Police said Wednesday that a private DNA test indicates a "probability" that a Michigan man was a 2-year-old Long Island child who disappeared in 1955.
The Michigan man, John Robert Barnes, approached Nassau County police twice in March claiming he is Steven Damman, the toddler who disappeared 54 years ago, Detective Lt. Kevin Smith said. According to Smith, Barnes tracked down the woman who could be his sister, Pamela Damman, and the two conducted their own private DNA tests, which showed a “probability” that the two are siblings. The FBI is currently awaiting its own test results in the case. But Sandra Berchtold, spokeswoman for the FBI Detroit bureau, said as people come forward talking to the media about the case, the FBI “isn’t confirming or denying any statements made by these individuals.” In 1955, Marilyn Damman took her toddler, Steven, and his baby sister, Pamela, to a bakery in East Meadow. The mother went inside to do some quick shopping, leaving her 2-year-old and baby girl in the stroller outside. But Damman told authorities that when she returned, her children were gone. A short time later, blocks away, the baby girl was found unharmed and the stroller was intact, but Steven was missing, Smith said. A flier circulated by police at the time of Steven’s disappearance, described him as having blond hair, blue eyes and a small scar under his chin. The toddler was last seen wearing blue overalls, a blue shirt, a red sweater and brown shoes.
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The disappearance attracted widespread attention, including an interview with the boy’s mother in the Saturday Evening Post magazine a year after the disappearance. Thousands of searchers looked for the toddler, but the boy was nowhere to be found. Hitting one dead end after the next, the Dammans packed up and moved from New York back to Iowa, said Jerry Damman, the boy’s father. And until now, they thought there was little chance of ever seeing their son again, he said. Jerry Damman, who lives on a farm in Iowa, said authorities have contacted him, but he has not given DNA samples at this point. A few years back, Steven Damman’s sister, Pamela, gave a DNA sample in connection with the 1957 Philadelphia case of a young boy’s body found in a box. In that decades-old case, all indications were it was not Steven Damman.