February 3rd, 2009
03:02 PM ET

Gone since '59

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/02/03/fbi.cold.case.jpg]

Gabriel Falcon
AC360° Writer

On its sad and growing list of missing persons, the F. B.I. has posted an unusual open case.

It’s not the circumstances that make it so strange. It’s when the victim vanished. The date? June 18. The year? 1959. Eisenhower was President. Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba. “Mack the Knife” was playing on the radio. And a boy named Daniel Barter vanished without a trace.

Daniel Barter was born in Mobile, Alabama on December 12, 1954. A little more than four years later, the toddler was with his family on a Gulf Coast camping trip along the border of Florida and Alabama.

On June 18, 1959, the F.B.I says Daniel was playing near the banks of Perdido Bay. It is the last time anyone saw the boy alive. His parents said Daniel never returned to their campsite that day. They also told investigators that their son did not like the water. Despite a massive search, authorities never found the 4-year-old. The F.B.I. indicates that he was 3 feet tall when he disappeared, and weighed 50-pounds.

Today, the only apparent lead federal agents have in their hunt for Daniel Barter is a black and white photograph, showing a cheery boy with brown hair smiling into a camera. The agency has progressed the image to render what it believes Daniel would look like if he were 52.

Take a look at the pictures.

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Filed under: 360° Radar • Crime & Punishment • Gabe Falcon
soundoff (107 Responses)
  1. SLStanley

    I live about an hour from Mobile, so this story hits close to home. I can't imagine not ever knowing what happens to your child! How awful!
    I hope that now that this story is getting out there, someone will remember something OR recognize Danny from the picture. Hope that there will be a happy ending to this story or atleast some closure.

    February 4, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  2. Tricia

    to Mary, Eileen, Harry and the others who compare today to 50 years ago. Times have changed dramatically. You can't judge the standards of today to those of yester-year. When I was that age, and Daniel was born the same year I was, it was standard for children to go out and play with their friends and siblings without the hawking eyes of their parents. We knew and obeyed their rules, unlike the children who have been over-protected by today's parents. Times were simpler and abductions unheard of. This family has been in mourning for 50 years... give them the sympathy and compassion they deserve.

    February 4, 2009 at 2:52 pm |
  3. Mick

    Actually what bothers me is that he was left to wander around water. I am sorry but my parents would never have left us to play beside such a potential danger and I am not much younger than he would be. Whether he drowned or was stolen...how tragic....

    February 4, 2009 at 2:51 pm |
  4. KC

    I was a child of the 70's born in 1971 and spent many, many hours away from home on my own with neighborhood friends. It was not uncommon in the summer that we would leave on our bikes in the morning riding them accross town to spend the day at the local pool not returning until dinner time. If something would of happened to me my parents would of said that I never came home for dinner. I am saddened that my children are not allowed this same freedom to grow and mature on their own without someone constantly hovering over them making all their decisions for them. What a great privledge it was for me to be allowed this freedom.

    February 4, 2009 at 2:48 pm |
  5. Kristi

    I think the hope from this story is that some fresh ideas can come to the investigation. Blaming parents for circumstances 50 years ago is really not going to solve anything...I'm sure they have been through the "What if's.." in their own minds millions of times. They lost their child! I can only imagine their pain and I hope that some the self-righteous remarks here don't add to their burden.

    Alligators is what I was thinking as well. It does sound like they did a very extensive search however.....I hope they find him!

    February 4, 2009 at 2:46 pm |
  6. Bubba

    Jen, you don't know what you are talking about. There weren't as many crazy people back then, or cars, or tv sets. It was a different world, and you, as you say, really don't care and are just being insulting.
    But why does anyone think the kid's still alive? Unless they know he was snatched, I'd say a shark or gator got him, or he just jumped in and drowned.

    February 4, 2009 at 2:45 pm |
  7. Wayne

    There is a way to solve all these missing persons.Children are stolen every day and raised by others as thier own.Or sold into slavery.Each and every child born in every country should have a DNA record and finger printed.At some point and time DNA can be done with a data base from any Doctors office as the children are treated for different ailments, or even as adults.If we had enough people interested we could vote some thing like this into law,we have the data bases in place at this time.It is horrible to lose a child,when a simple blood test could send him home in a matter of sec. This would render predators helpless and send them to prison where they belong.Just think in less then 3 sec. people could never see these children again.

