KALKASKA, Mich. – A Michigan man who believed he was the toddler kidnapped in New York in 1955 said he was “stunned” to learn DNA testing disproved his suspicion and that he’s still seeking his true identity.
John Barnes had said he believed the test administered by the FBI would confirm he was Stephen Damman, who disappeared at age 2 from outside an East Meadow, N.Y., market while his mother shopped.
He suspected the couple who raised him weren’t his biological parents.
But the test results released last week showed there was no way he could be the kidnapped child.
The unemployed labourer, who lives in rural northwest Lower Michigan, told the Detroit Free Press in an article published Tuesday that he “was disappointed, kind of stunned” by the news.
“I really thought I was that kid,” he told the newspaper.
A call Tuesday morning by The Associated Press to Barnes went unanswered.
The FBI said the DNA test showed Barnes could not have the same mother as Stephen Damman’s sister, Pamela Damman Horne, who as an infant was with the boy when he disappeared. She was found in her stroller, unharmed, around the corner from the market.
The case had raised the hopes of the toddler’s father, Jerry Damman, who runs a farm in Iowa, and stunned the community where the Halloween kidnapping occurred. Damman, now 78, had said he hoped for a resolution after five decades of silence.
The FBI took Barnes’ DNA sample after he connected with Horne and took a trip to Iowa to try and catch a glimpse of the man he believed to be his father. He said he began investigating his origins years ago because he believed he never fit in.
“I wasn’t trying to draw attention to myself, or create a hoax, or run a scam or anything (like) that,” he told the newspaper. “My intention was never to be on television or to hurt other people’s feelings.
“I want to make sure people know that. The story got blown out of proportion. It took off like a rocket. That wasn’t my intention. I was just looking for my true identity, and I still am.”
Barnes said he was at a hotel in New York with Horne, and they found out about the DNA results together.
“I felt bad for Pam, I really did,” he said. “We’ve had a good relationship. I hope to keep it. I still consider Pam my adopted sister. I don’t know how she feels about me right now. We were in this together.”
Barnes told the Free Press he had not heard from Horne since the DNA news broke.