March 5, 1951
The body of an unidentified boy is found in a duffle bag
The body was found by a highway crew, a few feet from a county road about 26 miles (40 km) west of Richmond, Virginia. The head of the child protruding from the blue Army duffle bag which served as his burial shroud. The boy was estimated to be around 5 or 6 years old, with reddish-blonde hair and a fair complexion. He would have stood at approximately 3’5” (104 cm) and weighed around 50 lbs. (22.7 kg). He was wearing jeans, a striped shirt, and a sweater coat, the latter of which had a mismatched button sewn on indicating someone had cared enough for the child to repair his clothing. He had been dead for around a week before his body’s discovery, though he had only been in the location for 2 or 3 days.
The state’s chief medical examiner, Dr. Geoffry T. Mann, established the boy’s death had not been caused by violence and noted asphyxiation or exposure as the most likely causes of death. He did not rule out the possibility of death by natural causes, however. The only clue left at the scene was a stencil mark on the duffle bag, bearing R9700. Investigators were unsure if this number was a laundry mark or possibly the initial of a soldier’s surname coupled with the last 4 digits of a serial number.
The FBI joined the case after the bureau stated the child’s death may have been in connection with a kidnapping. Capt. R. B. King, a state police investigator, reached a similar conclusion and stated he believed the child had been from outside the state of Virginia. The boy was checked against missing persons reports from other states of children within his approximated age range, but no matches were found. It was also noted that, should the body not be identified within a year, the child would be cremated and his remains kept by the State for 5 years. Should he still remain unidentified, his cremated remains would be buried in a local cemetery.
The body was briefly believed to have been linked to a case in Massachusetts, in which 4-year-old Daniel “Danny” Matson disappeared from his front yard on January 19, 1951. After nearly two years of investigation, a “talking horse” — who was renowned for her ability to solve cases by pressing her nose against a specially-designed typewriter which would then raise discs with corresponding letters and words — helped direct investigators to a rock quarry where Matson would be found alive. While the horse was correct in Matson’s location, he was unfortunately found dead.
I could find no further information on the unidentified boy. Both NamUs (the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System) and the Doe Network do not have any records of unidentified persons pre-1969, and newspaper reports do not mention the child after 1951.
“Famous ‘Talking’ Horse Aids Hunt For Lost Boy; Assures He Is Alive.” San Francisco Examiner. December 9, 1952
“Matson Boy Met With Foul Play, Father Believes.” The Boston Daily Globe. December 5, 1951
“Boy Who Vanished From Front Yard Presents Mystery.” Spokane Daily Chronicle. October 4, 1951
“Police Continue Search For Clues to Boy’s Death.” Richmond Times-Dispatch. June 20, 1951
“Virginia Police Ask Help In Identifying Boy’s Body.” Mexico (Mo.) Evening Ledger. April 4, 1951
“Virginia Police Ask Help in Mystery Of Child Found Dead Beside Highway.” The Chattanooga Times. March 30, 1951
“Body Of Boy, 5, Found In Blue Duffle Bag.” Independent-Journal [San Rafael, California]. March 29, 1951
“Body of Mystery Boy Found Near Roadside.” Oakland Tribune. March 29, 1951