Can A New Face Finally Give This Unidentified Child A Name?

After 20 years, a young John Doe is still not identified. Can you help the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children crack the case?

February 27, 2019

Photo by: John Doe facial reconstruction [NCMEC]

John Doe facial reconstruction [NCMEC]

By: Michelle Sigona

DECATUR, GA While on the beat one cold February morning in 1999, then–local news reporter Angeline Hartmann was sent to a disturbing scene in Dekalb County. As she traveled down the road on the sunny morning toward Clifton Springs, she was led to a patch of woods near a small white church.

CrimeFeed spoke to Hartmann who remembers the moment like yesterday. “I have covered this child’s story, not just multiple times from the very beginning, but I was at the crime scene,” she says. Hartmann adds, “Even though it’s been two decades, we can still figure this out. I don’t buy that someone didn’t know this child.”

Hartmann was the first and only journalist on the scene that winter afternoon, led to the area by a tip from a police source. Skeletal remains were located in the wooded area at the cemetery, only steps away from where she was standing. She knew answers wouldn't come quickly. As she tried to gather as much information around the neighborhood as possible, Hartmann learned from other sources there may be a small child involved in the case.

As forensic experts gathered and processed evidence, they were able to determine the bones belonged to a small African-American boy, five to seven years old. The victim was likely in the spot for three to six months before being discovered.

Covering the boy’s bones were these specific clothing items:

  • Long-sleeve hooded pullover sweatshirt
  • XL, navy-blue-and-white plaid sweater
  • Red denim jeans, size 3
  • Brown suede Timberland boots, size 11

The victim’s cause of death to this day remains a mystery, but Hartmann is hoping his identity doesn’t have to be. “Investigators believe that someone loved this child — there were no signs of neglect, and his clothing indicates he was well taken care of,” she says.

One of the biggest lingering questions in this still-unsolved case is, why didn’t anyone report him missing?

One of the biggest lingering questions in this still-unsolved case is, why didn’t anyone report him missing?

Now, in her role as the Media Director at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), Hartmann is grateful for the opportunity to tackle this case head on and from a number of angles.

NCMEC forensic artists have created new reconstruction images of what the boy may have looked like when he was alive. With advancements in technology, the image is the most life-like to date. Additional forensic analysis revealed, based on his bones and teeth, that he was likely born and raised in the southeast United States, probably Georgia or Florida.

Hartmann also hosts a popular podcast, Inside Crime with Angeline Hartmann. Season two just launched with a multi-episode feature dedicated to solving this case. “I interviewed several original investigators, and they outline case details never talked about publicly before now,” Hartmann says. “It doesn’t matter that it’s been 20 years, we are hearing about cases all the time now being solved after decades. I am hoping people will see this new image, which is amazing, and share that image as much as possible,” she says.

Hartmann wants the armchair detectives listening to crack this wide open. “If I could have my wish, people would look at the new images while listening to the podcast and immerse themselves in this investigation — while looking into the eyes of this child.”

“Maybe with this big anniversary date, and with everyone working together to get the word out, this will be the year we get answers and find out who this kid is,” Hartmann concludes.

TRAITS & CHARACTERISTICS:

  • Weight: 45 to 60 pounds
  • Height: 3 feet 10 inches to 4 feet 2 inches
  • Age: 4 to 8
  • Sex: Male
  • Race: Black
  • Eye color: Unknown
  • Location found: Decatur, GA

If you know anything about this case or recognize this child, please call 1 (800) THE-LOST.

Read more: NCMEC, NCMEC poster

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