When the FBI last June used genetic testing to debunk his claim of being the toddler kidnapped from East Meadow in 1955, John Barnes clung to one last desperate theory: that he was not the son of the man who raised him.
But in officially closing his case last month, the FBI quietly shut the door on that theory, too.
In letters and phone calls to four members of the Barnes family in February, the FBI confirmed that John Barnes is, in fact, a genetic Barnes, two family members said.
"The case is closed and I'm related to the Barnes," said John Barnes from his Kalkaska, Mich., home Tuesday. "I can live with that as long as I know who I am. I am not upset." An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment.
Last June, John Barnes ignited an international media frenzy with the widely publicized claim that he was Steven Damman, a Garden City toddler kidnapped from outside an East Meadow market in 1955.
But his theory quickly deflated when the FBI a day later released a statement saying genetic evidence revealed Barnes was not related to Damman's sister, Pamela Sue Horne.
The Damman kidnapping remains unsolved. Through it all, Barnes' father, Richard Barnes, also of Kalkaska, remained steadfast that John was his son. He produced baby pictures of John and siblings, and a birth certificate showing John Barnes was born to him and his wife in a Pensacola, Fla., hospital. In fact, Barnes was less than 3 months old when Damman, a toddler, was kidnapped. The estranged father and son Barnes, have not spoken in more than a year, Richard Barnes said in an e-mail.
"I know that Richard Barnes is my dad - that's all I know," John Barnes acknowledged Tuesday. His initial suspicions of being Steven Damman had been aroused by his belief that he was "different" from the Barneses.
Since the case has been closed, John Barnes said he continues to research the Damman case, and said he suspects the boy may have been kidnapped and illegally put up for adoption.
And while he concedes that "I stirred up a bee's nest" with his suspicion, at least one good thing came of it. "I got a free trip to New York City," he said, recalling the feeling of walking down Seventh Avenue in midtown and seeing his picture on the cover of stacks of newspapers on every newsstand. "That just freaked me right out," he said.