‘Notorious cases of missing children who have never been found still haunt North Americans. Very occasionally, after many years, a child’s remains are found but identifying the killer remains an ongoing quest. Some of the most well-known cases include:
Missing: May 25 1979
Declared legally dead: 2001
Noteworthy: First person to appear on a milk carton President Reagan declared May 25th National Missing Child Day in Etan’s honour
Joseph Antonio Ramos
The blonde-haired, blue-eyed 6-year-old boy disappeared on his way to catch the school bus in New York City. He was the first missing person to have his face displayed on a milk carton. Our modern version of the milk carton is the AMBER alert. Since 1997 through March 2012, the AMBER Alert program has been credited with the safe recovery of 572
children. To date there is a network of 120 AMBER Plans across the
country. President Ronald Reagan declared May 25th National Missing Child Day in Patz’s honor as a means to raise awareness for missing persons. Almost 33 years later, new evidence in the case re-opened the cold case. Jose Antonio Ramos, a man connected with Patz’s babysitter, was the only person indicated as a person of interest in the boy’s disappearance. Ramos was a drifter who sold cheap jewelry and small toys on the street. His gray hair was long and unkempt, and his beard hung down to his chest. NYPD officers arrested him in 1982 for allegedly attempting to lure two young boys into the drainage tunnel where he’d been living.
In a police interview, Ramos revealed he knew the woman who used to walk Etan to the school bus every day, then refused to say any more about the woman. Detectives tracked down the woman who admitted she had been seeing Ramos in 1979. She broke down into tears when she revealed that Ramos’ interest in her was a ploy to molest her young son. She never brought charges against Ramos. During his police investigation, Ramos revealed that in 1979 when Etan disappeared, he suffered a nervous breakdown and had been hearing a voice in his head. It “would try to force me to get violent,” he said.”I had to hold it back. I had to do a lot of really forceful holding back, you know. ‘Cause I was… I was ready to explode.”
Ramos is serving a 20-year prison sentence for child molestation and admitted to authorities that he took a young boy he later recognized as Patz to his home on the date of Patz’s disappearance. Ramos claims that after the boy refused his advances he let him go. Insufficient evidence existed to convict Ramos, but the Patz family was able to win a civil suit in 2004, when a State Supreme Court Judge declared Ramos guilty of the child’s murder. The court awarded the family $2 million in damages, a sum they have never collected. Some boys had accused Ramos of trying to lure them inside a drain pipe, where he lived in 1982 in the Bronx. When police searched the drain pipe, they found photographs of Ramos and young boys who resembled Patz.
In 1990, federal prosecutor Stuart GraBois became deputized as a deputy state attorney general in Pennsylvania to help prosecute a case against Ramos for sexually abusing other children, and to obtain further information on Patz’s case. Ramos stated he took a young boy to his apartment to rape him and that he was “90 percent sure” it was the boy he saw on TV. While Ramos was incarcerated, a convict who became a jailhouse informant told GraBois that Ramos told him he knew what happened to Patz, and drew a map of Patz’s school bus route. Grabois and Ramos engaged in an hour and a half investigation. Then GraBois asked. “how many times did you have sex with Etan Patz?” he asked. Ramos’ face sagged. He was visibly rattled. “I’ll tell you about it,” he said. “I’ll tell you everything. I never told anyone any of this before. I want to get it off my chest.” Ramos said that he saw a boy who fit Etan Patz’s description in Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village “that morning.” The boy was alone, “bouncing a ball.” He described Etan’s distinctive blue sneakers with “bright strips.” Ramos said he invited the boy to his apartment to watch television. GraBois asked Ramos why he wanted the boy to go with im.”For sex,” Ramos said. Ramos described his attempts to molest the boy, but the boy “wasn’t interested,” so Ramos gave up. He said he then took the boy for a walk through the Village and finally put him on a subway “to visit his aunt in Washington Heights.” The Patzes have no relatives in Washington Heights. . GraBois pressed Ramos to come clean, but the man wouldn’t say anything more about Etan Patz.
