On October 9, 1972, then-six-year-old Etan Patz left the loft apartment he shared with his parents for school. For the first time, the young boy walked from their home to the school bus stop all by himself.
He was never seen again.
The young boy’s disappearance made local and international news. He was also the first missing child to have his photo printed on milk cartons, in hopes of catching the attention of those who might have seen him. A wide search operation was also conducted. All the effort bore no fruit. Almost five decades later, Etan remains missing.
The worst thing about missing children cases is that they did not start and end with Etan. A lot of other young children left their houses ready for a blissful day ahead only to disappear without trace.
8 of the Most Haunting Missing Children Cases
Here are eight missing children cases with surrounding circumstances that gave the world the creeps and remain unsolved to this day.
1. Sarah Kinslow
First on this list of missing children cases is that of Sarah Kinslow. It was 2001 when tragedy struck the Kinslow family. In May, 14-year-old Sarah Kinslow was dropped off at her school in Texas; little did her family know, it would be the last time they’d see her.
According to her friends, they and Sarah were planning to skip school that day, but their plans never pushed through, as they did not see Sarah either.
It was later found that at the time of her disappearance, Sarah was in a relationship with a man four years her senior, who was arrested a week after Sarah vanished and charged with sexual assault of a child. He then told the police that he and Sarah thought about eloping, although he asserted they were never serious about it.
Although it was clear that Sarah didn’t take with her her purse and any set of clothes when she “left,” the circumstances of the case led the police to believe that the teen ran on her own. It’s been seventeen years since the girl disappeared, but until now, nobody could tell what exactly happened to Sarah Kinslow.
2. Cherrie Mahan
Leroy McKinney often drove little Cherrie the 50 yards from the school bus stop and Wilfield roads to their mobile home, but on February 22, 1985, he and his wife, Janice, decided to have the 8-year-old walk home—a decision they’d forever regret.
Last seen wearing a gray coat, blue denim skirt, blue leg warmers, ankle boots, and earmuffs due to the cold weather, at around 4:00 p.m. and just a short walk away from their house, Cherrie went missing. It was a snowy day but no footprints were seen on the way leading to the McKinneys’ home, prompting the police to believe Cherrie was abducted shortly after she got off the school bus. Leroy shared that he heard the bus pull up and leave that day. When he noticed that Cherrie still wasn’t home a few minutes after the bus left, he drove to the stop. But he did not see her stepdaughter there, so he rushed back home, and Janice called the police.
There was little to no clue on how the girl disappeared, except for a unique-looking van. Interviews with neighbors and children onboard the bus helped the police determine that the van was a bright blue or green 1976 Dodge, which had been following the bus. It had an unusual mural painting of a skier scaling down a snow-capped mountain.
One of the most talked-about missing children cases, disappearance of Cherrie Mahan remains unsolved. No arrests have been made and the schoolgirl is still nowhere to be found.
3. Adji Desir
Six-year-old Adji Desir was just playing outside his grandmother’s house when he strangely disappeared. Adji was with other kids that day, and he came in to eat dinner but went back out again to play. His grandmother checked on him from time to time. Fifteen minutes after she last saw the boy from the window, Adji’s grandma took a peek again, but the young boy was gone.
What worries Adji’s family more is the fact that the boy has developmental issues. He is six but has the mind of a two-year-old. He easily gets scared and hides when he’s afraid. The sight of strangers scares Adji too, prompting them to believe that he might have hid from searchers.
It was January 2009 when Adji Desir disappeared, but until now, his family is still hoping the boy will come back to them safe and sound.
4. Timmothy Pitzen
“Get along with everybody, running down the street, always happy, always fun to be around. Always looking for the next adventure” is how James Pitzen describes his son. And for almost six years now, he’s still hoping he will see the son he loves seeing smile again.
May 11, 2011, was the date. James drove Timmothy to kindergarten early in the morning. The six-year-old hopped out of his dad’s car. James said his “I love you,” to which Timmothy replied with “I love you too, Dad.” The kid ran off to school.
