When Rosa Glover brought her 19-month-old son, Shane Walker, to a playground in Harlem, New York, she didn’t expect tragedy to strike. Neither did the mother of 2-year-old Christopher Dansby, who had brought her son to the exact same playground just three months earlier. These two families would be bound together by eerily similar tragedies when both young boys inexplicably disappeared from this very park as it was still light outside.
It was a balmy evening on the 10th of August, 1989, when Rosa took her son, Shane, to the playground at 113th St. and Lennox Ave., beside the Martin Luther King Jr. Towers housing project where they lived. Shane was wearing a blue and white shirt and blue pants. As Rosa sat on the bench eating ice-cream, a 10-year-old girl and her 5-year-old brother asked if they could play with Shane. Rosa agreed despite the fact she found it somewhat strange because Shane was so much younger than them. As the children played, a man came and sat beside Rosa on the bench and struck up a conversation about the recent kidnapping and how places weren’t safe no longer. “I was watching them play on the swings and the sliding board until a man with a crippled arm came and sat on the bench and started talking to me,” she recalled.1
Her head was turned for no longer than a couple of minutes but by the time she turned back to check on Shane, he was gone. Rosa searched frantically around the park as well as another park situated beside it. When she returned to the first park, she encountered the two children that Shane had been playing with before he disappeared. She asked them where Shane was and they replied that “they left him in the (first) park, and didn’t know where he was.” After Rosa reported he disappearance to police, they questioned the two children as well as the man who was speaking to her. Neither could offer any insight as to where Shane went. After speaking with other witnesses in the park, police said they were looking for an African American man who was between 19 and 24-years-old, around 5 feet 8 inches, who was wearing a yellow shirt and acid-washed jeans.
The disappearance of Shan bore striking similarities to the earlier disappearance of Christopher Dansby. On the 18th of May, 1989, Christopher and his brother, Levon, were playing at the same playground beside the Martin Luther King Jr. Towers. It was around 7PM when Christopher was last seen. “We was playing and Choo-Choo (Christopher) got lost,” recalled Levon. “I didn’t see him. I called my mommy. If somebody has him, if they see that he’s Choo-Choo, they can bring him to my house with my name on him.” Christopher had been seen playing with the same two children that Shane had been playing with before he disappeared.2 Another child at the park later told police that he had seen Christopher walking along West 111th street in the company of an African American man with braids.
Despite the similarities, police initially declined to link the two disappearances, stating that the descriptions of the suspects didn’t match. Many locals were outraged. “Two kids the same age, taken from the same park?” questioned Cindra Cameron. “This can’t be a coincidence.” The family members of the toddlers were also adamant that the disappearances were linked: “In both cases, the kids were taken right under our very noses,” said Elizabeth Manley, Christopher’s grandmother. Shortly thereafter, police announced they were looking for “two black men, similar only in their dreadlock hairstyles” but refused to elaborate any further.
The bizarre disappearances sent shivers down the spine of Harlem residents who couldn’t help but wonder: could my child be next? In the wake of the disappearances, police officers patrolled the project and the surrounding neighbourhood. The officers were assisted by a sound truck which blared out information about the two missing toddlers. Missing person fliers were distributed across the state.
Early on in the investigation, rumors began to circulate that Allison Dansby, Christopher’s mother, was somehow involved because she was an admitted drug addict. “They said a lot of mean things, that I was buying crack when my baby was taken, that I traded by baby for drugs. They’re all lies. I’ve done crack almost five years, in and out. But I never owed nobody money. I passed a lie detector test,” she said. Another popular theory – and one that Shane’s aunt believed – was that the two children seen playing with both Shane and Christopher before their disappearance were involved somehow. The two children were extensively questioned by police but could provide no insight. “We’ve investigated the backgrounds of their parents thoroughly and there is no reason to believe they are involved in this conspiracy,” said an officer.3
The city put up a $30,000 reward for information that could lead to the boys and a plethora of missing person posters were printed and distributed across the state. Police searched all 1,800 apartments in the Martin Luther King. Jr Towers and had a sniffer dog search nearby sewers and abandoned buildings. In the wake of the disappearances, they investigated 500 reported sightings – even as far as Puerto Rico – but each one was a dead end. One lead was that a “cult was emanating from the islands,” according to Detective Julius Sills. “That possibly, children were being taken for sacrifice…”4 Eventually police put out a profile of a male sex offender who operated in the area and a female drug addict whose child had died or was taken away from her by child welfare. They questioned the numerous pedophiles and sex offenders on the register.
Eventually police announced that they now speculated that the two disappearances were linked. “Whoever abducted the children are related to each other… either related by some type of conspiracy to steal children or related to each other in stealing children.”5 They considered the possibility that both boys disappearances were connected to a black market baby-ring operation. Private adoption agencies in the area disagreed with this theory. They said that they placed large numbers of African American children with adoptive parents, adding “there is a black market for white babies, but for black babies, I don’t think so…”
Then in January of 1991, police were alerted to the body of a child dumped in the woods around 30 miles outside of Atlantic City. Due to the advanced decomposition, he was unrecognizable. It was determined that the little boy had been bound and then strangled to death. Due to his size, it was theorised it could have been Christopher. However, the footprints didn’t match.
In 1997, Rosa Glover waged a legal battle to collect the proceeds of a life insurance policy she obtained just days before Shane disappeared. A state judge ordered that Golden Eagle Mutual Insurance pay her $10,000 death benefit, saying that Shane must be presumed dead since it was “unlikely” he would ever be found. At the time of the disappearance, Rosa never told investigators about the life insurance policy she had obtained. “We have enough to be suspicious,” said Detective Frank Saez.6 The insurance company said that Rosa attempted to collect the money just seven weeks after her son’s disappearance but was turned down as she had no death certificate. According to Rosa, she had purchased the policy because she was taking her son on a flight to Florida and was worried about the plane crashing. Understandably, this arose suspicions. However, police ruled Rosa out as a suspect shortly after the disappearance.
Throughout the investigation, police checked out so many leads that they filled nine file folders. They looked into drug related motives, cults, baby-selling rings and a number of other theories that appeared. “There has been not a word about them…” said Detective Cameron Brown.7 Despite an exhaustive search, spanning over numerous states, Christopher or Shane have been found. In the wake of the disappearances, the two families – who live in the same apartment block – have bonded over their shared tragedy. “That day never leaves my mind,” recollected Rosa in 2001. Both families DNA have since been entered into a database in the hopes that one day, their DNA could lead to answers.
Police are asking anyone with information about what happened to Shane or Christopher to call Crime Stoppers at 1800-577-TIPS for an up to $2,500 reward.
- Daily News, 12 August, 1989 – “2nd Tot’s Kidnap Has Area in Fear”
- Daily Sitka Sentinel, 16 August, 1989 – “Search Expanded for Two Missing Toddlers”
- Daily News, 15 August, 1989 – “Cops Link Tot Kidnapping”
- Daily News, 13 October, 1991 – “2 Families Cope with Vanishings”
- The Central New Jersey Home News, 15 August, 1989 – “Police Link Youngster’s Kidnaps”
- Daily News, 24 February, 1997 – “Insurance Case Adds to Missing-Tot Puzzle”
- Daily News, 6 May, 2001 – “Toddlers Kidnapped from City Park”