    February 4, 2009 at 2:42 pm |
  8. Shelly

    If you people would check the web-site, you would see that Danny wandered away from the camp-site, he was not left alone to play by the water. You are all pretty quick to accuse the parents. In 1959 you didn't need to worry about your children playing out of sight like you do today. We walked to the schoolbus stop by the highway everyday with no adult supervision, and no one gave a thought to someone snatching us. A 4 year old could have easily been "brain-washed" into believing he belonged to another family. Let's hope someone recognises him, and his parents won't have to be suspected and can be at peace.

    February 4, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  9. Ray Fisher

    An Alligator probably got him as they are all over on the coast. Competent parents would have known but after 50 years, not worth investigating.

    February 4, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  10. Angela

    Umm, hello people out there that have condemned these parents for their inability to watch their kid. THIS was 50, yes 50 yrs ago... Times and attitudes were different then than they are now.... Child perps were not as prevalent as they are now... I was even allowed to wander myself as a child, for miles and for hours, this was in the 70s/80s... Child abductions just didn't happen all that much until the last 20 yrs... More than likely, it was indeed an alligator that got to the kid, and the gator just got lucky enough not to get caught and gutted..... But one must ask oneself, why are you so quick to judge?
    That usually suggest a certain level of personal guilt.....

    February 4, 2009 at 2:33 pm |
  11. gregg dearth

    To those wondering why no parent was watching the child–IT WAS 1959 for goodness sake! That was a time you could open the door and let your kids travel all over the neighborhood, or all over the park. People used to hitchhike and never got killed. Nobody was snatching children. It's unfortunate, but I believe this child was attacked and taken by an animal. Florida panther? Alligator?

    February 4, 2009 at 2:32 pm |
  12. jumpin jax

    Has there been a break in the case? Why has the FBI reopened it?

    February 4, 2009 at 2:30 pm |
  13. Yahya

    Who leaves 4 year olds playing by the banks alone? And then to say he never returned to the campsite? Shouldn't he have never been left unsupervised and responsible for returning to the campsite on his own in the first place? This is sad.....I hate to say it, but the likelihood of that child still being alive is very slim. Parents need to watch their kids.

    February 4, 2009 at 2:17 pm |
  14. gina1

    I was a preteen in 1959. We always went in at least 2's and sometimes 3's . We were ordered to never get into a car with anyone we didn't know or people that we knew were weird. The compass was black and white with no shades of gray. We had a little boy drown in the river across the street. He followed his brother (my age) with a friend and they never knew he was trying to catch up to them. .I can still see the ambulance way up their driveway. To tell you how innocent we were, a girl a year older than me found him on the search. I wonder how that affected her?She was tough as nails both before and after.
    I think that this boy/man is long gone and dead either by a human hand or an animal. RIP

    February 4, 2009 at 2:10 pm |
  15. Joebell

    A bit more detail on what happened that.

    What happened the day Danny vanished? Mrs. Barter's detailed recollection. "Paul had gone to a store and bought some drinks for the children, taking Danny with him. When they returned, the children opened their drinks and Danny got one for himself. Danny and my husband were playing together on one of the roll-away cots for a short while then Paul got up and began preparing for the fishing trip. We had rigged three poles for the fishing trip when suddenly we noticed that Danny was not in the tent. I didn't become alarmed at first, even though he was not at the immediate campsite." (Mrs. Barter thought he had went to play with some children who lived about 150 feet away). "I had first believed that despite Danny's fear of water he had wandered into the water and drowned. But not now. I believe he probably walked up the road and someone picked him up."

    February 4, 2009 at 2:05 pm |
  16. Eileen

    While it is very true I was not around in 59 (I was born in 66) and there may not have been as many crazy people, at least not publically known, but, what about Danny's over all safety? What about falling down, hitting his head, or falling in the water and drowning, or being carted off by an alligator (an alligator which wasn't hunted down and killed or blown up), or just getting lost. Those concerns certainly were a part of life in 59, right? I'm sorry but, no matter what era, 4 year old kids should not be left unattended.

