Unsolved Mysteries: Stolen Kids

Martin Luther King Towers in Harlem courtesy of Netflix.

Spoilers ahead if you haven’t seen this episode.

Welp, we’re here again at the end of another volume of Netflix’s brought-back-from-the-dead version of Unsolved Mysteries. The final one, episode six, is called, “Stolen Kids,” about two toddlers who vanished from the same New York City park in May and August of 1989. So far, a search has “turned up nothing, but their families haven’t give up hope,” the synopsis reads.

Gah, right from the get-go: I can’t imagine the anguish of not knowing for decades what happened to your child. How do you go on living? As the mother of Christopher, Allison Dansby, says, the weight of “going on” is difficult on some days.

This takes place largely near the Martin Luther King Towers in Central Harlem. To orient you, Harlem is about 13 minutes or about 2.6 miles from Manhattan and Central Park. At the time, living there, Allison was 26-years-old with two sons, Vaughn (sorry if the spelling is off, I’m going by what it sounds like), three-years-old, and Christopher, two-years-old. So I’m going to return to that earlier heartbreaking thought with this layer: Imagine having to go on living for decades without knowing where or what happened to your child, but also, you have the responsibility of still raising and giving a good life to another child. My goodness.

On May 18, 1989, Allison walked to the park with Christopher. Carolyn Manley, Christopher’s aunt, was also there. Carolyn notes how crowded the park was that day because it was a hot day. Allison left Christopher at the park with her mother to go to the store. Only 30 minutes later, which I suppose when you’re talking about a two-year-old in public is a long time, Allison came back to the park, and Christopher was gone.

Ken Lindahl, inspector (retired) with the New York Police Department, who also looks a whole lot like the actor Joel Murray, responded to the scene along with other NYPD officials. They did what’s called a canvas, i.e., searching the area, including those towers. They searched 24 city blocks, which … holy cow. To be honest, given the NYPD and given that this was 1989, I’m surprised they even did that much. The search included dogs and divers (checking to see if he’d fallen into the water).

On one hand, I think, how can it be that easy to walk into a park, take someone’s two-year-old kid (with other family members there ostensibly watching the kid, no less), and walk out of the park with the kid? But on the other hand, in a crowded park where, as Allison mentions, people aren’t going to pay mind to a crying kid and think something’s wrong, apparently it’s pretty easy since it happened and whomever did it has gotten away with it for more than 30 years.

At least, I’m assuming someone walked off with the kid because I have a hard time imaging that a two-year-old wandered off from the park, and if that happened, they were unable to find the kid again, even if it was a dead body (from falling in the water or some other accident).

Photo courtesy of Netflix.

The one theory that falls through fast is that the father did it, but he was living in Florida at the time this happened and had nothing to do with the kids. The other theory is just as bunk to me: Allison had a drug addiction at the time, but I don’t see what that has to do with anything. A drug dealer, if he was mad at Allison, ain’t kidnapping kids. That would be highly unusual from my understanding. But people have a tendency to write those with addictions off and/or blame them for whatever bad circumstances, even something as awful as a child kidnapping, happens to them.

Both theories are also bunk, obviously, as a second kid goes missing, which suggests someone else doing this, and a pattern. The second child, Shane, went missing three months later at the same park. Again, same modus operandi. Rosa Glover, Shane’s mother, hadn’t even heard about Christopher going missing. Shane was a bit younger, though, at 19-months-old, and Rosa was 35-years-old. Shane was her only child. Incidentally, the presumed kidnapping also happened on a Thursday, Aug. 10, 1989. And Rosa also made a point of saying the park was crowded. Almost like the crowd is itself a necessary cover for kidnapping the kids?

What’s crazier about this second incident is that Rosa didn’t leave the park. She was still at the park sitting on a bench when he was taken! What the heck? It can happen that fast, huh? I suppose so. After all, it’s only a few seconds to get in and take them out. One difference here is that Rosa said she let Shane go off with other kids to play. If that’s the case, that seems more brazen in a way? That the kidnapper took Shane while he was playing with other kids. Unless the other kids were in on it? That wouldn’t be unusual for a kidnapper and predator to use other kids to pick up other kids as a decoy. The police even interviewed those kids, but Lindahl cleared them, as well as a random man who sat next to Rosa on the bench prior to Shane being taken.

So, another massive canvassing happens again. And nothing. Again. They even offered a $30,000 reward. And nothing.

It’s hard to watch Rosa blaming herself since she was there in the park when it happened.

The NYPD zeros in on another theory: A baby selling ring, wherein the kids were kidnapped and sold off, although, the police still thought it was unlikely.

Another possibility that Mary Murphy, WPIX-TV reporter, brings up is that Christopher and Shane are still alive. What’s interesting about that theory is if we game this out. The kidnapper takes both kids as his own. Both kids are young enough to where, over time, they’d probably begin to forget about their original mothers, and think the kidnapper was their real father/mother and never realize they were kidnapped. Even if they watched something like, well, this episode, maybe they have different names and don’t recognize themselves as 2-year-old babies? It seems feasible. Maybe the forensic age progression photos they do can help? If they are alive, maybe. Or they realize, as mentioned in the episode, their birth certificates are fake.

If that end ain’t a gut punch? To see all the kids out there missing, meaning, a lot of families are like Allison and Rosa, wondering where their kids are.

But yeah. As a start-to-finish story, this was the best episode of the series. I still think, “Washington Insider Murder,” was the best mystery episode, but this was the best, and most heartbreaking, story. There’s not a lot to go on here. There are no leads and there are only a few theories, most of which are on-their-face bunk. But, as I said, the strongest likelihood is that, at minimum, the two children were kidnapped. I find it hard to imagine two kids can go missing from a park three months apart from each other and both be a case of wandering off accidents with no bodies ever recovered.

What did you think of this episode?

Shane, one of the missing children.

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