Unsolved Mysteries (2020-…): Season 2, Episode 6 - Stolen Kids - full transcript

In May and August 1989, two toddlers vanished from the same New York City park. A search turned up nothing - but their families haven't given up hope.

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[children screaming]

As a mother of a missing child,

some days, you just don't wanna...
you don't wanna go on, you know?

It can be real hard,

there were many times
that I get in a place of heaviness.

[inhales deeply]

Go through the motions,
but it's not a good feeling.

[groans] You know, the longing,

the wondering, the wanna know.

[sniffs] You want
answers, something.

Well... But you
don't have any.

I won't wish this
on nobody ever.



[child shouts]

[suspenseful main theme playing]

[horn toots]

[siren wails]

[woman 1] Talking
about New York City in the 1980s,

we're talking
robberies, assaults.

It was really a bad time.

[woman 2] There was a lot of
drugs going on.

A lot of junkies,
you know, addicts,

people just running
down the street naked.

When I got here in 1989,

Harlem was one
of the tough areas.

It was a very violent place.

[siren wails]

But you know what?

There's a lot of working people
that are just trying to survive.

There were a lot of
decent folks here.

[man] You had a lot of children,
kids, a lot of families.

People trying to go to work, come home,
and make a living for their families,

striving to do the best
for their families.

With brothers and sisters
in that community,

we were close-knit.

[woman] Back then, my mother
and my siblings and my cousins,

we all lived in the same building,
Martin Luther King Towers.

It takes a village to raise a family,
and that's what it was.

I was 26 years old
and I had two sons.

Levon was three years old,
and Christopher was two years old.

We gave them nicknames.
Levon was "Pancho"...

and Christopher,
his nickname was "Choo-choo."

To this day, I still call him
Choo-choo. [laughs]


He was very attached to us
as well as Allison.

He was very close
with his mother.

He wouldn't just
go with anybody.

When Allison would walk in a room,
he'd just light up.

His whole face would light up.

He liked a cuddle.

[chuckles] He
always liked a cuddle.

He was talking.

Like, he would say words
and he could say "mama."

He could say his brother's names,
you know.

He was always outside.
That was one of the things we did,

go outside, sit on the bench,
walk over to the park.

[children shouting]

The last memory that I had here,
it was, um...


That day,

I believe it was on a Thursday,

me and Christopher,
we walked and went to the park.

We went down the slide
a couple of times.

And he had a blast that day.

He couldn't make it
on the big ones by himself,

so I would slide down with him.

[children shouting]

He liked that slidin', boy.


Carol was over there
in the swings at the time.

[Carolyn] We were just playing
with the kids in the park.

He was always happy
to be outside and...

it was just so hot that day,
everybody was in the park.

The park was so crowded.

I can never forget that day.

It was like that day
living with me every day.

[Allison] We were doing the sliding board,
we was walking around,

before I actually
left to go to the store.

That was a normal thing.
So, we go to the park,

then we go to the store
and get the kids something.

[distant children chatting]

[excited screams]

[Allison] So,
I had left him with my mother.

We hugged and kissed.

I said, "I'll
be right back."

[distant shouting]

He told me, "I
love you, Mommy."

Something like that.

[tongue clicks]

[children chatting]

[Allison] It was crowded
when I came back,

just like it was before I left.
You know, kids was playing.

I'm looking for my mother,
I'm not seeing them.

I'm looking around,
I'm like, "Where's Christopher?"

Then they looking, too,
like, "Oh, he's... he's here."

So, we just got
up and I'm looking.

I'm looking, but
I didn't see him.

So, then I asked my ex,
we started walking around,

trying to see if I see him,


I didn't see him.

[children shouting
and screaming]

She said, "Where's Choo-choo?"

And I was like,
"I had him one minute

and somebody
else had him the next."

Have you seen him?

[Carolyn] It wasn't
like one person was with these kids.

[woman] Chris?

It was like five of us in the park
watching the kids.

And... and out of all the kids,
Choo-choo was the only one missing.

[indistinct shouting]

[Allison] We split up,
some people went on the opposite side,

I went on the 115th Street.

[indistinct shouting]

And you can tell, like,
this ain't going the right way.


now I'm getting real anxious
and nervous, like,

"Oh, my God, what
is going on here?"

