Ericka Brair: Five years later, scars of 2007 murder still remain

When Janice Collins found her daughter’s bed empty on the morning of March 16, 2007, she immediately sensed something was wrong. She spent the morning making phone calls to her daughter’s friends and banging on the doors their houses, asking if anyone had seen or heard from her daughter. No one had. Collins called the police to report her daughter Ericka Brair missing and was told she’s “probably just a runaway.”

It wasn’t until April 16 when an officer called to inquire about a tattoo that Janice had described in her missing person’s report that she had any legitimate word on her daughter’s whereabouts.

“The next day there were homicide detectives in my house, telling me they found a body,” said Collins.

Brair’s body was found in an industrial park near Woodhaven Road and Roosevelt Boulevard. She had been stabbed more than 40 times and had defensive wounds on her arms and hands. Her body was deteriorated, and police couldn’t say how long she’d been dead or where she was killed.

Brair lived near Oxford Circle. As a kid, she attended scouts and dance classes with local girls. In high school, she sang in the choir and found a core group of friends. But by her senior year at Frankford High School, her social life began to revolve around a new clique. In the weeks and months leading up to her death, she began falling out of touch with her closest friends.

On the night Brair went missing, there were repeated calls to her cell phone. Her friends and family believe the calls are directly related to her disappearance — and this new group of friends.

At the time of her murder, the father of one of the suspected individuals lived within 1,000 yards of the wooded area where Brair’s body was found. A search of the home did not lead to an arrest. But Brair’s family and friends believe missing knives that belonged to a set found in the home matched those used in Ericka’s murder.

It’s been five years since Brair went missing, but her family and friends still speak of her in the present tense. And for everyone involved, the case is far from cold.

“There’s no way I’ll give up,” said Collins. “It’ll be my last dying breath.”

A reward for information leading to Brair’s murderer has ­been raised to $30,000, donated by the Citizens Crime Commission and the City of Philadelphia.

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