American boy Bobby Dunbar, age 4, mysteriously vanished while on a family picnic in Louisiana at the age of four. He was reportedly discovered eight months later in Mississippi with an unidentified man. Bobby’s parents, Percy and Lessie Dunbar were granted custody of the child by the court despite claims that the boy was Anderson’s son from both Julia Anderson and William Cantwell Walters, an itinerant handyman in whose care Bobby was discovered. He married, had four kids, and lived out the remainder of his days as Bobby Dunbar before passing away. The child who was discovered was not Bobby Dunbar, who had gone missing more than nine decades earlier, according to DNA testing ordered by Dunbar’s granddaughter. The actual Bobby Dunbar was once more listed as a missing child, but because time has passed, the authorities are no longer looking into him. The event, which received extensive press coverage, divided the public sharply, and it also revealed how motherhood, childhood, and social mores were defined during that time period.
Bobby’s The Occurrence
Robert Clarence Dunbar, also known as Bobby Dunbar, was the older of Percy and Lessie Dunbar’s two boys and was born in 1908 in Opelousas, Louisiana. Young Bobby and his younger sibling Alonzo traveled with their parents on a fishing trip to Swayze Lake in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, about 40 kilometers from their home, in August 1912.
Bobby failed to show up for lunch on August 23, 1912, with his family at the cottage they were renting, presumably wandering off by himself. The four-year-parents old’s searched frantically for him but were unable to locate him, so they called the police.
At first, the local police and then the state police launched a massive search for the boy. They even caught and cut open alligators and detonated dynamite in the lake in an attempt to cause the body to float up, but all of their efforts were in vain.
The only hints that could have been found were a set of barefoot footprints going from the swamps to a railroad trestle and some reports of an unknown man lurking nearby, which led to an abduction hypothesis. Eight months later, it was revealed that William Cantwell Walters, a traveling handyman who specialized in the maintenance and repair of pianos and organs, had discovered a child who matched Bobby Dunbar’s description in Mississippi.
Walters told the police that the boy was Charles Bruce Anderson, the son of Julia Anderson, who had given him temporary custody while she searched for work. Walters made this claim when he was interrogated by the police. He said Bruce was his brother’s illegitimate son and Julia was a farm hand for his family.
Walters was detained and the police took custody of the kid in defiance of the fact that the town’s residents supported his account. In an effort to locate the child, the Dunbars were called to Mississippi. According to one version of the story in the media, the Dunbars, particularly Alonzo, the younger son, recognized the child right away. After being permitted to keep the child overnight and bathe him, they were able to positively identify him thanks to the child’s numerous moles and wounds.
The town of Opelousas honored the boy’s “homecoming” with much fanfare and a parade as he traveled back with the Dunbars. Julia Anderson also landed in Mississippi to present her case after a few days. Due to this development, the authorities asked the Dunbars to take the child back to Mississippi so that Julia would have a chance to identify her son.
But when given the opportunity, Julia was unable to distinguish Bruce from the other five boys who were roughly her age; the boy also failed to recognize her. She refused to positively identify him even after being pressed, confessing that she wasn’t sure because she hadn’t seen him in up to 13 months.
After being given permission to undress him the following day, Julia was more certain that the child was in fact her missing son, Bruce. The judge held the boy to be Bobby and granted custody to the Dunbars because of Julia’s failure to identify the boy the first time, her lack of initiative in trying to find her son despite his long absence, and the fact that she had given birth out of wedlock to up to three children, which was not a sign of good character in those days.
Although Julia Anderson returned for the Walters trial and attempted to persuade the court once more that the boy was in fact her son, she did not have the means to fight for custody over an extended period of time. Even though Julia Anderson insisted she only gave Walters the boy for a short time—a trip to meet some of his relatives—and not for an extended length of time, Walters was consistently defended by Anderson.
The people of Poplarville, where Walters and the child had spent a lot of time, were also very supportive. Walters was found guilty of kidnapping despite numerous witnesses coming forward to say that the child had been seen with Walters before Bobby Dunbar vanished.
Walters was granted the right to a new trial after serving his two-year term and having a successful appeal. The prosecution refused the second trial and freed him because of how expensive the first trial had been. His family claims that until his demise in the late 1930s, Walters insisted he was innocent.
The boy who the Dunbars adopted as their son Bobby grew up as Bobby Dunbar, settling in well, playing with his sibling, and even displaying early signs of memory recall. The Dunbars became even more certain that their identification had been accurate and that the infant was in fact Bobby, their lost son, as a result of the process of adjusting well.
Bobby eventually grew up, got married, and fathered four kids before he passed away in 1966. While he had been informed of the upsetting events from his childhood, according to his family, he always maintained that he knew who he was and that he was Bobby.
An additional investigation
One of Bobby Dunbar’s granddaughters, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, started her own investigation of the case in the early years of the twenty-first century in an effort to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that her grandfather was a Dunbar.
However, she quickly became dubious that a correct identification had been made after reading the extensive media coverage of the disappearance and the identification, as well as her examination of the evidence and notes presented by Walters’ attorney in defense of his client, along with interviews of Julia Anderson’s children.
Robert Dunbar Jr., Bobby’s son, agreed to have his DNA matched with that of Bobby’s younger brother, Alonzo Dunbar’s son after an AP reporter expressed interest in the story and approached the family. It was shockingly revealed that the two ‘cousins’ were not connected at all because their DNA did not match. The boy’s parentage as Julia Anderson’s son Bruce was also established.
The fresh details of the case, according to Margaret, who was interviewed for Public Radio International’s documentary “The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar,” delighted both the Anderson and the Walters families. The Walters family was thrilled that William could be cleared of the kidnapping accusation, and the Andersons were pleased that their claim had been supported.
However, the Dunbar family was undoubtedly angry with Margaret for unnecessarily looking into the issue, bringing it back to the public’s attention, and jeopardizing the foundation of their family ties. Bobby Dunbar vanished more than a century ago, and despite numerous theories—ranging from crocodiles eating him to his parents being to blame for some terrible incident or an unidentified kidnapper—nobody has ever been able to determine what happened to him.
Estimated Net Worth
John Dunbar has accumulated significant wealth throughout his work as an artist and art collector, and his current net worth is $5 million.