I'VE NEVER met Evan Dorsey. But most of us know men like him.

Dorsey is the father of Ebony Nicole Dorsey, 14, a Wissahickon High School freshman honor student who was allegedly murdered and sexually assaulted by Mark O'Donnell, 48, who police say was her mother's boyfriend.

Police found her mutilated body in a storage tub outside O'Donnell's nephew's house in Blue Bell on Sunday, ending a two-day search for the missing teen.

The last entry on her cell phone was a call from her father recorded at 7 a.m. Friday. The early-morning phone call was a ritual that the teenager and her absentee father observed almost every day. It doesn't fill your arms like a hug or give you that sense of pride custodial fathers get as they watch their daughters blossom into women.

But for an absentee father, that daily call or weekly visit is the next best thing to being there.

"The last thing you ever want to do is worry about the worst thing that could happen," Evan Dorsey told reporters as the search for his missing daughter intensified over the weekend.

It's any parent's worst nightmare. But for the absent fathers of young girls, there can be an added feeling of impotence and, for some, guilt.

Fathers who are separated from their daughters, regardless of why, can only hope and pray that their mothers make good choices about the men they allow to interact with their daughters. Ebony Dorsey's mother, Danielle Cattie, chose to spend Thursday night with O'Donnell.

She told police he had left her daughter alone at his house to care for his four-year-old daughter, Kyra. Then he doubled back to spend the night with Cattie.

She said he smoked crack most of the night, then went home around dawn to pick Ebony up and bring her back in time for school Friday morning.

She never saw Ebony again.

O'Donnell, 48, told police that he walked in and found Ebony changing his daughter's pull-up diapers and flew into a rage. He admitted bludgeoning and strangling her and disposing of her body. Then he victimized her with one final indignity yesterday as he was led into his arraignment:

"I caught her molesting my daughter," he told reporters. "You would do the same thing."

Police, who say there is absolutely no evidence that Kyra was abused by Ebony Dorsey, dismiss O'Donnell's acount as a slanderous lie.

O'Donnell has been charged with murder, involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, indecent assault, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse in the brutal bludgeoning of Ebony Dorsey that was witnessed in part by his four-year-old daughter.

Police say that O'Donnell had been on the way to pick up his wife at the airport when he hid Ebony's lifeless body outside his nephew's house. Police had interviewed him briefly Saturday morning. But by that afternoon, he had vanished and police listed him as a person of interest.

"There's no other explanation," Danielle Cattie told a TV reporter Saturday. "and being as though he was the last person we know who saw her, we want him in to answer some questions."

You can bet there will be some tough questions for her, too. Even if she is found faultess by police investigators, she is likely to face harsher judgments in the court of public opinion and perhaps from her own conscience.

But she won't be alone. If Evan Dorsey is like the absentee fathers I have known, he will have his own demons to deal with.

"To those parents out there who are still fortunate enough to have their children with them," he told a WCAU-TV reporter, "hold them a little closer, tell them that you love them."

" . . . one thing I thank God for is that the last time I saw my daughter, I took the opportunity to tell her that I love her."

For any parent who has lost a child, that's not much to cling to. But for an absentee father, it's the next best thing to being there. *

Send e-mail to smithel@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2512. For recent columns: http://go.philly.com/smith