[birds squawking]

It was just overwhelming,
it was a shock.

It was just frightening and
just... [sniffs]


[horn blares]


'Cause one minute he was there,
next minute he was gone.

[sirens wail]

[Ken] Officers
rushed to the scene.

Everybody takes that seriously.

Yeah, that's
an all-hands type of police job.

[indistinct background chatter]

Everybody knows how critical
those first few minutes,

first hours,
are in the returning of the kids.

[child screams]

The first step is always
an initial canvass.

Police would be on the streets,
asking the passer-bys.

Somebody may have seen something

that they figured
that was out of the ordinary to them.

Then they would be doing
a building-by-building search,

knocking on doors...

[police radio messages]

...offering a reward
for information.

Looking in the apartment,

is anything untoward,

is there blood on the floor?

Is there anything
that indicates a struggle?

Was there any
indication of violence?

There were ten towers
in the development,

and each tower
has about 14 floors,

and each floor has
multiple apartments.

So, how do you search,
in a timely fashion,

for a little boy
who's only just about two years old?

[Ken] That's a lot of people

in a relatively small area.

The magnitude that
had to go on that day

and the days subsequently,
that's a lot of work, a lot of work.

But when you have
missing children,

you do what needs to be done.

[Carolyn] Cops was all around.

And the helicopters
was all around the place.

It was unbelievable.

[siren wails]

The search area for Christopher
was 24 blocks.

It was fairly close
to Harlem Meer,

which is the north end
of Central Park Precinct.

There's a lake there.

They had scuba in the lake,

looking for any possibility that,
you know,

he was either drowned,
or he fell into the pond,

or something like that.

[Carolyn] We was panicking
'cause we was so scared.

It was just devastating.
You know, where could a two-year-old be?

You know, you don't get off
and walk by yourself.

I had to go uptown
and go get some clothes.

They had, like, the dogs,

to see if they can get
the scent of Christopher.

[dog barking]

[Ken] They take a piece of clothing
that belonged to the individual,

let the dog pick up the scent,

nose to the ground.
They start looking for the kid.

Dog took up the scent.

Search led south on
Lenox to 110th Street.

And then the dog lost the scent.

[siren wails]

[indistinct police
radio messages]

[Allison] It was a couple of hours
of no Christopher.

So, you know,
you start thinking the worst,

like, "Is this for real?"

Like, "Is this really happening?
Is this really happening?"

[sighs loudly]

[whimpers softly]

[siren wails]

[indistinct radio messages]

[distant dog barking]

[children shouting]

There's an entrance
on Lenox Avenue.

Over here, there
was a hole in the fence

where a lot of the
kids would come and go.

So, there was a lot of entrances
and exits.

It's a very busy street.

Someone could have easily put him
in a cab, another car, taken off...

[horn blares]

...parts unknown.

He might have been coaxed
with something, somehow, but, um...


He was definitely not gonna just willingly
take somebody's hand

and walk off
with him. No.

If he was crying,
they probably just kept walking,

you know, people know kids cry.

[inhales deeply]

'Cause I know he had to be crying.

[children shouting]

[Allison] It's
not a happy place to be in this park.

It's difficult.

You still...

You can't comprehend
how, why, who...

who did it.

[Ken] What's the reason
for this kid's disappearance?

It could be a family member.

Family relationships
can be volatile,

and in volatile circumstances,

the innocent people
who can't defend themselves

become the target and the focus

for all the hostility
that's between adults in the family.

Is there any possibility
that it's a custody issue,

you know, between
mother and father?

[Allison] Christopher's father
was living in Florida.

He wasn't in Christopher's life,
but he came back up.

And then he had met with the police,
he answered what he knew,

'cause he wasn't
there when it happened.

[Ken] There was no indication
that he was involved in any way

with the disappearance.

There we were,
back at square one.

Sometimes you gotta just take it
and go on and look at the other theories.

Could be a
drug-related situation.

The mom did have a
problem in the past.

[Allison] Was I
addicted? Yes, I was.

I'm not gonna sugarcoat it

or say it any other way,
because it was what it was.

That was my life at that time.

You know, I have a lot of guilt,
a lot of shame.

[whimpers softly]

The lifestyle she was living

had nothing to do
with Choo-choo being taken away,

but people didn't
see it that way.

They just say,
"Blame the family, accuse the family."

