Despite national media exposure, wide-ranging police efforts, and a $50,000 reward, a credible lead has yet to develop in the disappearance of Cory Erving, 19, who lives with his parents at their home near Orlando, Fla.
Julius Erving's entire family had attended a June 13 news conference in Philadelphia, but Erving said yesterday that his daughter, Jazmin, 23, "has a broken heart" and that his wife, Turquoise, is "bedridden and in a weakened state with only a framed photo" of Cory to offer her comfort.
"What has happened here and where is Cory, I don't know," he said, but added that it was his job to provide "leadership" and remain focused on finding his son. "Nothing else matters," Erving said.
Yesterday's news conference, if nothing else, kept the media focused on that task as well.
It also placed Erving among supporters, making "this feel like a homecoming." He hugged several reporters and friends, among them Garry Maddox, the former Phillie who got to know Erving when both played on championship teams here in the early 1980s. Maddox came unannounced, even to his old friend.
"I think parents can identify with what Julius is going through, any parents," said Maddox, who sat quietly among the group of about 50 journalists, city officials and others.
Erving was accompanied by Mayor Street and city police officials, who said they were checking dozens of tips, but so far to no avail. (Calls regarding Cory Erving are being taken by city police at 215-685-9126, and on an emergency basis at 911. The national hotline number is 1-888-609-2529.)
Erving thanked investigators for their efforts, praising them for "not looking for an item, but a person . . . a loving son and a human being. He's flesh and blood. He's my son."
Erving rested his hand on the back of Julius 3d, 25, as the young man began to cry while addressing reporters. "If you're out there and you're listening," he said, hoping Cory would somehow hear his voice, "come home. We need you. . . . I want my brother home. I love him. I miss him."
"Cory," said Cheo, 27, "if you're listening, call home at least. Call us and let us know you're out there."
Erving has been searching for his son since May 28, when he failed to return from the bakery where he worked. The former basketball star went public about his son's disappearance after 16 days.
Erving, now an executive with the NBA's Orlando Magic, has put up a $25,000 reward - bumped to $50,000 by the 76ers - for information leading to his son's return or whereabouts. He has also consulted with various local and federal authorities, appeared on a number of TV shows - among them Larry King Live, Dateline, and America's Most Wanted - and paid to have 6,000 signs posted nationwide.
But nothing has turned up. Hundreds of tips have led nowhere, including one that had been considered credible - that Cory had been spotted with a blond woman near Orlando. That tip, Erving said, "turned into a wild goose chase."
Cory Erving's black 1999 Volkswagen Passat also has failed to materialize, despite alerts for the vehicle with authorities nationwide.
Erving said it was unusual that his son had not called. "Cory's a phone person," he said, noting that he had the family's calling-card number memorized.
But the young man also has a history of drug abuse and was believed to have used drugs the night before he disappeared. He also ran away once before, in January 1999, from a drug rehabilitation center.
Cory Erving also has some apparent mental deficiencies, according to his father, who described him as "mentally a lot younger than his years."
Still, Erving said he could not understand why someone "who he's with [would not come forward] and say, 'He's here. Come and get him.' "
Since Cory Erving's disappearance, stories also have surfaced from police in Florida about his having a confrontation with another man and trying to buy a gun to retaliate.
Erving, noting the thousands of child disappearances every year in the United States, implored young people everywhere to communicate with their parents.
"If you have trouble about you, tell us so we can help you," he said. "[Don't] leave us to wonder whether you are alive or dead."
He said learning about the large number of missing children had been "an eye opener."
Erving said he was aware of many cases, including "some that have not turned out well - and some where 60, 90, 100 days [later], . . . the person walks through the door or makes a phone call."
Robert Zausner's e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org