Mary Agnes Moroney (born May 9, 1928) was a missing American child who disappeared on May 15, 1930. She had just turned 2 when she was taken from her Chicago, Illinois home on May 15, 1930. Her abduction was heavily covered by both local and national media, but her whereabouts have never been ascertained. Her kidnapping is the oldest unsolved case of this nature in the files of the Chicago Missing Persons Bureau.
Catherine Moroney had married Michael Moroney at the age of 13 and, four years later, had two daughters: Mary Agnes, 2, and Anastasia, 11 months. The family, who lived at 5200 Wentworth Avenue, were very poor, as Michael only made $15 per week passing out handbills. A relative of Catherine's wrote to the needy-family service and a paragraph on their plight was printed. The service did not normally disclose addresses, but, through a slip, the Moroney's address was learned by a woman.
On May 14, 1930, while Catherine was scrubbing the floor, there was a knock at the door. When Catherine opened the door, she was greeted by a woman who stated she had been sent by a social worker to deal with the Moroney's case. She was described as well-dressed, about 22 years of age, with protruding teeth and a "cultured" voice. The woman identified herself as "Julia Otis". After listening to the Moroney's many problems, she asked Catherine if she could temporarily take Mary Agnes to California with her, adding that she would be unrecognizable and "fat as a butterball". Catherine refused. After promising to return, the stranger handed Catherine $2 and left.
The next day, May 15, the woman came back, this time with baby clothes, as Catherine was pregnant. The woman stated that she had arranged to get a better job for her husband Michael and then offered to take Mary to a nearby store and buy her some clothes and shoes. Reluctantly, Catherine gave her consent. Later, Catherine commented that Mary Agnes sobbed and refused to go with the woman, but she was taken anyway. Mary Agnes and the unidentified woman never returned.
The Moroney family received a letter from "Otis" the day after she took Mary Agnes. It read:
Please don't be alarmed, I have taken your little girl to California with me. I have hired a special nurse to care for her. We'll be back in two months. By that time you will be on your feet again and will be able to care for her. She didn't even cry a bit. She is outfitted like a princess. In the meantime, I'll help all I can to get you on your feet. Don't worry about her or anything else. When you get this letter we'll be on our way already. As ever, Julia Otis
This was the last the Moroney's ever heard from "Julia Otis".
Two weeks after the kidnapping, a woman who identified herself as "Alice Henderson" sent the Moroney's a letter in which she stated that "Otis" was her cousin and that she was "love hungry" because her own husband and baby had died the year before. Henderson never wrote again and authorities state that the letter from "Otis" was written in the same handwriting as the one written by "Henderson".
In July 1931, an elder Native American woman named Martha Thompson was found pushing a cart to join a circus. The cart contained a blond-haired, blue-eyed three-year-old girl that matched Mary Agnes' description. Thompson maintained that the girl was abandoned by her mother, Florence Fuller, and begged to be allowed to keep her. The Moroney's did not identify the girl as Mary Agnes.
In 1952, a 24-year-old housewife called Mary McClelland (née Beck) came forward, claiming that, by looking at photos of Mary Agnes's siblings (six more were born after her kidnapping), she suspected she was Mary Agnes. She had been adopted within a year of Mary Agnes's disappearance by Charles and Nora Beck. Dr. Kraus, after studying and comparing her dental casts, named her as one of the family. Her skull and blood showed she was a Moroney and her mother claimed to recognize her. An aging physician named Dr. E. W. Merrithew, however, stated that he delivered McClelland to an unknown mother on November 17, 1927 and that her mother provided a baby picture of her daughter dating from 1928, which proved she had been adopted two years before the Moroney abduction. Further more, Mary Agnes underwent an operation for a ruptured navel, but McClelland did not have the scar Mary Agnes had at the time of her disappearance. Further DNA testing proved she was not Mary Agnes. She died in 2005. The Moroney kidnapping remains unsolved.