Every year, on the anniversaries of Etan’s birthday and disappearance, Stan Patz sends Ramos a copy of his son’s missing child poster. On the back, he types the same message: “What did you do to my little boy?” Jose Ramos was released from prison on November 7, 2012 and then arrested on a Megan’s Law violation. Based on the re-examination of evidence in the case, officials began searching the basement of a building in Soho on Prince Street in New York City. A handyman who had access to Patz around the time of his disappearance used the basement, which was located 200 feet from the building where the Patz family lived. A medical examiner was on the scene to determine if any remains found are human. After a four-day search, investigators announced there was “nothing conclusive found“, including any skeletal or human remains.
Pedro Hernandez, of Maple Shade, New Jersey, confessed to strangling Etan. Hernandez, age 51, was an 18-year-old convenience store worker at the time of Patz’s disappearance.His lawyer has stated that Hernandez was diagnosed with schizotypal personality disorder, which includes hallucinations. Hernandez, told investigators that he lured Etan to the basement of a bodega where he worked at the time. Once Etan was inside, Hernandez choked him, stuffed his body into a bag and took the bag a block and a half away, and left it with trash. Later he changed his story and stated he placed the boy in a plastic bag, placed the bag in a cardboard box, and tossed the boy’s book bag behind a freezer in the basement. He carried the box to the entranceway of a basement one-and-a-half blocks away, where he placed the box on the ground just inside the open entrance. According to a New York Times report from 25 May 2012, the police had at that time no physical evidence to corroborate Hernandez’s confession. The search prompted a call to the missing persons squad from a person who led them to Hernandez. Over the years since Etan’s disappearance, Hernandez told a family member and others that he had “done a bad thing and killed a child in New York.” He and his wife, Rosemary, live in an apartment in the back of a modest two-story house in Maple Shade, a town of about 19,000 residents east of Camden. The man who rented the front part of the home said Hernandez and his wife were Pentecostals and “were good people, and he was a good neighbor.
In November 2012, Hernandez was formally charged with Patz’s murder and kidnapping. When asked why he killed little Etan, Hernandez sobbed, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”Subsequent statements by Hernandez’s sister, Nina Hernandez, and Tomas Rivera, leader of a Charismatic Christianity group at St. Anthony of Padua, a Roman Catholic church in Camden, indicated that Hernandez may have publicly confessed to murdering Patz in the presence of fellow parishioners in the early 1980s. According to Hernandez’ sister, it was an “open family secret” that he had confessed in the church. On November 14, 2012, a New York grand jury indicted Hernandez on charges of second-degree murder and first-degree kidnapping. On December 12, 2012, Hernandez pleaded not guilty to two counts of murder and one count of kidnapping in a New York court. Hernandez claimed he believed Etan was still alive when he left him in a doorway.
Nicole Louise Morin
Missing: July 30, 1985
Noteworthy: Police investigation is most expensive in Toronto police history.
Nicole’s case appeared in a true crime book: Unsolved: True Canadian Cold Cases
Pretty, brown-haired Nicole left her mother’s penthouse apartment in The West Mall, in Toronto’s Etobicoke area, and vanished. There has been no trace of the 8 year old girl who was likely abducted moments after leaving the apartment in the Highway 427 and Rathburn Road area. At 10:30am Nicole had gone to the lobby of the twenty storey apartment building to pick up the mail. She returned to the apartment and got ready to go swimming with a playmate. Before leaving the apartment Nicole spoke to a friend through the building’s intercom and promised to be right down. The playmate waited 15 minutes before buzzing the apartment again to find out why Nicole hadn’t arrived. The two girls arranged to meet in the lobby and go to a supervised swimming pool at the rear of the building. About 11:00am Nicole said goodbye to her mother and left the apartment. No one has seen the girl since she closed the apartment door and walked into the penthouse hallway. Jeanette Morin said in an interview once, “It was around three o’clock in the afternoon whin I realized something was going on. I just became in a daze. I kept saying, ‘Oh,she’s got to be with somebody playing and she forgot.’ Around six o’clock, I couldn’t put up with it any more. I called the cops.” Police came to believe that it was a crime of opportunity by a predator who happened to be in the building at that time.
Twenty-five years after his daughter Nicole vanished without a trace, her father, Art Morin, now 71, has hope that one day he will hug his daughter again.“I couldn’t imagine that it would be 25 years, and she’s still missing,” Morin said from his Etobicoke home, about 10 minutes away from the apartment complex where she went missing.“When Nicole disappeared, I honestly believed we would be able to find her. I cannot help but keep my hope up that one day, she will surface again.” Nicole’s disappearance sparked a firestorm of media attention worldwide, and the subsequent police investigation is still considered one of the largest and most expensive ever conducted by the Toronto police. Nicole’s case was one of a series of mysterious disappearances of girls around that time. Christine Jessop, nine, went missing from her home the October before Nicole vanished. Sharin Morningstar Keenan, also nine, was abducted in January 1983, and Alison Parrot disappeared July 1986 aged 11. All turned up dead, their bodies found, except Nicole’s.
