Two-year-old Steven Damman, who went missing from East Meadow on Halloween...

Two-year-old Steven Damman, who went missing from East Meadow on Halloween 1955, is among the 139 missing person cases on Long Island that are still unsolved.  Credit: Newsday file photo

A toddler snatched from outside a store in Nassau. A father of two looking forward to a family trip to Italy. A sailor who sought adventure in the British Virgin Islands. They are all missing Long Islanders whose disappearances triggered exhaustive searches without results. Newsday takes a look back at the cases.

Steven Damman

Two-year-old Steven Damman went missing from East Meadow on Halloween in 1955.  Credit: Newsday File Photo

Day of disappearance: Oct. 31, 1955

Two-year-old Steven Damman went missing from East Meadow on Halloween almost 69 years ago, sparking one of the largest police searches in Nassau County and Long Island history. 

It remains the Island's oldest unsolved missing persons case.

It started on Oct. 31, 1955, when Steven's mother, Marilyn Damman, took the toddler and his 1-year-old sister, Pamela, to a Food Fair store on Front Street, leaving them in the stroller just outside the establishment while she shopped. When Damman exited the store, both children were gone. A quick search turned up Pamela nearby in the stroller. But Steven — clad in dungarees, a blue shirt, red sweater and brown shoes — was nowhere to be found.

Newsday reported at the time that a massive search was launched. Volunteers and police combed woodlands, dragged swamps and creeks and went door to door to ask if anyone had seen Steven. The child’s father, Airman Jerry Damman, was set to leave the service from his base at Mitchel Field but extended his enlistment by about two months to aid in the search.

Airman first class Jerry Damman holding a photo of his missing son, Steven Damman, with his wife, Marilyn, on Oct. 31, 1955. Steven's tricycle sat outside their door that evening. Credit: Newsday file

Soldiers and police comb a nursery in East Meadow in...

Soldiers and police comb a nursery in East Meadow in search of missing 2-year-old Steven Damman. Credit: Newsday file

Months passed and Steven was never found. His disappearance became the most publicized Long Island missing persons case since 1937, when Cold Spring Harbor socialite Alice Parsons, 37, disappeared and a ransom note was delivered asking for $25,000. Although the ransom was offered, it was never collected and Parsons was never found.

A $3,000 ransom note was delivered to Steven’s parents as well, but it was likely a hoax, police said at the time.

Interest in the story was rekindled in 2007, when a Michigan man named John Barnes told authorities he believed he was Steven Damman. The sudden appearance of Barnes, who reportedly bore a slight resemblance to Steven, ignited hope that the mystery would be solved. The story again made national news and the FBI stepped in to do a DNA comparison to determine if Barnes was in fact Steven. But the results came back negative. 

“It wasn't easy when it happened more than 50 years ago,” Jerry Damman, 78, told Newsday from his home in Newton, Iowa, in 2007. “It's not easy now. Naturally, I'm disappointed that this man wasn't our son.”

Social Security indexes show that Jerry Damman and his former wife, Marilyn, are deceased. Steven’s sister, Pamela, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Nassau police said Steven’s disappearance is still an active case.

Barbara Lane

Barbara Lane was last seen in August 1990, after leaving her Franklin Square home. Credit: Newsday file photo

Day of disappearance: Aug. 5, 1990

Barbara Lane was 38 and living with her husband and three children in Franklin Square when she disappeared. Despite efforts by police and a private investigator, she was never found.

Lane was last seen on Aug. 5, 1990, leaving her home for work at a bagel store, officials said. She had been looking forward to a visit to Great Adventure Park in New Jersey with family members the next day, according to court records.

In June 2020, her husband, Larry Lane, got a court decree declaring his long-lost wife dead. He didn’t return requests for comment about the case.

To memorialize Barbara Lane, her family held a service and had her named engraved on a stone in Holy Rood Cemetery in Westbury.

As they do for all missing persons cases, Nassau police consider Lane's disappearance an active investigation.

Norine Higuchi Brown

Norine Higuchi Brown drove to a supermarket near New Hyde...

