One of the oldest cases on a missing person to be recorded by the city of Chicago a girl, who has been missing since July 15, 1930.
On July 14, 1930, Catherine Moroney received a strange visit by a lady, who after a brief hesitation, called herself Julia Otis. Otis claimed she was sent by a social worker called Mrs. Henderson, to the Moroney residence to help the family out. This did not come as a surprise to the seventeen-year-old mother as Catherine and her husband, Michael Moroney, had made a public appeal in the Chicago Tribune for a job. They had two children at the time, 2-year-old Mary Agnes Moroney and an 11-month-old daughter Anastasia, meanwhile Catherine was pregnant with their third child. The Moroney’s were poor making less than $15 a week.
The two women spoke briefly while Catherine described their financial crisis to Julia. Despite being a stranger, Catherine felt she could trust Julia. She was very kind; well dressed and spoke in a soft cultured voice. After a while Julia offered to take Mary with her to California for a few hours promising to bring her back; but Catherine declined the offer. Before leaving Julia gave Catherine $2, suggesting she go with her husband to watch a show that night. She also promised to return the next day.
Julia Otis returned on July 15, 1930, with gifts and money for the family and a few baby clothes for the child they were expecting as well. Julia begged Catherine to allow her to take Mary out to buy her some clothes from the nearby stores. Catherine, felt she could trust Julia after all the favours Julia had done for the family and allowed Julia to take Mary with her. As they were leaving the house, the toddler resisted and cried out for her mama while Julia led her away. Catherine never saw her daughter after that unfortunate day.
The following day the family received a letter from Julia Otis stating the following:
“Please don’t be alarmed, I have taken your little girl to California with me. I have hired a special nurse to care for her. We’ll be back in two months. By that time, you will be on your feet again and will be able to care for her. She didn’t even cry a bit. She is outfitted like a princess. In the meantime, I’ll help all I can to get you on your feet. Don’t worry about her or anything else. When you get this letter, we’ll be on our way already. As ever, Julia Otis.”
Two weeks after the kidnapping, a woman who identified herself as “Alice Henderson” sent the Moroneys a letter in which she stated that “Otis” was her cousin and that she was “love hungry” because her own husband and baby had died the year before. Henderson never wrote again and authorities state that the letter from “Otis” is written in the same handwriting as the one written by “Henderson”. Alice promised that Julia would return the child soon after but the police never found Julia or the child ever again, nor did they locate any woman named Alice Henderson.
The Indian woman:
In July 1931, an elderly Indian woman named Martha Thompson was found pushing a cart to join a circus. The cart contained a blond-haired, blue-eyed three-year-old girl that matched Mary Agnes’s description. Thompson maintained that the girl was abandoned by her mother, Florence Fuller, and begged to be allowed to keep her. The Moroneys did not identify the girl as Mary Agnes and neither was the girl identified for who she actually was.
A 24-year-old housewife called Mary McClelland came forward in 1952, claiming that, by looking at photos of Mary Agnes’s siblings (six more were born after her kidnapping), she suspected she was Mary Agnes. She had been adopted within a year of Mary Agnes’s disappearance by Charles and Nora Beck. Dr. Kraus, after studying and comparing her dental casts, named her as one of the family. Her skull and blood showed she was a Moroney and her mother claimed to recognize her. However, an ageing physician named Dr. E. W. Merrithew stated that he delivered McClelland to an unknown mother on November 17, 1927 and McClelland’s mother provided a baby picture of her daughter dating from 1928, which proved she had been adopted two years before the Moroney abduction. What’s more, Mary Agnes underwent an operation for a ruptured navel, but McClelland did not have the scar Mary Agnes had at the time of her disappearance. Further DNA testing proved she was not Mary Agnes. She died in 2005.
In conclusion, the case is very mysterious, and we may never know what happened to Mary Agnes. Julia Otis is long gone, and Mary Agnes may well be deceased and if not she would be 88 years old. The Moroneys have a telephone. It’s not because they can easily afford one. It’s because someday they hope to hear the bell tinkle and a gladsome message from the other end telling them that their Mary Agnes, gone all these years, is coming home.