Details of Disappearance
Erica was last seen in Allendale, South Carolina at 11:30 p.m. on November 6, 2006. She worked the closing shift at a Hardee's restaurant in the 600 block of Railroad Avenue west.
Her 18-year-old boyfriend, Derek Maner, was supposed to pick her up after work, but he never did, so Erica's cousin gave her a ride. While they were driving, they passed Maner and pulled over in front of the county courthouse, and Erica got in Maner's car and they drove away.
They allegedly got into an argument in the vehicle; Maner later stated she accused him of infidelity. Maner said he offered to drive Erica to meet the woman he was accused of being involved with, in order to prove his innocence.
While they were on their way there, Maner said, Erica suddenly jumped out of the car and ran into the woods adjacent to Highway 125, four miles from home. Maner said he stopped his car and searched for her, but was unable to find her and assumed she had gone home. She had not, however, and has never been heard from again.
A photograph of Maner is posted with this case summary. He and Erica have a son who was five months old in November 2006. At the time of her disappearance, Erica lived with Maner rather than with her parents, and Maner waited two days to tell them she was missing.
Police conducted an extensive search in the wooded area where Maner said he last saw Erica. They found her shoes, clothing and some pieces of her hair extensions, but no indication of her whereabouts. Cadaver dogs did not detect the smell of a dead body in the area.
Authorities never believed Erica left of her own accord. She is described as responsible, had a close and loving relationship with her parents and siblings, and does not fit the usual profile of a teen runaway. She was a good student and had dreams of going to college, and her parents stated she would have never abandoned her child.
After Erica's disappearance, Maner's car was subjected to forensic testing. Erica's blood, hair and tissue were found on the underside of the vehicle, along with evidence that someone tried to wash it off. Investigators believe she was run over at some point.
In April 2008, Maner was arrested and charged with murdering Erica. He had been considered the prime suspect in her disappearance from the outset of the investigation. Maner maintained his innocence at trial in February 2009. He said he didn't harm Erica and had no idea what happened to her, and that the blood and tissue on his car were from a dog he hit. He was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
Foul play is suspected in Erica's case due to the circumstances involved. Her remains have never been recovered.