The Disappearance of Bobby Dunbar
On August 23, 1912, four-year-old Bobby Dunbar (pictured, left) travelled with his parents and two siblings to Lake Swayze, Louisiana, for a picnic. Bobby became separated from his parents when he went off to explore the swamp, and simply vanished.
The Dunbar family were rich and influential, and for the next two days over 100 volunteers and 30 policemen combed the area for the missing boy. The short list of leads the police produced were fruitless, but Bobby’s parents continued to privately investigate his disappearance.
Eight months later, on a sunny May morning in Mississippi, a police officer flagged down a man and a young child walking along the road. The officer took the man for a vagrant, and didn’t believe his story that the boy -who looked around four or five years old - was his nephew, Bruce.
William Walter’s wasn’t a vagrant - he was a trained piano repairman, and he travelled by foot to his daily appointments. He insisted that the boys mother, Julia Anderson, had willingly given him Bruce to care for while she laboured on a nearby farm. His words fell on deaf ears. Walters was promptly arrested for kidnapping, and ‘Bruce’ (who the police officer suspected was actually the missing Bobby Dunbar) was taken into state custody. Lessie Dunbar immediately travelled to Mississippi to be reuinted with her son, amid much media fanfare.
Although reports vary, one nespaper stated that the newly rescued 'Bobby’ burst into tears when approached by Mrs Dunbar, and did not seem to recognize his siblings or any of his possessions when he returned to his house. Though he quickly adjusted to the Dunbar family, 'Bobby’ had no memory of his supposed abduction, nor of his trip to Lake Swayze. However, Lessie Dunbar was convinced the boy was her son due to similiar scars on his right foot, and moles on his hip.
William Walters was charged with a single count of child kidnapping and found guilty, despite the testimony of Julia Anderson who tearfully insisted 'Bobby’ was her son, and Walters was his paternal uncle. She admitted to having all her children out of wedlock, and that she had little money, and that was all it took; the judge sentenced Walters to life in prison, and Julia was ordered back to her home in Mississippi, where she was treated like an outcast.
Fortunately, Walters was released from prison after two years when his attorney convinced a judge to overturn his charge. The rescued Bobby Dunbar grew up well-to-do and eventually had four children. His granddaughter - who was fascinated about his disappearance - did a little genealogical research and noticed discrepencies in age between the missing Bobby and the recovered child. She also discovered a few members of the family who remembered Bobby’s disappearance, many of whom voiced their long held suspicion that the child recovered in Mississippi in 1913 wasnt their Bobby Dunbar.
It was only in 2006 that a DNA test was conducted on the recovered Bobby Dunbar’s son, and a cousin of the Dunbar family. The results were frighteningly clear; the child found in 1913 wasn’t Bobby Dunbar, but Bruce Anderson. The police had literally stolen another woman’s child, and imprisoned an innocent man for kidnapping. As a final sad reminder, the actual Bobby Dunbar has still never been found.