According in a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, an average of 797,500 children are reported missing every year.
But only a handful of these cases capture the media’s attention.
Those that do, however, cause a frenzy.
The Lindbergh Baby (March 1932): The 18-month-old boy was abducted from his home in East Amwell, New Jersey; a ransom note was left behind. During the search for the child, several public figures spoke out on behalf of the family, including U.S. President Herbert Hoover and mobster Al Capone. The boy's body was found over two months later near the home and after a two-year investigation, Bruno Richard Hauptmann was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death.
Etan Patz (October 1972): The disappearance of six-year-old Patz created a media circus in New York City that eventually inspired the missing children's movement (the day of his disappearance, May 25, is now National Missing Children's Day).
Adam Walsh (July 1981): Walsh was abducted from a Sears department store in Hollywood, Florida. Less than a month later, his severed head was found by two fishermen. The boy's story was turned into a television film titled 'Adam' in 1983 and drew an audience of 38 million people. Walsh's father John Walsh went on to become the host of 'America's Most Wanted.'
Jaycee Lee Dugard (June 1991): Dugard remained missing for over 18 years after being abducted at a school bus stop near her home at age 11. She was held captive by Phillip Craig Garrido and his wife Nancy until their suspicious behaviour led to an investigation by local authorities. Dugard has given her first sit-down interview to ABC News' Diane Sawyer, airing on July 10.
Elizabeth Smart (June 2002): On June 5, 2002, 14-year-old Smart was abducted from her bedroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was held captive by Brian David Mitchell and Wanda Ileen Barzee and found alive nine months later about 18 miles from her home. Smart has given a number of television interviews, including 'Dateline NBC' and 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' graced the covers of magazines, and wrote a book about the ordeal with her family.
Madeleine McCann (May 2007): McCann disappeared during a family vacation in Portugal. While there have been reported sightings around the world, McCann remains missing. Media attention, as well as the family's publicity campaign, have kept the story in the public eye. In May 2011, McCann's mother released a book ('Madeleine') about the ordeal.
Reigh Boss (August 2008): The seven-year-old was kidnapped by her father Christian Karl Gerhartsreiter (also known as 'Clark Rockefeller'). The two were found days later. This incident furthered the media's fascination with the impostor, who inspired the Lifetime movie, 'Who Is Clark Rockefeller?'
Sandra Cantu (March 2009): The eight-year-old was reported missing on March 27; less than two weeks later, a suitcase was found that contained the child's body. Soon after, Cantu's Sunday school teacher was arrested and charged with her kidnapping, rape, and murder. The media fascination focused on the fact that the convicted murderer is a woman.
Kyron Horman (June 2010): Horman went missing on his way to class, following a science fair. Horman's stepmother was the last person to see the eight-year-old boy. Media speculation regarding the stepmother hit a fever pitch when Horman's father filed a restraining order against her upon learning she had offered someone money to kill him. Horman remains missing.
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