However, throughout the 25 years of media attention, manpower and resources devoted to the case, including private investigators hired by Morin, not a single clue has emerged about what happened to Nicole that fateful morning. “I really don’t like to think that she’s dead. But she hasn’t turned up. You could say maybe that I’m having false hope,” Morin says. Nicole’s case has taken several twists and turns throughout the years, many of which had been documented in the recent book Unsolved: True Canadian Cold Cases by Robert Hoshowsky. After she went missing, a notebook was found in her bedroom with a note scrawled by Nicole that read “I’m going to disappear.” At one point in the investigation, police travelled to Quebec to interview Art Morin’s brother-in-law, who was convicted of murdering Morin’s sister Gertrude in 1961. He has since died and police determined he was not in Toronto at the time of Nicole’s disappearance. The Morin family seem to be surrounded by tragedy and death.
In 2001, an updated photo of Nicole showing her as a woman in her mid-20s was sent via the Internet to over 1,000 Crime Stoppers programs in 17 countries worldwide. And still, no clue emerged as to Nicole’s whereabouts. Morin, who has been consumed and haunted by Nicole’s disappearance, felt he did everything he humanly could do as a father, and has since ceased actively pursuing leads to find Nicole. He says he has not marked the 25th anniversary of her disappearance in any special way “She’s just in my thoughts and, of course, I cannot allow myself to dwell there, reliving all those memories again. It’s just too emotional and I had to focus on my life.” Nicole’s mother Jeannette, whom Morin was separated from, died of a heart attack in 2007, never knowing what became of her daughter. Only Jeannette can possibly know the guilt and heartache she must have suffered since her daughter’s disappearance.
Nicole would be 33 today. A Facebook vigil titled “Find Nicole Morin” still continues, with some of Nicole’s childhood friends, family and well wishers posting messages. “The first day Nicole went missing, I said Nicole is in God’s hands. Well, that’s where it sits, 25 years later,” Morin says. “I still have to hang on to some hope for the future. That maybe, maybe, she might still be alive somewhere.”
Steven Stayner I Know My First Name is Steven – Missing and Found
Steven Gregory Stayner was an American kidnap victim. Stayner was abducted from the Northern California city at the age of seven and held until he was 14, when he escaped and rescued another victim, Timothy White, in 1980. Stayner died in 1989 in a motorcycle accident while driving home from work.Steven was born the third of five children to Delbert and Kay Stayner. Steven had three sisters. His older brother, Cary Stayner, is a convicted serial killer. On the afternoon of December 4, 1972, Stayner was approached on his way home from school by a man named Ervin Edward Murphy, an acquaintance of Kenneth Parnell, who conned Murphy into abducting Stayner so he could “raise him in a religious-type deal.” Parnell was a convicted child rapist. Murphy passed out gospel tracts to boys walking home from and claimed to be a church representative seeking donations. Stayner claimed that Murphy asked him if his mother would be willing to donate items to the church. Murphy asked Steven where he lived and if he would take him to his home. A white Buick driven by Parnell pulled up and Steven willingly climbed into the car with Murphy. Parnell then drove a confused Steven to his cabin in nearby Catheys Valley instead.
After telling Parnell that he wanted to go home many times during his first week him, Parnell told Steven that he had been granted legal custody of the boy because his parents could not afford so many children and that they did not want him anymore. Parnell called the boy Dennis Gregory Parnell, retaining Stayner’s real middle name and his real birthdate when enrolling him in various schools over the next several years. Parnell passed himself off as Steven’s father and the two moved frequently. He allowed Steven to begin drinking at a young age and to come and go as he pleased. For over a year, Barbara Mathias, along with one or more of her children, lived with Parnell and Steven. She later claimed to have been completely unaware that “Dennis” was kidnapped.During the seven years that he lived with Parnell, Stayner claimed that he was sexually assaulted more than 700 times. Parnell claimed the number was much higher. Stayner also said that, at the behest of Parnell, he had sex with Mathias several times around the age of nine.