    Even if 59 was different, it seems to me that the only real difference is lack of knowledge of who did what to whom, and technology. There were still predators and pedophiles and other criminals all over the place. Things were just under-reported. The information super highway did not exist in 59, but the crimes were just as prevalent. Communication then isn't what it is today. Perhaps if technology was better, people would have been more aware. Just look at what DNA testing has done for proving guilt and innocence. Perhaps if DNA testing was available a long time ago, a lot of innocent people would not have been convicted and others would have been convicted, but that's a whole different story, and I dont wish to stray from Danny's case.

    Predators/criminals are nothing new. They didn't come into existence after 1959. They have always been around. They were just able to hide better in the shadows.

    I'm not blaming the parents at all, and again my heart goes out to them and to all parents who have suffered losses. I truly hope no harm came to Danny, and now that he's an adult, I hope he recognizes the pictures on the website. I'll certainly keep an eye out for anything. I see that the number of visitors to the website has jumped dramatically since I first went there a few hours ago.

    The monster who took him should be blamed (assuming he was abducted), but I still can't help thinking that, no matter what the era, parents should always keep watchful eyes on their kids, especially ones so young.

    Just out of curiosity, what ever happened to Danny's parents?

    All my best to Danny and his family.

    February 4, 2009 at 1:45 pm |
  17. Kim Barter

    He was not wandering around by himself! There were several family members around. He just disappeared.They were not near the water. As Theresa said the family has searched for Danny all these years.

    February 4, 2009 at 1:32 pm |
  18. Ruth Prock

    In 1959, most of rural America, and even most cities were considered safe, children were allowed to play and explore, and no one was concerned unless they were late for supper.
    Most people had no idea there were pedophiles in the world, let only pedophiles who could casually murder an innocent child. Child murder was not thought of, it was almost unknown.
    In the context of that society of 1959, everyone within 100 miles would have done everything to find that "lost" boy. Every law enforcement agency would have turned over every stone in their search, even if it had led them back to the parents. In that time, there were no Miranda warnings, and had the parents or any other suspect been linked to the case, it would have gone to trial.
    I find it interesting that the best tracking dogs in the state could not find a trail. That indicates he was taken by car away from the area.
    It is unlikely that little Danny survived his abduction, yet I hope that the family will finally get some accurate information from someone to give them closure......50 years is a lot of grieving.

    February 4, 2009 at 1:28 pm |
  19. Jen

    I really don't care what year this happened. You do not let your four year old wander around by himself. There were just as many crazy people then as there is now. Just because people did not talk about it much did not mean they did not exist. Ridiculous.

    February 4, 2009 at 1:18 pm |
  20. GC

    Today's perpetual fear of stranger abductions is based solely on media inflammation. The number of stranger abductions has stayed fairly constant for as long as there have been reliable records, about 100 incidents a year, and that makes it an uncommon thing in a population the size of that of the U.S. The point is not that you don't have to worry about it. It's that the hypervigilence hasn't changed the numbers. The most likely scenario is the obvious one of a small child falling into a river. And you may recall the case last year where it was known the father threw the child from a bridge. And intensive search didn't turn him up. Had to wait for luck that fishermen eventually found the body.

    February 4, 2009 at 1:12 pm |
  21. DC Fem

    For Anthony in Apex:

    John Listz was found using age progression technology. And he looked EXACTLY like the photo that was publicized. No happy ending there however since he was convicted and spent the rest of his life in prison for murdering his entire family.

    February 4, 2009 at 1:04 pm |
  22. Poor Kid

    Things may have been different in '59, but serial killers have probably existed since the dawn of time. It's just that we haven't been made aware of them until very recently. Also, it is normal police protocol to investigate and then rule out the family first. Did they ever do that, or did they just take the parents' word for it?

    February 4, 2009 at 12:58 pm |
  23. sharon

    things were a lot different in 59 – the parents should not be blamed the monster who took him should. The family has suffered enough

    February 4, 2009 at 12:14 pm |
  24. shelby

    Um, folks, how many of you were around in 1958?

