Daniel Barter was born on December 12, 1954 to parents Maxine and Paul Barter. The third youngest of seven siblings, he lived in the 1700 block of Thrush Drive in Mobile, Alabama.
Daniel’s nickname growing up was Danny, and his mother described him as a very sweet and pretty kid. At the time of his disappearance, he was just 4 years old.
LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:
On June 17, 1959, Daniel went camping with his parents, three brothers, an uncle and two of his cousins, while his other siblings stayed with relatives. The group embarked on a trip to Perdido Bay, located near Lillian, Alabama. Upon arriving on the bay’s eastern shore, the children spent the night in their uncle’s car.
On the morning of June 18, Daniel and his father went to the store to buy drinks for the family. He was still wearing the grey boxer shorts he’d slept in and he was barefoot. Upon returning to the campsite, he went to play on the banks of the bay.
At around 9:45am that morning, while the family was preparing equipment for a fishing excursion, Maxine noticed her son had disappeared. She spent approximately ten to fifteen minutes searching, but was unable to locate him.
Local authorities were contacted to help in the search for Daniel.
The search for Daniel started on the banks of Perdido Bay, just a few miles north of the US 98 bridge that leads to Florida. It comprised of 2000 people, including 300 members of the US Navy and local military bases and 150 law enforcement officers and firemen from Alabama, Florida and surrounding states.
Civilian volunteers in groups of 25 came together and walked shoulder-to-shoulder over a five square mile radius through the surrounding woods and swamps, and skin divers worked to search the bottom of the bay. As well, Jeeps, helicopters and horses were brought in, and three days into the search bloodhounds combed a five mile area, tracking the missing boy’s scent to the same spot on a nearby road.
The bottom of the lake was dragged, and sinkholes and thickets were searched. In the hopes of potentially jarring a body loose, dynamite was tossed into the bay and other surrounding areas where Daniel might have fallen into.
After more than a week, the search was called off. There were no signs Daniel had gone into the bay and no evidence was uncovered. It was one of the most intensive searches in Baldwin County history.
As the area was swampy and infested with alligators and snakes, hunters looked for large alligators and sliced open their stomachs looking for the boy’s remains. However, no evidence was found that pointed to Daniel being attacked.
Authorities at the time looked into the possibility that Daniel had been abducted, but were never able to find anything to support this theory. As the family wasn’t wealthy and never received any communications from the supposed kidnappers, a ransom motive was deemed unlikely.
A month after Daniel’s disappearance, his mother saw a mysterious and unknown vehicle parked in front of the family home in Mobile. As she approached the car, the male driver covered his face with a newspaper and drove away.
One evening not long after this encounter, a neighbour reported seeing a strange man looking into the bedroom where the Barter boys, including Daniel, slept. When the neighbour and Maxine went to the spot where the man had been standing, they saw he was already gone, but had left footprints under the window. The police were called and they made casts of the prints and took photos. It’s unclear if this evidence still exists.
After these incidents occurred, Maxine told police about a strange encounter that had happened the morning before Daniel disappeared. She said that she’d driven him and one of his brothers to the store and had left the pair in the car while she ran in to grab something. While she was gone, an unknown man had driven up next to the car and stared at the boys without speaking, before driving away. Daniel’s brother reported this to their mother upon her returning to the car.
These incidents have led the Barter family to believe Daniel had been kidnapped by someone who had been stalking them for some time prior.
The case remained open for some time, but investigators were unable to discover any credible leads, as no remains were found and no sightings reported. As the years passed, files pertaining to the case were destroyed or lost to time.
In 2008, the FBI and local law enforcement reopened the case after hearing a discussion in public. What had been overheard has never been publicly released. The new prevailing theory is that Daniel was abducted, and a call was put out to those who recalled the disappearance, asking them to contact police.
1) The current theory is that Daniel was abducted by unknown persons. This is supported by the lack of physical evidence found at the campsite in Perdido Bay, as well as the numerous encounters the Barter family had in the days before and after he went missing. It’s currently unknown if the encounters were with the same man or numerous.
2) One of the early theories in the case was that Daniel drowned in Perdido Bay. However, his family disputes this, as he didn’t like the water and there were no footprints in the sand that led to the bay. As well, the bay was very shallow at the time Daniel went missing and, as such, a person could walk in a considerable distance without getting very wet.
3) There is a theory that Daniel could have gotten lost in the area around the campsite, given how thick the brush was. However, no evidence was found to support this, and given Daniel was barefoot at the time, it appears unlikely he would have walked into the prickly undergrowth.
4) A final theory that has since been deemed unlikely is that Daniel was attacked and/or eaten by an alligator. As aforementioned, hunters searched the stomach contents of large ones seen near the bay, but found no remains or evidence that Daniel had met this end.
After Daniel’s disappearance, his family moved to Texas.
Numerous members of the missing boy’s family have since passed way. His father died in 1965, with his mother passing in 1995. In 1997, his brother, who was born after his disappearance, died of cancer.
The rest of Daniel’s siblings are alive and hopeful the case will one day be resolved. The believe their brother is still out there and that they’ll be reunited.
In 2009, his loved ones returned to the campsite to remember their missing brother and re-dedicate the half-century mission to find him.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Daniel Barter went missing from Perdido Bay, Alabama on June 18, 1959. He was four years old and was last seen wearing grey boxer shorts and carrying a bottle of Nehi soda. At the time of his disappearance, he was 3’0″ and weighed 50 pounds. He has brown hair and brown eyes, and has scars on his fingers and one on his tongue.
Currently, his case is classified as a non-family abduction. If alive, he would be 64 years old.
If you have information regarding the case, you can contact the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office at either 205-937-0200 or 251-972-8589. As well, tips can be called into your local FBI field office.
Image Credit: The Doe Network