It’s estimated that around 800,000 children are reported missing each and every year. Thankfully, most of these children return home safely. But what about those who never return? For the loved ones left behind, the not knowing must be unimaginable. Without justice ever being served, there is no chance to begin the healing process. In this article, we shall look at five cases of children that still remain missing today.
9-year-old Richard Marlow from Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada, was nicknamed “Peewee” due to his small stature. He was in “getting along nicely” in Grade 3 and was known for being painfully shy. “He was always the first away to school in the morning. He didn’t want to be late,” his mother, Gertrude, recalled.1
On the evening of the 18th of July, 1944, most of the Marlow family went to the cinema. Richard stayed behind with his older brother, Gerald. Richard pulled on a blue hat and went outside to play on his older sister’s bicycle with Gerald checking out the window sporadically to make sure Richard was okay. At some point during the evening, Richard disappeared leaving just the bicycle behind. A search party was assembled. Police scoured the neighbourhood assisted by army militia and volunteers alike. Ponds and creeks were drained while wells, outhouses and forests were searched.
Richard’s father, John, was in the army and stationed out of town when Richard vanished. As soon as he heard about the disappearance, John rushed back home to assist in the search. His parents sent photographs of their son to newspapers across the country and wrote to the FBI begging for their assistance. Each Christmas, they purchased gifts in the hopes that Richard would return in time to open them. For the first three years, Gertrude dreamed about Richard. He appeared “clear as day” and asked “were you worrying about me, mommy?”
Despite the extensive search, there was never any sign of Richard. There were several reported sightings across the country, from Toronto to Disney World, but none ever turned out to be Richard. Ten years after his disappearance, Gertrude passed away. “It went on and on and on, and it just broke her heart,” said her granddaughter. In 1973, John passed away. Both went to the grave without ever knowing what happened to their son. They are buried in Glendale Cemetery. Beside their grave is an empty plot with no headstone, no marker, and no flowers; it is there for Richard if ever he is found.
Cynthia Lynn Sumpter
Over 40 years have passed since 5-year-old Cynthia Lynn Sumpter disappeared without a trace. Nevertheless, her mother, Linda Haynes, has never given up hope that she will be found alive and well. “I pray every day that God will bring her back into my life sometime here on Earth, not just in heaven, that I can hold her one more time, tell her how much I love her,” she said. Following the disappearance, Linda never went on to have any more children out of fear. “There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her. I’d like to think that maybe I’m a grandma by now,” she said.2
Cynthia was described as a boisterous and intelligent little girl who was excelling in school. She loved music and her favourite song was “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head” by B.J. Thomas. It was the 27th of April, 1974, when Cynthia was last seen playing outside her San Jose apartment complex at 990 Elm Street near where Interstate 880 goes under The Alameda. She was wearing a red and white striped sleeveless shirt with a blue star on the front and purple pants and she was barefoot. Linda had gone to get sandwiches for lunch from Togo’s and had asked a neighbour to stay in her apartment in case Cynthia came home.
When Cynthia didn’t come home, Linda searched the streets for around 30 minutes and called her parents to see if they had seen her. Unsuccessful, Linda called police to report her daughter missing. A 50 member task force was assembled in a bid to find the young girl. An all-points bulletin was put out for Cynthia and searchers canvassed the neighbourhood. Officers on horseback with sniffer dogs combed the area. Everybody within a two block vicinity of the area was interviewed and re-interviewed. Several neighbours said they saw Cynthia in a blue car with a young man with blonde hair and a moustache but attempts to identify this man were unfruitful.
One suspect was a former friend of Linda, Rene Garcia Torrez, who had pleaded to child molestation charges in October of 1974. These charges were the result of allegations that he had fondled Cynthia less than a month before her disappearance. Moreover, he had been released from jail the day before Cynthia disappeared. Nevertheless, Torrez provided and alibi and was ultimately dropped as a suspect. Linda was so sure that her ex-friend was involved in Cynthia’s disappearance that at one point in time, she considered murdering him.
Another suspect in the disappearance was neighbour, Antonio Madrid. Two days after the disappearance, Madrid slit his own throat with a razor. At around the time of the disappearance, Madrid was spotted carrying a stroller box that looked as though something was stuffed inside in. There were bloodstains on a t-shirt found in his home and blonde hairs were found in his car. Despite the coincidences, no solid evidence could ever tie him to the disappearance. His mother was adamant he wasn’t involved in Cynthia’s disappearance and that he had committed suicide due to relationship problems.
Despite the extensive search and the thousands of missing person fliers distributed, Cynthia was never found. At one point, a $4,000 reward was offered for information that could lead to a solution but no solution ever came. The case files represent hundreds of pages of red herrings, extortion attempts, and dead ends. Linda has had recurring nightmares about her daughter. “I had one dream that I just couldn’t get rid of. I could always see a bush and I would just see her from the knees down. It was a dream that I kept on seeing over and over. It was the fear that she was dead,” she recalled. The disappearance remains the San Jose Police Department’s oldest missing persons case. The case eventually went cold with the last tip being received in the mid-80s.
