Murdered Boy May Be 1955 Kidnap Victim
02/27/57- Philadelphia Bulletin
Link Is Hunted to Airman's Son Taken At Long Island Store
Detectives here today were checking whether the young boy found murdered in Fox Chase yesterday was the missing Steven Craig Damman.
The Damman boy, son of an airman stationed at Mitchel Air Force Base, N.Y., was kidnapped outside a Long Island supermarket, October 31, 1955, when he was 34 months old.
The boy, whose nude body was found in a cardboard box here on a rubbish strewn lot, appears to have been between four and five years old - which would coincide with Steven's age now.
The murdered boy had blue eyes and a small scar under his chin. So did the missing Damman boy.
To establish whether or not the murdered boy was Steven Damman, police are sending his footprints to Nassau County, N.Y. detectives for comparison with those of the kidnapped child taken at birth.
Homicide detectives said the legs of the boy found murdered here are too bruised to be able to tell whether the right calf had a birthmark there as Steven had.
At the time of Steven's disappearance he was described as 38 inches tall, weighing 32 pounds and having blond hair.
Dr. Joseph Spelman, city medical examiner, who performed a two-hour autopsy on the slain boy, establishing that he had been violently murdered, said he was closer to four than five years old.
The medical examiner said the child was 40 1/2 inches tall and weighed 30 pounds. He had medium brown hair, cropped short, and was rather slender.
Dr. Spelman said that in addition to the scar under the chin, the boy's body also had a slight scar on the front of the chest and another on an ankle. He said these three scars appear to be old ones and normally acquired.
Stuyvesant A. Pinnell, chief of Nassau County detectives, who has headed the investigation of the Damman kidnapping, held a telephone conference today with Captain David H. Roberts, head of the Philadelphia homicide squad.
Pinnell said the age and the general description of the murdered boy matched to some degree that of the missing child.
He said that in order to determine whether or not they were the same person, Roberts was making another minute examination of the body, in addition to taking the footprints.
Pinnell said X-rays would be taken to determine whether the murdered boy had suffered a fractured left arm which subsequently healed well. He said the Damman child sustained such an injury in January, 1954.
Pinnell said Steven also had an abnormal condition of the right kidney. He said Steven had also suffered a ruptured right eardrum in September, 1955, and had a birthmark-like mole or freckle on his right calf.
The Nassau County detective chief said that Steven had had three stitches taken in a chin cut on May 18, 1953.
Dr. Spelman said that the boy's body would be moved from the morgue to Philadelphia General Hospital for the X-ray examinations.
Dead 2 Days At Least
Dr. Spelman said the cool weather made it difficult to tell how long the child had been dead. He said it was at least two or three days and that it was possible it was as long as two or three weeks.
But he said he did not believe the body had been very long at the spot where it was found. He said the child had not eaten within the last couple of hours before his death.
Fibers found near the body that might be human hair are being checked out in the laboratory.
Tests For Assault
Dr. Spelman said laboratory tests also would be made to determine whether or not the murdered boy had been sexually assaulted.
In another development, it was reliably reported, despite official denials, that police were questioning a man who told them of a strange incident he witnessed last Sunday near the spot where the boy's body was found.
The witness said that he was driving along the road when he saw a car that was stopped with a woman and a boy about 12 standing by the car trunk.
The witness said he halted his own car, thinking the woman had a flat tire, and asked if he could be of any assistance. He said that both the woman and boy remained absolutely mute.
Thought It Strange
He said he thought this was strange but decided they didn't want him interfering with whatever they were doing so he drove off.
Chief Inspector John J. Kelly and Captain Roberts spent some time this morning examining the torn halves of a cheap and well-worn blanket found in the cardboard carton along with the boy's body.
On one of the halves, Kelly noticed a small black blob. He ordered a chemical analysis made to determine whether the blob was automobile oil or grease. Kelly said that if it was, it might be an indication the body had been in the trunk of an automobile.
Photos of Blanket
Color pictures also were taken of the halves of the blanket. Detectives will take the pictures to institutions here and in the suburbs to see if it can be identified.
The blanket was of a faded gray background and appeared to have Navajo Indian designs on it. A piece about two feet by two and a half feet was missing from one of the torn halves.
At the time Steven Damman was kidnapped, his parents lived in East Meadow, Long Island. His father, Gerald, 26, was an airman first class. He and the child's mother, Marilyn, also had a daughter, Pamela, then seven months old.
The mother went to a supermarket a block and a half away from the family apartment. She left Pamela strapped in her coach and Steven standing beside it in front of the store. When she came out ten minutes later, she found the two children missing. A friend found Pamela unharmed in her carriage a block and a half from the store.
No Trace Ever Found
No trace ever was found of Steven. Police discounted the report of an elderly woman that she had seen two men and four women take Steven by the hand and walk him to a car parked around the corner from the supermarket.
Steven's parents returned last March 16 to Newton, Iowa, where the father works on a livestock farm, having left the Air Force.
At the conclusion of Dr. Spelman's post mortem examination last night, Chief Inspector John J. Kelly and Captain David H. Roberts, head of the homicide squad, announced that the unidentified boy had been killed by "blows on the head."
Kelly made an urgent appeal to the press and the public for any information which might lead to identification. A minute description of the boy was sent to police in every state in the country as well as township police in the Philadelphia area and the chiefs of county detectives in Montgomery, Delaware and Bucks counties.
This morning, the police department assigned an artist to draw a life-like picture of the boy. Kelly said, if necessary, the picture and an accompanying description will also be sent to police throughout the country.
Welfare Commissioner Randolph E. Wise said his department will make a direct check to account for 64 normal children in foster homes here and about 400 mentally retarded children.
He said half of the latter are in about 36 foster homes in Philadelphia, while the other half are in their own homes. All 400, he said, are waiting placement in state institutions.
Wise said a special check was being made on mentally retarded children at the request of the police.
Police found the body about 10:30 A.M. yesterday after a telephone call from Frederick J. Benonis, 26, of 2013 E. Lansing St., a junior at LaSalle College.
Benonis said he was driving along Susquehanna road west of Verree road on Monday when he saw a rabbit jump into underbrush along the highway. He stopped the car and, while chasing the rabbit, found some muskrat traps.
Thought It Was Doll
He was standing by the traps, he said, when he noticed the cardboard box and saw what he thought was a large doll inside. He remembered the incident yesterday morning when he heard about the missing four-year-old girl in Bellmawr, N.J., and telephoned police because he thought there might be some connection.
Captain Roberts said serial numbers on the box showed it came from a department store in the 69th street section. However, he said, it is a standard size and was not designed for any specific kind of merchandise. There was no address on the box.
The boy had a recent crew-cut, trimmed high around the sides, which police described as a "homemade or institution type" haircut.
Because of this, police districts were ordered to check every institution in the city to find out if any boys were missing. Orphanages and children's homes were covered yesterday and last night but Kelly said none reported any missing children.
Police also began a check of all foster homes caring for children in this area.
State police started the tedious counting of heads in surrounding counties. Local police undertook it here with the assistance of the Welfare Department.