William "Billy" Jones, left, is seen in an age-processed photograph to age 50. Jones, right, disappeared as a 3-year-old from his home in Vineland, N.J. (FBI.gov)
The Jones' residence in May 1965, some three years after William's disappearance. (FBI.gov)
Fifty years ago, William “Billy” Jones, clad in a snowsuit as he played with his younger sister Jill outside his family’s New Jersey home, vanished in an instant, setting off a half-century search that remains alive to this day.
Federal and local authorities are now seeking the public’s help for new leads in the cold case that has spanned three generations of investigators from the Vineland Police Department and has garnered FBI interest since Jones — who would now be 53 years old — could theoretically be anywhere in the country, if not the world. Because no body was ever found, Jill Jones, who has spent a lifetime wondering what became of her big brother, believes he may have been snatched by adults who raised him as their own.
“It’s a gut feeling for me, I know he’s still alive."
- Jill Jones, sister
“We’re just trying to find out if anyone has any information regarding his whereabouts or if anyone might know who may have been involved in his disappearance,” FBI Special Agent John Mesisca told FoxNews.com. “Back then, he was last seen wearing a snowsuit … What we’re trying to do is get the word out and develop any new leads and resolve the case in any way we can.”
At the time of his disappearance on Dec. 17, 1962, William Ebeneezer Jones Jr. was 3 feet 6 inches tall and weighed 35 pounds. He had a vaccination scar on the back of his left arm that resembled a giraffe and was last seen wearing a light blue-gray snowsuit with a navy collar and silver buttons. He also reportedly had a dime in his pocket that was given to him by his mother Evelyn, who, like Billy’s father, has since died.
“There’s not a lot of the family left,” Mesisca said. “That has also impacted the investigation. Only his sister remains.”
Jill Jones, who was with her older brother in the front yard at the time of his disappearance, said she remains hopeful her big brother will one day be found alive.
“It’s a gut feeling for me, I know he’s still alive,” she told FoxNews.com. “There’s never been a body found, never been anything found. I don’t believe he’s dead.”
Jones, 52, surmises her brother was snatched by someone looking to replace a lost or deceased child.
“I really believe that,” she continued. “I don’t think he was murdered. I really believe someone lost a child and they took Billy to replace him.”
Three decades ago, a distraught and dejected Jones sought the help of a hypnotist in an attempt to unlock memories of that fateful afternoon.
“It brought back feelings and a little bit of memories,” said Jones, adding that her brother had a special bond with their dog, Babycakes.
“That was his pup,” she said. “He loved that dog.”
Jones’ disappearance reportedly led to hundreds of volunteers scouring the family’s Vineland neighborhood and included units from the New Jersey National Guard. Investigators also excavated grounds near an abandoned automobile dump, but that search was also fruitless.
In 2009, Vineland Police Department Det. Kristian Kirchner, who was not yet born when Jones disappeared, reportedly reopened the case, which is believed to be the longest unsolved case of a missing child under 5 years old in the state. Kirchner could not be reached for comment.
Jones, meanwhile, remains hopeful that this holiday season is the last one she’ll endure without her big brother.
“I do believe he’s still out there, I just don’t know how to find him,” she told FoxNews.com. “Maybe this is the year.”