The fifth episode of Unsolved Mysteries Volume 2 spotlights the cases of Shane Walker and Christopher Dansby, two toddlers who separately vanished from a Harlem, New York playground in 1989. There are some eerily similarities between their cases: the boys were from the same apartment building; they were both spotted playing with the same older children before they went missing; and though Walker disappeared almost three months after Dansby, he also vanished on a Thursday evening. Over time, these details have fueled numerous theories about Walker and Dansby's disappearances.
Though the two boys never played together, both lived in the Martin Luther King Jr. Towers housing project and would often visit the nearby playground on Lenox Avenue with their families. Per Pix11, 2-year-old Christopher Dansby went missing on May 18, 1989 at 7 p.m. on a busy Thursday at the playground. His mother Allison left her two sons with their grandmother while she went to get groceries; Dansby disappeared from the grandmother's line of sight, and by the time Allison returned, he was gone.
Similarly, 19-month-old Shane Walker went missing on Aug. 10, 1989 at the same park at 5 p.m. on a Thursday. Rosa Glover was sitting on the bench with Shane when two kids, 5 and 10 years old, approached and asked to play with Walker. "I said, 'He's young.' And they said, 'We don't mind,' '' Glover recalled to CNN in 2009. When they went off to play, a man sat down near Glover and started talking about crimes that happen to children. He had scars on his body, and Glover turned her head to look at them. "When I turned back, I didn't see my son," she said.
These strange details have led to investigators and armchair detectives to theorize that both cases are actually linked.
It's an Adoption Conspiracy
One popular theory is that Dansby and Walker were taken as part of a conspiracy to sell babies for adoption. Investigators even reopened two other cases of infants being kidnapped in the area to see if there was a pattern.
''We've linked the children's abductions, but not to the same person," Deputy Chief Ronald J. Fenrich told The New York Times in 1989, cryptically saying they were questioning two suspects who were "two Black men, similar only in their dreadlock hair styles." He went on to mention a baby-stealing ring as a possible cause for the abductions.
But Elaine Rosenfeld, head of the Louise Wise Services adoption agency, pushed back on that theory. ″It’s hard to imagine,″ she told the Associated Press bluntly. "There is a black market for white babies, but for Black babies, I don’t think so.″
Spence-Chapin adoption director Catherine Unsino suggested another theory to AP. ″I have not heard of kidnapping any children of that age to satisfy the wishes of adoptive couples ... I can’t picture the end result (of a kidnapping) being adoption," she said. "People have used babies as fronts for illegal activities ... children are being sold for drugs.″
A Family Member Took Them
Sarah White, a case manager with the NY Division of Criminal Justice Services, told CNN that "abduction by a stranger is rare" and "by far, most missing people cases are non-custodial parental kidnappings and runaways."
It Was a Serial Killer
After the kidnapping, Glover told police that she received a phone call saying her son was buried in an abandoned building, which turned out to be false. Investigators did look into whether it was a serial killer or pedophile who was abducting the children, but they couldn't find any solid proof that was the case.
Many theorists have also linked Dansby and Walker's cases to the case of Andre Bryant, a 6-week-old who went missing in 1989 in Brooklyn. The particulars of Bryant's abduction are very different though, making a possible connection pretty tenuous.
In the end, neither boys have ever been found, and their families hold out hope that they're both alive somewhere. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has rendered images of what Dansby and Walker would look like now in the chance that it will one day lead them back home.