[children screaming excitedly]

I was an addict,
but I love my children.

I loved 'em and I
would never hurt 'em,

I would never do nothing to hurt
'em. [sniffs]

Or anything.

[voice trembling]
When it happened...

it was truly like a nightmare, like,
you know, you're waking up, like...

this... this couldn't have happened,
but it did.

[children chatting
in background]

[birds singing]

[distant child screaming]

[Rosa] I didn't know
that that boy was missing from that park

until my son got
taken from that park.

I wouldn't have taken
my son to that park.

I wouldn't have
went to that park.

Back then, Shane
was 19 months old

and I was 35 years old.

I thought I never could have any kids,
and all of a sudden... bam!

I just call him my
special boy, yeah.

Yeah. He was still
not talking and just...

sucking bottles.



And this is when he
was sitting on the bed

and I gave him his
rattle to play with.

You know, so I can do something,

clean the room
up or do something.

I never cut his hair.

Just braided up like this,
put it back like this.

And I said I wasn't gonna cut it...
"until you're two."

[sighs] But now...

I didn't ever get the chance.

The typical day for me,

I work five days a week
and I had two days off.

That's when I take
my son to the park.

It was very busy.

It always was crowded

'cause I always go in the afternoon
after five o'clock.

First, I took him to the store,
buy him some chips,

so he can nibble on
while we're in the... in the park.

So, we got in through the gate,

two little kids came up to us,
a boy and a girl.

The girl was the oldest.
The girl's the ten, the boy's the six.

And they said, "We
wanna play with him."

First, I tell them,
"Go and leave me alone."

They still insisted
they wanted to play with him.

Don't know why, but they insisted
they wanna play with him.

So, I said, "Yeah, go ahead.
He's going on the slide."

Then I went to sit
back on the bench.

Then this man, he
came and sit by me.

Then I turned my head,

when I turned
back, I didn't see him.

So, that's when I got up
and start looking around.

[child shouts]

[Rosa] I look all around here,

and I ain't see nothing.

Then about three minutes later,

I saw the two kids
that was coming...

they was coming
from that side of the fence.

I said, "What you
did with my son?"

They said,
"We left him in the park."

I said, "If you left him in the park,
he would have been in the park."

They say they
left him in the park.


[Rosa] And that's all they said.

I just holler and scream.


[Rosa] People start helping
me looking for him.


he wasn't there.

He wasn't there.



There's considerable concern
from headquarters as well as locally.

What the heck's going on?

The times of the
day were similar,

the days of the week,
they both happened on a Thursday.

Five o'clock, seven p.m.

That time of
year, it's light out,

a lot of people in the park.

There's just way
too many similarities.

[woman] Shane?

[Ken] Once
again, the bells got sounded.

There's an immediate search party,
uniformed officers.

Massive interviews,
canvasses of the King Tower buildings.

The detectives and uniformed officers
look in the dumpsters,

look in the garbage chutes,
go through the garbage.

No sign of Shane.

We began a search from the day
the last child was reported missing,

which involved us searching every building
in this project from rooftop to basement,

checking elevator
shafts and locked rooms.

They got a tip
that my son was buried out there,

and then they tear
this whole place apart.

[Ken] They knocked down buildings
looking for him.

Literally took
'em to the ground...

and came up dry.

But that basically
shows the lengths

that we went to
solve those cases,

to find out what was going on.

[distant children shouting]

[Rosa] That's the first time
I ever let my son play with anybody.

'Cause I didn't used to let him play
with no kids, no... nobody.

It was only just me and him.

And that was the first time I did,
and that's the only...

The first time I did,
I make a mistake.

See, what I think what happened,

them two kids
took him out of there.

And whoever had him just...

put his mouth over...
and take him away.

[Ken] The kids were
interviewed at length.

There was a
belief or a suspicion

that they had acted as decoys
and somebody stole the kid.

Both kids say,
"Hey, listen, we were playing.

We didn't see anybody take him.

We turned around and he went off
and played in another part of the park."

The parents of the two kids
were identified, interviewed.

Their story came... clean.
They were checked out

and there was no indication
that they were involved in any way.

The man sitting next to her on the bench
was brought in for questioning.

[Ken] He had
checked out completely.

There was no indication
that he was involved in any way

with the disappearance.

