Van Buren, AR

In 1983, a mom asked a woman to babysit her children. The next morning, her 4-month-old baby and the woman were gone.

Fatim Hemraj
Matthew Crocker as a baby next to an age progression photo of him at 38Photo byThe Doe Network

Mary Crocker lived in Van Buren, Arkansas, with her four young children including a four-month-old baby boy named Matthew; her husband was serving time and she was raising the children alone.

In June 1983, a family friend introduced Mary to his new girlfriend, a woman named Kathy Johnson. She also went by the name Judy. She was a traveling carny who was employed at a rodeo/carnival that had just stopped at Fort Smith, Arkansas, only six miles away from the Crocker family.

Mary befriended Kathy, who claimed to be 26 years old. Kathy told Mary that she lost two children shortly after giving birth and that had they survived, they would be ages 9 and 6 in 1983.

The family friend suggested that Mary allow Kathy to move into her trailer home for a week to babysit her young children while she worked. Since Mary was struggling as a single mom of four, she agreed.

On the evening of June 9, 1983, Mary hosted a party at her home in which drinking was involved. The next morning, she woke up to find Matthew missing from the crib he shared with his 1-year-old sister, Elizabeth; the three other children were found safe in the home. Also missing was Kathy and the Crocker family vehicle, a 1973 Chevrolet Vega. Frantic, Mary immediately reported Matthew missing.

The vehicle was found abandoned at a truck stop in Oklahoma the next day, and a witness reportedly overheard a woman matching Kathy's description at that very truck stop state that she was planning to travel to California. The authorities believe Kathy and Matthew traveled to California through Utah.
A sketch of "Kathy Johnson" or "Judy" who took baby Matthew CrockerPhoto byFacebook

The woman was described as a Caucasian female, 5'8" tall and roughly 120 lbs. Her hair was dyed black and her roots were sandy blonde. She had a rotten or chipped front tooth, a tattoo of the name Kathy with a ribbon on her right arm, a unicorn on her left arm, and a sunburst on the right side of her chest. She also had a 7-inch scar on her right shoulder and a puncture scar above her right knee.

Although it was common for people to have their own names tattooed in the 80s, it's possible the Kathy tattoo may have been for a family member such as a mother or a sister who succumbed to cancer, or perhaps it was for one of the children that "Kathy Johnson" claimed to have lost moments after giving birth. Investigators believe Kathy took Matthew to raise as her own child.

In 1983, Kathy reportedly worked with a man who traveled to Kansas to perform in a snake show. The FBI would like to speak to this man, however, he has never come forward.

Nearly 40 years later, the search for Matthew Crocker continues.

Today, the mystery woman would be roughly 66 to 70 years old, and Matthew Crocker, who likely does not know his real identity or birth date, will turn 40 on February 12, 2023. He was born with a concave chest that would only become more prominent with age and likely required surgery.

If you have any information, contact Van Buren PD at 479-474-1234.

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