On the morning of the 3rd of May, 2002, 7-year-old Alexis Patterson was upset that she couldn’t take cupcakes to school as a class treat because she hadn’t finished her homework. Her stepfather, LaRon Bourgeois, told police that he and Alexis had walked half a block from their home to Hi-Mount, 4291 W. Garfield Ave., and after that, Alexis crossed the road towards the school and he turned back and walked home. This was the last time he ever saw Alexis.3
When Alexis didn’t come home from school, her mother, Ayanna Patterson, called police. Teachers at the school said that Alexis was not in class earlier that day meaning she had disappeared before arriving at school. Following her disappearance, the Milwaukee Police Department and Milwaukee County Sheriff’s Office embarked on one of the largest joint efforts in their history. Searchers trudged through woodland on feet, they searched on boat, motorcycle and horseback. The search was fruitless, however, and there was no sign of Alexis.
Bourgeois was extensively questioned in regards to the disappearance. He had a criminal record which included involvement in a 1994 bank robbery which resulted in Glendale police officer, Ronald Hedbany, being shot. No evidence could ever tie him – or Ayanna – to the disappearance. On the 10th of September, an officer announced that it was unlikely that they would find Alexis alive.
Over the forthcoming years, age-progression images showing what Alexis may look like as she grew into a young woman were issued in the hopes that somebody would recognise them. In 2016, police thought they cracked the case when a man came forward to say the age-progression images looked eerily like his ex-wife who he said had a very murky past and no childhood photographs or school mementos “That could be my baby,” said Ayanna upon viewing the photographs of the woman. “I’ve never said this before, but that could be my child.”4 However, DNA testing subsequently ruled her out.
Each year, Ayanna holds a birthday party for her absent daughter. She says that until there is evidence to prove she is dead, she will live under the assumption that her daughter is alive and well.
William Ebeneezer Jones
It was a chilly winter morning on the 17th of December, 1962. 3-year-old William Ebenezer Jones was playing with his sister outside their Vineland, New Jersey, home as their mother watched from the window. William was wearing a blue-grey snowsuit, a matching hat, and tan high tops with yellow laces. The toddler had blue eyes, big ears, and a vaccinations scar that was shaped like a giraffe on his upper left arm. He loved his dog, Babycakes, and was just three months shy of his 4th birthday.
When William never returned back to the house, he was reported missing by his terrified family. His sister, Jill, who was just 2, came home alone and said “the bogeyman” had taken William and handed her mother a plastic poinsettia which she said was given to her by William’s abductor.5 Hundreds of police officers, fire-fighters, national guard troops and volunteers alike trawled through the area on foot, by boat and by air. The search was unfruitful; there was no sign of William anywhere.
Years later, Jill would be put under hypnosis in the hopes that she could recount more information about the day her brother disappeared. She recalled holding hands with William as two men fought in front of an oil-drum fire at the Palace of Depression, a landmark near the family’s home. “I remember running, she eventually I could see the door to my house,” she said. During the investigation, the Palace of Depression – an attention built from discarded materials – was extensively searched as it was theorised he could have wandered in there.
Over the forthcoming years, age progressions of William have been released showing what he may look like as an adult. It’s now generally believed that William was abducted as opposed to just wandering off. “It’s just a gut feeling for me, I know he’s still alive,” said Jill. “There’s never been a body found, never been anything found. I don’t believe he’s dead.”6 Despite a lengthy search and extensive investigation, William still remains missing.
On the 30th of July, 1985, 8-year-old Nicole Morin pulled on her red striped bathing suit and left her family’s penthouse in an Etobicoke condominium in Toronto to meet her friend, Jennifer Mazepa. It was around 11AM when she said goodbye to her mother and went outside to ride the elevator to the lobby where Jennifer would be waiting.7 The two young girls had planned on going to the apartment building’s outdoor pool to spend the morning swimming.
At around 3PM, Nicole’s mother went to the pool area to get Nicole. It was now that she discovered that her daughter was missing. As it so transpired, Nicole had never met her friend in the lobby indicating that she had vanished en route to the lobby. Nicole’s disappearance gripped the city and became one of the largest investigations in Toronto police history. During the investigation, a notebook was discovered in her bedroom with a note written by Nicole that ominously read “I’m going to disappear.”
Over the forthcoming years, several age profession images were distributed nationwide. Unfortunately, however, no solid leads were ever received. There was a round-the-clock search by three police forces as well as a $100,000 reward. Nicole’s mother believes she was abducted and murdered while her father questions this theory. At the time of Nicole’s disappearance, her mother and father were going through marital problems and her father theorises that Nicole maybe willingly ran away, thinking she was a burden to the family.
On the 29th anniversary of Nicole’s disappearance, Toronto police launched the #FindNicole social media campaign in an effort to garner interest in the case. Nevertheless, what became of Nicole still remains a mystery.
- The Toronto Star, 1 March, 2014 – “Seventy Years Missing”
- The Mercury News, 24 April, 1994 – “Without a Trace”
- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 30 April, 2012 – “A Plea of Forget Me Not”
- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 10 July, 2016 – “New Hope in Disappearance”
- www.philly.com – “Vineland Missing Person Case Resonates 50 Years Later”
- Fox News, 23 December, 2012 – “Search for New Jersey Boy Continues 50 Years After He Vanished”
- Etobicoke Guardian, 27 February, 2015 – “Police Launch Social Media Campaign to Help Solve Disappearance”