor-trailer westbound on Interstate 80 in Wolf Creek Township with a headlight burned out.

A trooper noticed the sleeper cab curtain was closed and asked Baker if anyone else was in the cab, police said. Baker said his niece was riding with him. Baker admitted the company he drives for does not allow passengers, but said his niece is 18 and interested in becoming a truck driver, police said. The girl came out and produced several false names and birth dates, police said. The trooper said he suspected the girl was underage and had her taken into custody, police said.

Police said a search of a national database for one of the names she gave showed the girl had been reported missing from Taylorsville, Ill. Ilinois television stations identified the girl as Rachel Barrish, a runaway who was last seen Feb. 18 at home. Baker acknowledged he is a registered sex offender and police said they discovered there was a warrant for him for failing to register.

Baker told police the girl is the fianc e of a friend, that he knows her family, and he knew she had been reported missing, police said. He said he was trying to get her back home and had not had sex with her, police said. Baker said he picked up the girl at a truck stop in Decatur, Ill., and had been traveling with her for three weeks to a month, police said. The girl told police she had been riding with Baker for two months after running away and staying with her fiance for several weeks. She said her fiance told her that police were looking for him, so she should go with Baker, police said.

She had met up with her fiance and Baker for a week at a motel and then got back in the truck with Baker, police said. The girl said she wanted to go home and asked Baker to take her but it never ended up happening, police said. Once Baker learned police were looking for the girl two days prior he would not let her leave the cab, and she had not bathed in about a month, police said.

District Judge Brian Arthur, Greenville, arraigned Baker on charges of kidnapping, interfering with the custody of children, concealment of the whereabouts of a child and unlawful restraint.

Arthur set a preliminary hearing for 9:30 a.m. April 27 before District Judge D. Neil McEwen, Pine Township.

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