Etan Patz case: 6 other missing-child cases that made national news
Etan Patz, a 6-year-old boy who disappeared in May 1979 while walking to a bus stop in Manhattan, has never been found, and a jury on Friday declared itself unable to reach a verdict in the trial of a former grocery store clerk who was charged with Etan’s murder more than three decades after he vanished. Etan, whose fate proved a catalyst for national efforts to improve methods of finding missing children, is not the only child to disappear without a trace. Here are some other missing-children cases that captured national attention and were never resolved:
The Lyon sisters of Kensington, Md. -- 10-year-old Katherine and 12-year-old Sheila -- went to a mall in their Washington, D.C., suburb on March 25, 1975, and never came home. Witnesses told police they saw the girls at the mall, about a half-mile from their home, speaking to a man. Despite a search that grew to include National Guard troops, neither the man nor the girls were ever found, and the case remains active. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children last year, police were asking the public for information on a vehicle believed to have been involved in the girls’ disappearance.
Johnny Gosch, a freckle-faced 12-year-old from West Des Moines, Iowa, was last seen heading out to deliver newspapers on Sept. 5, 1982. Other paper carriers saw him at the pickup point early that morning, and a witness told police he saw Johnny speaking to a man in a car with out-of-state license plates and later being followed by another man. The boy’s parents realized something was wrong when neighbors began calling to ask why their papers had not been delivered. Johnny’s mother, Noreen Gosch, helped push through legislation in Iowa that required immediate police responses to missing-child cases. When her son disappeared, police said a person had to be gone 72 hours to be considered “missing.” Johnny’s face was the second, after Etan Patz’s, to appear on the side of milk cartons in 1984. He has never been found.
Nicholas Barclay was last seen on June 13, 1994, playing basketball in his hometown of San Antonio. The 13-year-old never made it home. In 1997, a young man in Spain claiming to be Nicholas contacted law enforcement authorities and said he had escaped from a child sex ring. The caller was flown to the United States and greeted at the airport by Barclay family members, who insisted it was Nicholas despite different hair and eye coloring and a foreign accent. A year later, the FBI determined through fingerprints that “Nicholas” was actually Frederic Pierre Bourdin, a French con man who said he impersonated missing children because he was looking for a family to love him. A documentary film, “The Imposter,” was made about the case in 2012. Bourdin was sentenced to six years in a U.S. prison and subsequently returned to Europe, where he was caught impersonating other missing children. Nicholas has never been found.
Jacob Wetterling was riding his bicycle with his brother and a friend on Oct. 22, 1989, in his hometown of St. Joseph, Minn., when he disappeared. The other boys said a masked gunman confronted the three of them as they headed home about 9 p.m., ordered the other two boys to run away, and vanished with 11-year-old Jacob. Neither Jacob nor the man was ever found. Police last year said they were investigating the possibility that Jacob’s abduction was tied to similar attacks on five other boys in the area in the two years before Jacob disappeared.
Rozlin and Fawn Abell, sisters living in Bethany, Okla., went out job-hunting on July 25, 1985, and were never seen again. Rozlin was 18 and Fawn was 15. In 2013, Bethany police Lt. Austin Warfield told the Oklahoman newspaper that he had not heard of the case until the girls’ brother asked about it. Warfield said he dug up the original police report and found that law enforcement had initially treated the pair as runaways. Family members, however, suspected they were victims of foul play. No trace of Rozlin or Fawn was ever found.
Lindsey Baum was 10 years old when she vanished while walking home from a friend’s house in McCleary, Wash., on June 26, 2009. It was just a few blocks from her friend’s house to her own, but police never found anyone who could tell them what happened to Lindsey that night. A reward of $35,000 has been offered for information leading to Lindsey, and bloodhounds were brought in to help police search for her in the hours after she was reported missing. Police focused attention on a local businessman in 2011, but the man denied having anything to do with the girl’s disappearance.
Follow @TinaSusman for national news
Start your day right
Sign up for Essential California for the L.A. Times biggest news, features and recommendations in your inbox six days a week.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Los Angeles Times.