Norine Higuchi Brown drove to a supermarket near New Hyde Park home in December 1990, and hasn't been seen since. Credit: Susan Dimino

Date of disappearance: Dec. 12, 1990

It was late in the evening of Dec. 12, 1990, when 31-year-old Norine Higuchi Brown drove to a Pathmark store near her home in New Hyde Park. She told relatives she needed to pick up some Christmas items. The next day, the car was located at the far end of the parking lot. But the married mother of two children was nowhere to be found. Police said she had left her identification and wallet containing $45 at home.

For the past 33 years, the mystery of what happened to Brown has troubled and haunted her family and friends. Despite efforts by the Nassau County Police Department, which continues to carry the case as an active investigation, no new leads have developed. 

For Maria Pryzbylski, who went to grade school and Uniondale High School with Brown, what happened so long ago is not something she can forget.

Since 1996, Brown’s old school friends Pryzbylski, Elaine Commando and Susan Randazzi have been pushing Nassau police on the case.

Commando — who lives in South Carolina — said in an interview that Brown was her best friend. “She was just a great person,” said Commando, who described Brown as a vivacious, athletic woman. “She loved to ski. We would take our bicycle rides to Jones Beach, take Jane Fonda exercise classes,” recalled Commando.

At their high school reunion in 1996, Pryzbylski, Commando and Randazzi talked about Brown's disappearance six years earlier, deciding to push authorities to keep the case alive. They met with Nassau detectives to discuss the case.

Det. Tracey Cabey, spokeswoman for the NCPD, said Brown's case was “still open and detectives continue to explore all leads.”

Brown's friends are determined not to give up hope and said they will persist. “I just want to find my friend,” said Pryzbylski, 65.

In 2001, a Nassau County surrogate court declared Brown dead at the request of her husband, John Brown. He didn’t respond to telephone messages and a letter seeking comment.

George Richardson

George Richardson of Dix Hills was vacationing with his family in Montauk in 2012 when he disappeared. Credit: East Hampton Police Department

Date of disappearance: Aug. 28, 2012

For George Richardson and his family, August 2012 was a good time for a vacation in Montauk. The family booked reservations at Hartman’s Briney Breezes Beach Resort, a motel complex just off the Old Montauk Highway and a short walk to the Atlantic Ocean.

A Hofstra University graduate who earned a law degree from St. John’s University School of Law, the 50-year-old Richardson had a job as vice president of development at Huntington Hospital. The family had brought its four body boards on the vacation. Early on the morning of Aug. 28, Richardson went to sleep in the family suite. When the rest of the family woke up, they found he was gone. Such an absence wasn’t surprising, as Richardson liked to rise early and take walks. This time, he never returned.

East Hampton police officials told Newsday at the time they theorized Richardson had gone into the ocean for an early swim when the surf was reportedly rough. His body was never found, despite a search by police, K-9 units and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Richardson’s wife, Mary, filed a petition in Suffolk County Surrogate Court to administer his estate and have him declared dead after three years of unexplained absence. In court papers, Mary Richardson indicated her husband wasn’t having any problems or enemies who might put him in harm's way. He also wasn’t depressed or taking drugs and seemed to be enjoying his vacation.

In a separate filing, attorney Patricia Blake, an attorney appointed guardian to represent George Richardson’s interest, said she believed based on her interview with his family that Richardson went for an early morning swim and suffered “a tragic event in the water.”

Based on the evidence, Acting Suffolk County Surrogate Stephen Braslow ruled in July 2022 that Richardson died on Aug. 28, 2015, three years after he was last seen alive.

Mary Richardson declined to comment for this story.

Robert Mayer

Robert Mayer left his Dix Hills home for work in June 2013, and was never heard from again. Credit: Handout

Day of disappearance: June 14, 2013

Robert Mayer was looking forward to celebrating Father's Day and taking a family trip to Italy, according to a court filing. A 46-year-old electrician who worked in Brooklyn, Mayer had a good union job and a vested pension, his wife told investigators.

