As unlikely as the reappearance of a kidnapping victim from decades ago would be, the former head of the FBI's Long Island office said the only way to evaluate the veracity of the self-described victim's claim is with his DNA, which could take weeks.

"I have not heard of a legitimate kidnapping with the surfacing of a child so many years later," said Robert Hart, referring to the case of John Robert Barnes, the man who believes he is Steven Damman. "It statistically would be very, very rare . . . extremely unusual."

But Hart, a retired 30-year veteran of the FBI, said however unlikely the situation is, the statistics were beside the point.

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

Stressing he had no inside knowledge of the case, Hart said the only thing that matters is if the FBI finds DNA matches.

"What matters is the results of the FBI's analysis of the DNA - that's the gold standard," said Hart, who now heads Pathfinder Consultants International, an investigative firm in New York and on Long Island. "The FBI DNA laboratory is the best in the world."

While Barnes has submitted a DNA test with samples from him and Pamela Sue Horne, his possible sister, to authorities, Hart said the FBI would have to conduct its own sophisticated tests at its laboratory in Quantico, Va., to provide convincing legal evidence that there was a relationship.

"There are all kinds of questions about the chain of custody and under what sort of conditions" the other test was performed, Hart said.

Sources have said the FBI is conducting its own DNA analysis, but the results have not been completed. Sources familiar with FBI procedure said results of the DNA tests could take several months.

Hart, a lawyer, noted that under current federal law there is no statute of limitations on the kidnapping of a child.

So in addition to the potential of a family reunion, a positive result might lead to a criminal investigation, Hart said.

Robert Nardoza, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Brooklyn, said his office was researching whether the child kidnapping statute, which has been amended several times in the past 60 years, contained no limitation at the time of the supposed kidnapping.

DNA evidence has been used in the past in kidnapping cases. In 1912, a boy named Bobby Dunbar disappeared. After an eight-month search, investigators believed that they had found the child in the hands of William Cantwell Walters of Mississippi. Walters was accused of kidnapping. The Dunbars said that the child was indeed Bobby.

DNA tests proved in 2004 that the man was not Bobby and that Walters had been wrongfully convicted.

- 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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