Man Claims to Be New York Boy Who Vanished in 1955

A Michigan man says 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 of Kalkaska told The Associated Press on Wednesday that he was doing online research when he saw pictures of the first wife of the man he thinks could be his father.

She seemed familiar and that led him to believe he might be Stephen Damman, the missing boy.

He says he's now "waiting for the FBI to tell me who I'm related to."

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. Authorities are awaiting the results of DNA testing.

The toddler disappeared in 1955 from outside the suburban bakery.

The missing boy's father, Jerry Damman, said he was hopeful the man is his son.

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

Barnes approached Nassau County police and federal authorities over the past few months and said he believes he is Stephen Damman, Nassau County Police Lt. Kevin Smith said.

Sandra Berchtold, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Detroit, declined to comment on Damman's case Tuesday.

Jerry Damman said "it's very possible" that the man could be his son.

"To a certain extent this would probably close it," said Damman, who lives on a farm near Newton, Iowa, about 30 miles east of Des Moines.

The Michigan man believes he never fit in with the family he grew with up, an official familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the man's claim was still under investigation.

The man believed he might be a missing person and learned of the Damman case by researching cases around the nation, the official said.

Jerry Damman and his wife, who is not Stephen Damman's mother, said they believe the man might have stopped by their farm in the fall. His sister, Pamela, also got a visit from the same man, they said.

"She looked at this guy, and he looked like Jerry," said Charlotte Damman, who has been married to Jerry Damman for nearly 50 years.

Damman said he tried to call the man twice Tuesday since a report of his claim was first published in the New York Daily News.

"Naturally you're hopeful. Just like a death gives you closure, you know sometimes, it will give you closure to know what happened," Jerry Damman said.

Jerry Damman worked at Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island when his son disappeared. His then-wife, Marilyn, left her son and 7-month-old daughter, Pamela, waiting outside a bakery while she went inside to shop on Oct. 31, 1955, according to Smith and news accounts from 1955.

"Back in that time, it was probably not that uncommon to do something like that," Smith said.

After 10 minutes, Stephen's mother left the bakery but couldn't find the stroller or her children, authorities said. The stroller, with only her daughter inside, was located around the corner from the market a short time later, authorities said.

More than 2,000 people searched for 28 hours without finding Stephen. 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. Stephen's parents also made a public plea to the kidnappers at the time, saying Stephen suffered from anemia and asking that he receive medicine that included vitamins, aspirin and a tonic, the Times reported.