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Long IslandCrime

Detective: I was 'always bothered' by 1955 disappearance

It was a case that always dogged him.

To this day, Matthew Bonora, now 81 and retired from the Nassau Police Department for nearly four decades, still ponders the unanswered question: What happened to Steven Damman--

What is the true story behind the Halloween 1955 disappearance of that little boy--

"It was a never-ending, fruitless search," Bonora said Wednesday, recounting the massive manhunt for Steven that involved more than 5,000 volunteers in the days following the toddler's disappearance in East Meadow and the subsequent search by detectives who were never able to solve the case.

- Click here to see the latest photos, and exclusive photos from our archives, in the controversy over a Long Island toddler missing since 1955

"It was frustrating, so frustrating," said Bonora, who retired in April 1972 as commanding officer of the Nassau County Police Department Homicide Squad and now lives on the East End.

"The Stevie Damman case was still swirling through my mind after all these years - because it was unsolved."

"There was always a question mark, let me phrase it that way," Bonora said. "How could a 2-year, 10-month-old boy just disappear--"

The longtime detective had been in on the disappearance since the opening bell. "Two women shopping in a store next to the supermarket recalled seeing a woman looking at them [before Damman vanished]," Bonora recalled yesterday.

"One, who had a little boy, said she got so nervous that she grabbed the child and left the store abruptly," he said.

All these years later, Bonora said, he is eager to find out if the man from Michigan really is long-lost Steven Craig Damman.

Bonora said he believes the man will prove to be Steven.

"It's a relief. It's a relief to me as a former detective. . . . That case has always bothered me."

- Click here to see the latest photos, and exclusive photos from our archives, in the controversy over a Long Island toddler missing since 1955

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