Sadly, that would be James’s last memory of his son.
Things started to take a strange turn when Timmothy’s mom, Amy Pitzen, picked up the boy from school before classes ended, telling his teacher there was family emergency. The two made a trip to the zoo and two different water parks. James came to pick up his son later, only to be told he was fetched by his mother.
Three days later, Amy was found dead in a motel room of apparent suicide. Timmothy, however, was nowhere to be found. James shared that Amy had been struggling with depression, but he believed she would never hurt her own son.
A suicide note was found, believed to be written by Amy, which stated that Timmothy was safe with people who would love and care for him—but ended with the chilling sentence “You will never find him.”
Although left with almost no clue as to where his son is, James is hoping he’s actually safe somewhere, as Amy’s note says.
5. Madeleine McCann
The McCann family from Leicestershire were a holidaying in Algarve, Portugal, when 3-year-old Madeleine went missing. It was May 3, 2007, and Madeleine’s parents, Gerry and Kate McCann, both doctors, decided to have dinner at a tapas bar 120 meters away from the apartment they were staying. The couple left Madeleine and toddler twins Sean and Amelie who were all sleeping in their rented room.
At around 10 in the evening, Kate returned to check on the children but was left in shock when only the twins were there and Madeleine was nowhere to be found.
Madeleine’s was one of the missing children cases that made worldwide headlines, and a massive investigation was started. Countless leads were found and a few theories emerged, with some theorizing the young girl was taken by a trafficking ring or was unfortunately the victim of a burglary gone wrong. But until now, after countless search operations to find the missing girl, Madeleine still hasn’t been found.
6. Lisa Irwin
Lisa Irwin was not even a year old when she disappeared. Her mom, Deborah Bradley, tucked her into bed one night in 2011. The mother then went to have a few drinks. When Lisa’s father, Jeremy, got home from work at 3:00 a.m., he noticed his daughter was not in her crib.
It was believed Deborah had too much to drink that she blacked out. Also missing were a few working cell phones. It was only to be expected that Deborah had to face suspicions, as she was the only one present at the time of the disappearance. However, she has always maintained her innocence, and she and Jeremy are still hoping Lisa will come back to them alive seven years after she strangely vanished.
7. Kyron Horman
Born on September 9, 2002, Kyron Horman was only seven when he disappeared without trace.
On June 4, 2010, Skyline Elementary in Oregon opened early to give students and parents enough time to tour the science fair happening that day, an event Kyron was to take part in. Shortly after eight, he arrived at school with his stepmom, Terri Moulton Horman. Thirty minutes later, she left after watching her stepson walk to his classroom.
Nine in the morning was the very last time Kyron was spotted, by a student near the south entrance of Skyline School. Classes began at 10 and Kyron’s homeroom teacher had to report him absent, as he was nowhere to be seen.
Eight years later, Kyron remains missing. Suspicions were on his stepmother who has since maintained she has nothing to do with the disappearance of the 7-year-old boy. Kyron’s cases is one of the most popular missing children cases. And to this day, Kyron’s parents, Desiree Young and Kaine Horman, are still waiting for their son to come back, despite the lack of leads on where the kid could have been.
8. Sabrina Aisenberg
Probably one of the youngest subjects of missing children cases, Sabrina Aisenberg was only 4 months old when she was taken from her crib in November 1997. She was put down to sleep one night by her mother, she didn’t know the minute she watched her doze off would be the last time she could ever lay her eyes on her daughter.
Sabrina’s mother, Marlene, told the police her baby was still there at midnight, but when she took a look again at 7:00 a.m., Sabrina was no longer in her crib. There were no witnesses, no sound was heard, no signs of forced entry were found.
It’s been two decades. Sabrina would have turned 21 this year, but despite efforts to find the missing kid, until now, nobody knows exactly where she is or where she has been or if she’s still alive.
The pain the parents of the kids in these missing children cases have to live with is indescribable. They wake up every morning to the fact that one of the members of their family could have been there with them but isn’t. But even after decades have passed, they remain hopeful that one day, their family will be complete again.