Body of Erving Son May Be Found

Friday, July 7th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

SANFORD, Fla. (AP) — The car belonging to the son of basketball great Julius Erving has been pulled out of a pond with a body inside that appears to be that of the troubled teen-ager, authorities said Friday.

``The body does fit the description of Cory Erving, including clothing,'' sheriff Don Eslinger said, though an autopsy was planned Friday to make a positive identification. No foul play was suspected.

``The family has been notified,'' Eslinger said. ``They're devastated.''

Erving, 19, disappeared May 28 during a shopping trip to get bread for a Memorial Day family picnic. He might have died less than a mile from his family's home in a gated community near Orlando.

The car was found Thursday as authorities and volunteers continued their search of area lakes and ponds. It was 20 yards from shore in an 8-foot-deep pond at the end of a dirt path.

Investigators believe the car had been in the water since Erving disappeared, the sheriff said. The car's windows were up and the driver's side seat belt was not fastened.

``There's a possibility that this was an accident,'' Eslinger said.

Erving was last seen at a mall in Lake Mary, about 20 miles north of downtown Orlando. His shopping trip was supposed to last 20 minutes.

His father went public June 13, pleading for help in finding his son, who had a learning disability described as a mild form of dyslexia and attention deficit disorder.

The younger Erving also had a history of drug and alcohol abuse and run-ins with the law. Julius Erving said one of Cory's friends claimed Cory had used marijuana and ``roofies'' — a slang term for the illegal sedative Rohypnol — the night before he disappeared.

During the investigation, authorities suggested Erving might have had a relapse and begun using crack cocaine.

In the days before he disappeared, he apparently got into a fight with a person who broke the window of his car with a brick. A witness told investigators that Cory tried to buy a gun and get even.

A $50,000 reward was offered for his safe return. There was no sign of Cory or his black 1999 Volkswagen Passat until Thursday.

Julius Erving has spoken publicly of the difficulties his son might have faced growing up. He might have felt some pressure to succeed as a member of a famous family, ``living in the shadow of a public figure like myself,'' the father said.

Of all the Erving children, Cory looks most like his father. But he didn't share his father's athletic talent and fared worse academically.

His older brother, Julius III, 26, runs a sports and entertainment marketing business in the Philadelphia area. His 23-year-old sister, Jazmin, is getting a master's degree in marketing at Georgia State in Atlanta.

Cory had been working at a sandwich shop and taking courses geared toward getting a high school equivalency diploma. Despite his past troubles, Cory's family believed he had turned around his life.

Erving, a Hall of Famer and an NBA MVP, revolutionized basketball with his high-flying slam dunks and was one of the sport's biggest stars. His 16-year career ended in 1987. He moved with his family to Florida from the Philadelphia area three years ago and now is executive vice president of the Orlando Magic.

``Our prayers are with Julius and the family at this time,'' Magic spokesman Joel Glass said. ``He's a member of our family and we're all grieving at the news.''

In Philadelphia, fans who followed Erving's career with the hometown 76ers were stunned.

``When you see public figures like that, you always think their lives are perfect,'' said Shawn Bury, 30, a security guard. ``You saw how he got on the air and asked people for help ... Suddenly, he became an average person.''

Another fan recalled the 1997 slaying of Ennis Cosby, the son of entertainer and Philadelphia native Bill Cosby.

``Bill Cosby was always the fatherly figure, and Dr. J. just did his business on the court — he wasn't a troublemaker,'' said Ross Wayman, 45, of Wilkes-Barre, Pa. ``It just makes it that much harder to believe it could happen.''