updated 6/17/2009 3:39:59 PM ET 2009-06-17T19:39:59

A Michigan man said Wednesday that pictures he found online led him to believe he could be the 2-year-old boy who vanished more than a half-century ago from a bakery on New York's Long Island.

John Robert Barnes told The Associated Press he was doing online research within the past year to try to figure out who he really was, saying that from childhood he never felt as though he fit in with the family that raised him.

Barnes saw pictures of the missing boy's mother when she was a young adult, thought the woman resembled himself at the same age and started to believe he might be Stephen Damman, who disappeared in 1955.

"I don't know if I'm related to the Dammans or the Barneses. I'm just waiting for the DNA results," Barnes said during an interview with the AP from his home in Kalkaska, about 195 miles northwest of Detroit.

Police in New York's Nassau County have said a Michigan resident contacted their office in the past few months, saying he believes he is the missing toddler. The case was referred to the FBI. Barnes said the FBI took a sample of his DNA via a cheek swab and he's now "waiting for the FBI to tell me who I'm related to."

Sister also disappeared
Stephen Damman's mother, Marilyn, left the boy and 7-month-old daughter, Pamela, waiting outside a bakery while she went inside to shop on Oct. 31, 1955, according to police and news accounts at the time. After 10 minutes, Marilyn came out of the bakery but could not find the stroller or her children, authorities said. The stroller, with only her daughter inside, was found around the corner from the market a short time later, authorities said.

Investigators learned that the Michigan man who approached New York authorities also reached out to the woman he believes may be his sister, said Nassau County Police Lt. Kevin Smith, and the two conducted a private DNA test that found they could be related. The FBI is conducting its own tests, Smith said.

Sandra Berchtold, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit, declined to comment the case Wednesday.

The father of the woman and the missing boy, Jerry Damman of Newton, Iowa, has said he's hopeful the man is his son.

"After all those years, you kind of lost all hope," he said Tuesday.

Jerry Damman's wife, Charlotte — who is not Stephen Damman's mother — said Wednesday that her husband still has not talked with Barnes but that their son spoke with him Tuesday.

"We'll just have to iron this out here as we go," she said.

Man showed up at farm
The Dammans have said a man who did not identify himself showed up last fall at their farm asking for Jerry and was directed to a neighboring farm where he was working, but the man never showed up to speak with him.

Jerry Damman was working at Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island when his son disappeared. He and the missing child's mother divorced a few years after their son's kidnapping. His ex-wife could not be located to talk about the case.

More than 2,000 people searched for 28 hours without finding Steven. The county's assistant chief inspector, Leslie W. Pearsall, called off the search, saying that the boy's disappearance had become "a case for detectives only," according to a Nov. 1, 1955, story in The New York Times.

The boy's family received a ransom note in mid-November for the boy, according to an Associated Press account. Steven's parents also made a public plea to the kidnappers at the time, saying Steven suffered from anemia and asking that he receive medicine that included vitamins, aspirin and a tonic, the Times reported.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments