Missing for 40 years: Sterling boy was 9 when he disappeared from westside home
By Joseph Bustos - email@example.com
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ShareSTERLING – It was the middle of the afternoon, May 28, 1969, when 9-year-old Jimmy Howell found an injured pigeon. He brought it to his home on the west side of Sterling, where he and his sister Debra were going to build a cage.
Debra went inside the house to get nails and a hammer. She returned a minute later and James had disappeared. The wooden boards he had collected for the cage were scattered along the street in front of the house.
Jimmy was never found; his is the oldest missing child case in the state.
The Whiteside County Sheriff’s Department and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children haven’t given up, although they admit chances of finding him are slim.
Jimmy’s file is always on a sheriff detective’s desk, Detective Pat Carney said.
The case still means a lot to former Sheriff Butch Kimmel.
“It’s a missing child,” Carney said. “Police get these cases, and they hook you. It was heartbreaking to family members, and you take things personally. It can be frustrating not being able to solve it.”
Nancy McBride is the safety director at the national missing children center.
“We never close a case until we have an absolute conclusion on what happened to a child,” McBride said. “It’s really torturous for parents. Not knowing puts them in state of limbo.”
Jimmy’s mother and stepfather, Sharon and Cornell Hutch, searched all that night, then called police. The boy was wearing a white T-shirt, blue jeans and tennis shoes that bright spring day.
A monthlong search followed. About 400 people scoured the banks of Elkhorn Creek and the Rock River, combed wooded areas and gravel pits. There were reports he was near the Route 30 bridge by Indian Ridge, in a cistern at 515 Woodburn Ave., at the Crystal Lake water park and at a shopping center.
None of the reports panned out.
A vast majority of child abduction cases are committed by people the child knows. Possible leads on family members didn’t produce any suspects, though, Carney said.
Sharon Hutch didn’t believe her son would run away. “He was always home before dark,” she told the Daily Gazette in 1969. “He was afraid of the dark. If he were going to run away, he is the type of boy who would have packed a suitcase and taken his dog.”
For years, Debra followed up with the Sheriff’s Department, bringing in family photos to help produce an age progression image of her brother. She submitted DNA samples should they ever find a body.
Debra hasn’t been in touch since the 1990s, though – about the time their mother died. She couldn’t be reached for comment.
“She followed with it through the years,” Carney said. “She wanted to know where her brother was for closure reasons, and with hopes of finding him alive.”
Time is crucial if a child goes missing, and people shouldn’t wait – they should call the police after an initial search around the house, McBride said.
“Where could a child hide? Look there, and if you can’t find him, call law enforcement right away.”
Once a child is reported missing, police departments mus submit the information to the FBI’s National Crime Information Center, or NCIC, within 2 hours.
“Time is the enemy in any missing child case,” McBride said. “The sooner you could get [pictures] and information out, the better.”
“If the person who abducts a child and intends to do harm, it happens within first 3 hours.”
Missing, Sterling, Illinois, since May 28, 1969, James Howell, white male, 9 years old, 4’ 5” tall 79 lbs., brown hair, brown eyes, fair complexion, last seen wearing blue jeans, white T-shirt, white tennis shoes, likes animals, subject is hyper-active (nervous and irritable), needs medication – mild tranquilizers, afraid of dark and bugs, any information, please contact Whiteside County Sheriff Department, Morrison, Illinois, 815-772-4044 or Sterling Police Department, 815-626-2131
– Missing person poster distributed by the Sheriff’s Department after 9-year old Jimmy Howell disappeared 40 years ago this week.
Parents should have a child ID kit in a readily accessible, secure location.
It should include the child’s height, weight, date of birth, hair color/style, scars, identifying marks, disabilities, tattoos and body piercings, as well as a recent photo, from within the last 6 months for children 6 and younger.
For older children, photos can be from within the last year, or from when their appearance changed – when they got glasses, say, or braces. Photos should be like “school portraits;” avoid glamor photos. Digital copies can be disseminated quicker than prints.
What to do if your child goes missing
If your child is missing, search the house: Check closets, piles of laundry, in and under beds, inside large appliances and inside vehicles, including trunks – wherever a child may crawl or hide. If you still cannot find your child, call local law enforcement immediately.
If your child disappears in a store, notify the manager or security office, then call law enforcement immediately. Many stores have a plan of action, immediately mobilizing employees to look for the child.
When you call law enforcement, provide your child’s name and nickname, date of birth, height, weight, and any other unique identifiers such as eyeglasses and braces. Tell them when you noticed that the child was missing and what clothing he or she was wearing.
Source: The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
If you have a tip
Anyone with information on the disappearance or whereabouts of Jimmy Howell should call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 800-843-5678, or the Whiteside County Sheriff, 815-772-4044.
James Richard Howell, now 49, was 9 when he went missing from his home at 1308 W. 13th St. The Washington School third-grader was 4-foot-5, 79 pounds with brown hair and brown eyes.http://www.saukvalley.com/articles/2009/05...64957/index.xml