On the morning of June 14, 2013, after kissing his wife goodbye at their home in Dix Hills, Mayer went to work. He was never seen by his family again. Eventually, police found his Pontiac GTO at the Long Island Rail Road's Deer Park train station, a place his family said he never commuted from. 

Missing persons flyers for Robert Mayer were placed on cars outside an LIRR station after his 2013 disappearance. Credit: Bob Savage

After many searches, including the work of the NYPD and a private investigator, as well as media interviews, the case remains a mystery. Mayer was declared dead by a Suffolk County Surrogate Court ruling in June 2022.

Deputy Insp. Sean Beran at the Suffolk County Police Department said investigators had looked at all possible leads, and in the end believe there was no foul play in Mayer’s disappearance. Police say the case remains open but have not had new leads.

Ida Mayer, his wife, declined to comment for this story.

Michael George O’Brien

Michael George O'Brien, an unemployed builder, was last seen at the Cross Sound Ferry station in Orient in December 2014. Credit: Southold Police

Day of disappearance: Dec. 28, 2014

Living in Greenport, Michael George O’Brien and his wife, Mary, raised three children — two boys and a girl. By late 2014, O’Brien, who was a builder by trade, had run into some hard times and had been out of work, leading to a bout with depression, his spouse would later recall in a Suffolk County Surrogate Court filing. It was after a “small argument” on Dec. 28, 2014, that O’Brien abruptly left the family home and drove off in his 2003 Chevrolet Silverado pickup, leaving behind his cellphone as well as credit and debit cards, his wife recalled in court filings.

After her husband failed to return home, Mary O’Brien contacted the Town of Southold Police and filed a missing persons report. On Jan. 1, 2015, O’Brien’s truck was found in the parking lot of the Cross Sound Ferry in Orient. According to the police report, there was no sign of foul play.

Police search for O'Brien near the Cross Sound Ferry in...

Police search for O'Brien near the Cross Sound Ferry in Orient. Credit: Randee Daddona

According to surrogate court filings, a video surveillance recording of the parking area showed that after arriving at the ferry terminal, O’Brien left his vehicle and walked off camera toward the waterfront. He was not seen returning to the pickup. The police and the U.S. Coast Guard searched the area, including the waters of Long Island Sound, and found nothing.

In December 2019, Surrogate Thomas Whalen signed a decree declaring that O’Brien was presumed deceased. 

Peter Farrell

Peter Farrell set out from Fire Island for the British...

Peter Farrell set out from Fire Island for the British Virgin Islands in October 2019. A Coast Guard search turned up nothing. Credit: U.S. Coast Guard Tri-State

Day of disappearance: Oct. 13, 2019

There was nothing unusual about 72-year-old Peter Farrell’s planned voyage on his 29-foot sloop the Blue Dog from Fire Island to the British Virgin Islands, a trip he had done before. For company, he took along his pet Rottweiler, Sunny. Farrell left on Oct. 13 and his plan was to stop in Bermuda before going to Jost Van Dyke Island. Farrell apparently never reached his destination.

An immediate U.S. Coast Guard search encompassing more than 310,000 square miles from the air turned up nothing. Some sailing internet billboards had reported that weather in the area where Farrell planned to travel was rough for a couple of weeks. The Blue Dog was equipped with a special device in case of an emergency, but no distress signal was received. Farrell's disappearance is all the more confounding because he was an expert sailor who had pulled through harrowing experiences before, according to his sister, Adrienne Tesoro, of Babylon.

“I can say with authority he was an expert seaman,” Tesoro told Newsday in 2019. “Five or six years ago, about a hundred miles off New Jersey, his boat completely rolled over, did a 360, shredding all the sails, breaking all the mounting bolts in the engine, and he managed to hand-sew the sails back together and sail into … New Jersey.”

The pain of losing her brother remains with Tesoro, she told Newsday in a recent interview. In an attempt to keep some kind of connection with him, Tesoro said she still sends text messages to his phone every day. Early messages asked, “When can you call?” while the newer messages simply state, “I still miss you very much.”

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