    I wasn't that's for sure, but I can tell you this, based on what I hear my parents say, the 50's were a different time & a different world. Oh, of course there were the crazies back then, just not spoken of as much. Yet, there was still trust among folks, especially in little towns where your word was worth more than the paper your signature was written on.

    To everyone now a day's, letting a four year old off alone sounds stupid, irresponsible, and dangerous. In 1958 though, that was normal. They were camping, in the woods, enjoying a family trip. 50 years ago that didn't seem odd at all.

    Most likely this poor boy died 50 years ago. He could have drowned, been eaten by gators, gotten lost in the woods and became prey to whatever was out; there are thousands of theories.Yet, I wish this family the best. One never knows... He could have been snatched up and sold into adoption on the black market, but I wouldn't think a four year old would be on the top of the list. To much of a risk of remembering who he really was.

    February 4, 2009 at 12:05 pm |
  25. Working Mom

    You all must not be very old. In 1959, it was not uncommon for parents to let their kids wander off and play. We did not know about the scumbags lurking behind every bush ready to take our precious children away, there were not as many brain-dead people walking around with guns. You just did not have the worries that parents now a days have to face. My heart goes out to the parents and his whole family. I too hope and pray he is alive and well.

    February 4, 2009 at 12:04 pm |
  26. David

    That's weird the name of the bay is Perdido Bay what a huge Coincidence that the bay translates to LOST but i hope they find him. With all the bad news we need a little good news to cheer us up a lil...

    February 4, 2009 at 11:36 am |
  27. KayTee

    I advise those who are passing judgement on Danny's parents allowing him to run off by himself....read the full story on the website his sister, Theresa, provided.

    He was simply there one minute and gone the next. They didn't say "go off and have some fun." He wandered off from the campsite while they were getting stuff ready for a fishing excursion. I don't think any of us can say we've never been in a situation where we lost sight of our child for a moment or two.

    February 4, 2009 at 11:33 am |
  28. KayTee

    After reading his website, I don't think there is any answer other than Danny was kidnapped. Probably by a couple or person who wanted a child of their own and raised him as such. The only way I see this being resolved though is if the man himself or someone he has known since he was taken recognizes his childhood photo. Like Anthony, I am skeptical on how accurate time progression photos are and I believe no one today would recognize the adult Danny from that photo.

    Hopefully they will be reporting on a nice reunion soon.

    February 4, 2009 at 11:28 am |
  29. Jason

    He was eatin by alligators. No doubt. If he didn't like water, he was probably on the edge, right in striking distance. If you expect me to believe they hunted down every alligator in the area big enough to eat him, you've lost your mind.

    February 4, 2009 at 10:52 am |
  30. sorry

    sorry, but this kid is def. long gone, God rest him

    February 4, 2009 at 10:49 am |
  31. Harry Craft, Tampa, Florida

    It always amazes me when I hear things like "He never came back to the camp site" and we are talking about a 4-year-old boy who happens to be exploring by himself? Gee, maybe he got lost! I never let any of my children explore alone – not in this crazy world. Especially in a place where there are alligators and snakes.

    February 4, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  32. Eileen

    I agree 100% with what Mary said.

    Why was this 4 year old child allowed to play near the banks of the bay, or anywhere for that matter, without being watched by one or both of his parents? What kind of parent would not keep his/her child in sight? Was anyone watching Danny? I find it highly suspect that the parents would let their 4 year old child play anywhere without the child being in sight. My child will be 16 years old in May and I still keep watch on him. I'd never ever let him out of my sight or arm's reach when he was younger, especially around water. If he wasnt with me, he was with my mother, or my sister – never ever unattended. As my child has gotten older, I've eased up a great deal on constant watching, but still keep tabs on him in some way or another.

    When the parents said Danny didnt return to the campsite – – how would Danny know where to go? He was only 4 years old, how could he know? I wonder if Danny was even at the campground at all. Were the parents questioned about their involvement?

    My heart goes out to parents whose children go missing but this case doesnt sound right.

    February 4, 2009 at 10:48 am |
  33. Anne

    My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family Theresa.

    February 4, 2009 at 10:43 am |
  34. jenny

    Are the parents of this child still alive and have they taken polygraph tests? Was their campsite a busy common place or was it some secluded area where not many people travelled to? Is there any reports of child abuse during the first 4 years of his life before the trip?
    Did the neighbours know about this trip they were going on and did they see the proverbial wagon loaded up with camping gear and happy faces heading out of the driveway?