We continued on
with the investigation.

There was a $30,000 reward
requesting information.

They started a task force,

there were several people assigned
from the specialty units.

[siren wails]

Sound trucks.
Came through the neighborhood,

"We're looking
for information."

[PA] Anyone who witnessed
this or who has information pertaining to this,

please call the police hotline.

...name is Shane Walker.

[Allison] I see a truck going by,
they had that bullhorn,

like, you know, making
that announcement.

When I heard it, I couldn't believe it,
I was shocked, um...

It was just like living it
all over again, too.

[inhales deeply]

In the same community?

The same projects?

Like, what's the odds of that?

[children shouting
and screaming excitedly]

[Rosa] It's hard
not to blame yourself when...

Especially when you was there.

You... you was there. That's... that's...
that's... that's why you blame yourself.

You was there, you know?

You let somebody
take your kid from...





[Allison] I didn't know her,

but I empathized with her
because I know what she's dealing with.

She was a mother
who loved her son,

was in a park...

letting him play.

And just like that...

they came back.

[sobbing] They
came back and took another kid.

[Ken] Worst-case scenario,

it was some pedophile,

or we got a serial
killer out there.

I mean, it's
an awful, awful thing to consider

that anybody would wanna harm
a child that young.

But it happens.

[Mary] After Shane went missing,

it seemed like the
NYPD escalated things.

Most children that go missing,
we find them.

It's highly unusual not to find babies
that go missing.

And that's when we really started
to hear talk

about a possible
baby-selling ring.

[reporter] This new angle

seems to confirm what Harlem residents
have been saying for days.

The kid being kidnapped

and being sold in the black market
and stuff like that.

Those people take those children
because they want to sell them.

The possibility
that anybody would be selling...

Black infants, or young boys,
was explored.

And while it's an
interesting theory

as to why these
kids were missing,

it's not likely.

I think it's very difficult
to pay someone,

let's say hypothetically,
to steal a baby.

There was nothing that surfaced
in New York City Police Department

that would indicate,
you know, that that was going on.

It was just negative.

[inhales deeply]

Nothing ever surfaced.

[Rosa] We had two cops, two detectives,
they came every day.

Then they had the phone tapped
in case anybody called, you know.

You had cops in the house 24/7.

Then that was it.

They didn't come
up with nothing.

[horn toots]

[Mary] That part of Harlem
is so densely populated

that I don't think it's unusual

that Christopher and Shane vanished
into thin air...

because there were
just too many people.

And it was way before there was
a surveillance camera on every corner.

Frustrating, it really is.

I mean, especially
when there's not a lead.

There's no leads to go on.

We don't have bodies,

we have two missing kids.

You gotta have belief

that maybe they survived.

[Mary] I think it's possible

Shane and Christopher
are still alive.

I think they were probably taken
by people who couldn't have children,

people who were desperate
to have a baby.

[Ken] There are individuals,
for whatever reason,

they can't have
their own children,

but they still want
to experience parenthood.

And for whatever reason,
that person didn't have the ability

to adopt in a normal sense,

and they would abduct the child
to raise as their own.

[children shouting]

After 30 years, the likelihood
of finding a child alive and well,

yes, is remote.

We've learned never give up
on these children,

because we've seen
amazing things happen.

For instance, in New York City,

Carlina White taken
from Harlem Hospital.

[reporter] Joy turned to
tragedy for this young mother,

her newborn baby abducted.

On August 4th, 1987,

Carlina White, who
was just 19 days old,

was taken to Harlem Hospital
with a fever of 104 degrees.

Her parents brought her there.

They met a woman
who was dressed as a nurse.

She was comforting the parents.

And then sometime,
when the shifts were changing,

this nurse apparently
smuggled out the baby.

Just give me my baby back, please.
I just want her back.

[Mary] There was a massive manhunt
for this child.

Carlina had vanished.

Now to an unbelievable reunion.

Twenty-three-year-old Carlina White
of Georgia had long suspected

she wasn't related to the people
who raised her.

Police believe a
woman dressed as nurse

kidnapped White
from a New York City hospital in 1987

when she was an infant.

It turns out that
Carlina White grew up as Netty Nance.

She got pregnant,
and in order to get medical insurance,

she needed a
valid birth certificate.