As Steven entered puberty, Parnell looked for a younger child to kidnap. On February 14, 1980, Parnell and a teenage friend of Steven’s named Sean Poolman kidnapped five-year-old Timmy White in Ukiah, California. Steven decided to escape with him, intending to return the boy to his parents and then escape himself. On March 1, 1980, while Parnell was away at his night security job, Steven left with Timmy and hitchhiked into Ukiah. Unable to locate Timmy’s home address, he decided to have Timmy walk into the police department to ask for help, before escaping himself. Before he could successfully escape, the police spotted the two boys and took them into custody. Steven immediately identified Timmy White and then revealed his own true identity and story. By daybreak on March 2, 1980, Parnell was arrested for abducting both boys. Both children were reunited with their families that day. In 1981, Parnell was tried and convicted of kidnapping Timmy and Steven in two separate trials. He was sentenced to seven years but was paroled after serving five years.
Parnell was not charged with the numerous sexual assaults on Steven Stayner and other boys, because most of them occurred outside the jurisdiction of the Merced county prosecutor, or were by then outside the statute of limitations. The Mendocino County prosecutors decided not to prosecute Parnell for the sexual assaults that occurred in their jurisdiction. This is likely due to the prosecutors’ belief that they were “protecting” Steven because rape and molestation victims were seen as “damaged goods.” At first, Steven denied that he was sexually abused, however he eventually admitted that he was abused during those seven years. The prosecution felt that they were respecting the Stayner parents’ reluctance to discuss Parnell’s crimes, because of the stigma of male sexual abuse. Poolman and Ervin Murphy were convicted of lesser charges. Both claimed they knew nothing of the sexual assaults on Steven. Barbara Mathias was never arrested. In 1989, a mini series entitled “I Know my First Name is Steven” was aired on television. The title of the film was based on the opening statement Steven gave to police when he escaped Purnell:
“My name is Steven Stainer. I am fourteen years of age. I don’t know my true birthdate, but I use April 18, 1965. I know my first name is Steven, I’m pretty sure my last is Stainer [sic], and if I have a middle name, I don’t know it.”
Steven married Jody Edmondson on June 13, 1985. They had two children, On September 16, 1989, Steven’s motorcycle collided with a car that pulled into traffic from a side road. Steven received head injuries that proved fatal; he died at the Merced Community Medical Center. Over 500 people attended his funeral, including then-14-year-old Timmy White, whom Steven specified in his will that he wanted to be one of his pallbearers. Ten years after Steven’s death, the city of Merced asked its residents to propose names for city parks honoring Merced’s notable citizens. Steven’s parents proposed that one be named “Stayner Park“. This idea was eventually rejected and the honor was instead given to another Merced resident because Steven’s brother Cary Stayner confessed to, and was charged with 1999 Yosemite multiple murders, amid fears that the name “Stayner Park” would be associated with Cary rather than Steven. Timmy White became a Los Angeles County Sheriffs Department Deputy. He died on April 1, 2010, at age 35 of a pulmonary In 2004, Kenneth Parnell, then 72 years of age, was convicted of trying to persuade his nurse to procure a young boy for five hundred dollars. The nurse reported this to police. Parnell died of natural causes on January 21, 2008, at the California State Prison Hospital in Vacaville, California, while serving a 25-years-to-life sentence.
The terms missing and abducted are not synonymous and interchangeable. In fact the majority of “missing children” are safer than is usually thought. In addition, sexually motivated nonfamily abduction is probably the only aspect of sexual victimization of children that people think occurs more often than it does. People tend to underestimate the likelihood that a family member or trusted acquaintance will sexually victimize their child, but overestimate the likelihood of stranger abduction. I am aware of no research that indicates that children today are any more likely to be abducted by sexual predators than they were 50 years ago.
- Most missing children are not abducted and most abducted children are not missing.
- The typical child abduction is a brief event where the child is returned before anyone had time to note the child was missing.
- Only a very small percentage of missing children were abducted by a nonfamily member.
- Most of abducted children are teenagers.
- Of the nonfamily-abducted children, almost all of them were returned alive and uninjured a short time later.
Good news for parents who suffer their worst nightmare. Unfortunately, there will always be those few who suffer like the Patz and Morin families.