    February 4, 2009 at 10:41 am |
  35. Miss Janis

    It's called "child snatching." Every parent's worse nightmare. I wouldn't wish it on anyone. I can't imagine anything more horrific.

    February 4, 2009 at 10:37 am |
  36. Holly

    Its kinda werid. I mean, I hope and pray maybe the find him, and close this case for good. However, If the man is 52, and doesn't have a record of his life before his "kidnaping" or whatever the case.... how do you jump in a go from there? it would be a werid/hard transition. At any rate, I still pray someone recognizes the procressive picture!

    February 4, 2009 at 10:36 am |
  37. Theresa Barter White

    If you would like to know more about Danny's Story go to
    We have worked on looking for danny for 50 Years and will never stop.
    June 20, 2009 we are having a 50th year candle light vigil in Lillian, Alabama. Please fell free to join us.

    Danny's Sister
    Theresa Barter White

    February 4, 2009 at 10:32 am |
  38. Antonio

    Maybe a dingo ate him.

    February 4, 2009 at 10:29 am |
  39. Kim Barter

    We have a site for Danny it is dannybarter.com

    February 4, 2009 at 8:38 am |
  40. Keytasha Jackson

    will they ever find him?Is he even alive

    February 3, 2009 at 10:19 pm |
  41. Ellen

    this is on Danny's site , little boy lost-daniel Barter

    Over 500 people helped in the search for Danny, 150 of which were Law Enforcement and Firemen. The Navy brought in 115 men to search the waters and land by ship and helicopter. Civilian Volunteers in bands of 25 teamed together and walked almost shoulder to shoulder over a 5 sq mile radius through woods and swamps in search of Danny. Three champion bloodhounds were donated by a doctor from Gadsden, AL. Unfortunately, the dogs were unable to find a trail leading from the site. A skin diver even volunteered to search the bottom of the bay for Danny. As a last resort, dozens of water holes were dynamited in an effort to bring up a body and large alligators in the area were hunted down and killed so stomach contents could be examined. All of this was done but to no avail. Danny was still missing.

    February 3, 2009 at 10:16 pm |

    With today's technology, I wound have thought that they (Federal Agent) would have all ready progressed the boys image to render what he (Daniel) would have looked like, maybe 12 years ago, at the age of 40... Why so long to get this done ?

    February 3, 2009 at 6:20 pm |
  43. Ali Khan

    A top UN official who is an American national was kidnapped Monday and his driver was killed after his vehicle was ambushed in Quetta, Pakistan. John Solecki, is the head of the UN refugee agency in Quetta.

    February 3, 2009 at 5:53 pm |
  44. Linda Endres

    It is nice that they are still looking for Daniel and that he has not been forgotten and they is still a search for him, but one wonders why this has been brought up at this late date. Why hasn't this child/man been on the list all along? For some reason it seems strange they would just be listing the missing child at this late date or is this a revival in looking for Daniel because they have had some news. It would be nice to know, as there are many children who need an extra push at being found..

    February 3, 2009 at 5:08 pm |
  45. Anthony - Apex, NC

    Here's an idea for a story. Find instances when age progression software was used and the subject was subsequently found. Do people actually look anything like the progression suggested they would?

    February 3, 2009 at 4:46 pm |
  46. Annie Kate

    Perhaps Daniel will recognize himself in these pictures. It would be nice to know what happened to him for his family's sake.

    February 3, 2009 at 4:36 pm |
  47. Arachnae

    I hate to say this but... alligators?

    February 3, 2009 at 4:30 pm |
  48. Mary

    Hello, are you saying the parents let this little boy go near the water all alone?
    Weren't either parent with Daniel?
    What do they mean never came back to the camp site? Did they even look for him?

    February 3, 2009 at 4:04 pm |
  49. Adrienne DeRoss

    Did the couple have any other children. Were they suspects at the time.

    February 3, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  50. Joan Norris

    Wouldn't it be wonderful if Daniel was found. I hope someone recognizes the picture.

    February 3, 2009 at 3:19 pm |
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