She went with what
she thought was valid

and the officials told her,

"This is a forgery.
This is not your birth certificate."

[Robert] Netty started researching
and saw the picture of her as an infant.

That infant on our website
strongly resembled her own child,

so, she thought,
"This could be me."

As a result,

the New York City Police Department
arranged for a DNA sample

and we got the wonderful news
that she was Carlina White,

living under the
name of Nejdra Nance.

[reporter] The
FBI says a North Carolina woman

who raised a child kidnapped
from a New York hospital two decades ago

is in custody
on a parole violation charge...

[Mary] Ann Pettway,
the woman that raised Netty Nance,

ends up getting arrested
and charged with kidnapping.

It turns out that Ann Pettway had wanted
to have children,

and had a series
of miscarriages,

and was distraught over that.

And supposedly that was the impetus
for her to go and take a baby.

[reporter] When she was
reunited with her biological parents

just last week, it
became front-page news.

I always believed
that she would find me.

[Allison] It was a
blessing to see that.

It was a good story to hear

and know that she was, um,
reunited with her family.

The hope is that
if it could happen to her,

it could happen to me, too.

[Robert] When it comes to infant abduction
we have extremely high hopes

that we'll find these children
alive and well.

So, toddlers like
Shane and Christopher,

these children could
very well be alive today,

grown and mature,
may have families of their own.

[man] The forensic artists that work
in the Forensic Imaging Unit,

we've done close to 7,000 age progressions
since 1989 when our unit was founded.

We try to come up with the most accurate
version of these children as possible,

because the goal is
to bring these children home.

Unfortunately, in a lot of ways,

these children are growing up
on our computer screens.

When it came to
Christopher's case,

we've had age
progressions done of him.

We still feel confident
in being able to create

what he looks
like from age two,

to in his late 20s, early 30s,

which would be the approximate age
of the last age progression that was done.

[Allison] He
has a birthmark, like, on his leg.

The right leg.

It's like, almost like
a little figure eight or something,

and he'll always have that.

[Colin] With Shane's case,

I had some pretty up-to-date photos
of Shane's mother to work from.

And right off the bat,

I'm starting to see
common family characteristics.

This process has
been done multiple times

for Shane over the years.

The first image from two...

to age 11...

to about the age he
would be, which is 30.

Yeah, he have, um... he have a scar
where he fall down, uh, here.

Then he got... He had a birthmark...
back there, just like I got 'em.

Like a liver...
on his shoulder.

And they had a Christmas tree every year
for the missing kids.

Hang the picture up
and they send it to me when...

once they took the tree down.

Each year, the
picture is a little different.

This is one when
he was about 12.

Twelve years old.

It's... comfort,
you know?

Just... just seeing him around
me, you know?

I never give up hope.

I feel he's out there,
I just gotta find him.

I hope he wake
up and see the light.

See and... come
and find me, you know.

I would hug him and kiss him and say,
"Let's go on a vacation. Let's get away.

Let's go away just to be with each
other." You know?

Spend time together, you know?

You know... Yeah,
I missed a lot of years, so...

♪ Next time won't
you sing with me? ♪

♪ A... ♪

You singing?

I was raised in Martin
Luther King Towers.

When I finally got...
I got together and I moved out, I...

I'll come by 'cause
my mother still lived there.

For the most part,
it was not a happy place

like it used to be no more.

♪ E, D... ♪

♪ E, F, G... ♪

I got three grandchildren.
They got an uncle.

♪ ...know my ABCs... ♪

[laughs] Come on.

And I'm trusting in God,

one day we gonna be reunited.

It's hard to know
you got a child...

and not have the opportunity

to see him grow up.

You know, like, turning 13,
turning 14 years old, as they change.

I don't have any of that.

[sobbing] And
I missed 30 years of his life.

It's devastating.

We never stopped looking for you,
Christopher. We never stopped.

We never stopped loving you,

we never stopped
looking for you.

[inhales] And we're just hoping
and praying that you're okay,

wherever you at.

[she sobs]

What can I do?

[Ken] I'm here because I think
there's hope, I really do.

You see it all the
time with these cases

where kids question
where they came from.

When they question
where they came from,

they do a DNA search,
maybe we'll get lucky,

maybe things will...
will fall our way.

Hope for hope, that we can reunite
these parents and their children.

[suspenseful main theme playing]