In Remembrance of Debbie Dappen
It was a family’s worst nightmare. On Wednesday, August 19, 1964, four-year-old Debbie Dappen disappeared from her Fairfax home when she went out to play after lunch. At that time, Fairfax was a quiet, tree-lined town of 2500 residents on the eastern edge of Cincinnati. Debbie’s parents and neighbors said she was not a wandering child. Debbie’s mom, Rosemary, 28 at the time, reported her missing to Fairfax police and more than 500 volunteers joined police in the search for the little girl. Bloodhounds were brought in. Firemen drained ponds and dragged swimming pools.
The first break in the case came two days after Debbie disappeared when a 14-year-old neighborhood boy pointed out where he found a shoe in a culvert along Little Duck Creek. Debbie’s father, Karl, identified the shoe as belonging to Debbie. Later that day, police went to the home of the boy who found the shoe and asked for permission to search the house. Debbie’s body was found under construction debris beneath the front porch. Under police questioning, the boy admitted he had lured her to his home to play hide and seek. He made a sexual advance on the child and killed her when she screamed.
It is so hard to make sense of losses like this in life. Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, lost her son, Wade, when he was 16, when a gust of wind swept his Jeep off the highway. Elizabeth gave this advice after her son died: “If you know someone who has lost a child and you’re afraid to mention the child because you think you might make them sad by reminding them that they died – you’re not reminding them. They didn’t forget. What you’re reminding them of is that you remembered that they lived and that is a great gift.”
With this post, we remember Debbie Dappen who is buried in Mt. Washington Cemetery.
It can be even harder to seek any kind of closure when someone goes missing and is never found. Less than two months after Debbie Dappen’s murder, two nine-year-old boys went missing on Thursday, October 15, 1964, in the same community of Fairfax. Johnny Hundley and Jimmy McQueary were best friends. They lived very close to each other and were both in the third grade at Fairfax School.
The boys were last seen walking out of the parking lot of Frisch’s Mainliner, a very popular restaurant in the Frisch’s Big Boy chain that was a short walk from their homes. One of the boys owed the manager a little more than a dollar from a previous food purchase. The pair had stopped in to repay the debt. After doing so, they walked west off the property, which was in the opposite direction of where they lived.
When neither boy returned home, the police were called. After the news picked up the story, the surrounding community was on the lookout for the boys. Police looked into recent roadwork on a street in the neighborhood where workmen had filled a trench with gravel at about the same time the boys went missing. That location was dug up, but nothing was found. Other thoughts turned toward a much larger construction job not far from the Frisch’s Restaurant where the boys were last seen. This was work on extending Columbia Parkway, a multi-lane highway that starts in downtown Cincinnati. That roadway had stopped west of the community. Much activity and purchasing of property had been done to extend that right of way closer to the community. Bulldozers and other heavy equipment were at that location digging to make way for the planned roadway. Despite searches of all of that area along with following up on all leads, no trace of the youngsters could be found. The case soon grew cold.
That was the situation until September 1967, when a 17-year old Marine recruit from Fairfax, then stationed in San Diego, told a minister that 3 years ago, he and another youth, who had since moved to Indianapolis, had lured the boys to a wooded location, stabbed and buried them, then buried the knife behind the recruit’s house. At the time the recruit made the confession, he was AWOL from the Marines. The minister reported this information to the police.
The recruit was returned to the Cincinnati area and questioned. When police asked the recruit to show them where the bodies were buried, he recanted and said he had nothing to do with the boys’ disappearance, that he had just said what he did because he was homesick. The police dug up a 90-foot area behind the recruit’s home in search of the knife, but found nothing. The Marine passed a lie detector test the police gave him. At that point, police had nothing to link him to the disappearance; the other person he had named was also deemed to not be involved in the matter. The recruit was turned back over to the Marines to face a charge of being absent without leave.
The general feeling remains that the boys never got very far from the place they called home and from the loved ones who still search for the answer to what happened to them that October almost 52 years ago. If you know anything, the FBI reopened the files of this case in 2008 hoping to solve the decades-old mystery. The FBI’s ViCAP (Violent Criminal Apprehension Program) forms for Johnny and Jimmy are in the attachments.