Ara Denise Johnson

Above: Ara circa, 1986


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

Missing Since: April 2, 1986

Missing From: Big Sandy, Upshur County, Texas

Classification: Non-Family Abduction

Date Of Birth: March 26, 1981

Age: 5 years old

Height and Weight: 3’0″ and 39 pounds

Distinguishing Characteristics: African American Female, Black hair, Brown eyes, Ara was missing two of her lower front teeth at the time of her disappearance and has a silver filling in her back right molar, Ara may use the nickname “Neecee” which is also spe

Clothing/Jewelry Description: Orange panties

NCMEC Number: 601780


Details of Disappearance

Ara Johnson was last seen in Big Sandy, Texas on April 2nd 1986. She was last known to be in her bedroom of her home located in the 300 block of Boulder Street between 1:00 am and 2:30 am.

She disappeared at some point during the overnight hours and has never been seen or heard from again. She was discovered missing at 6:30 am by her parents and they also found the back door to their home was standing open. There was no sign of a forced entry to the home and nothing was heard that night.

Authorities believe that Ara was very likely taken by someone whom knew her family and their habits. An orange bedspread that Ara was wrapped in was also missing with her. No one has ever been charged in her disappearance. Her parents and a man were given polygraph exams after her abduction.

In 2007, authorities announced that a man named, David Elliot Penton, was a possible suspect in Ara’s case. He is suspected in the murders of several other young girls. He’s also a suspect in the 1983 abduction of Amber Crum and the 1985 abduction of Angelica Gandara.

Penton was actually also responsible for the 1984 death of his own infant son and in 1987, he murdered a friends 9 year old niece in Ohio. He has been incarcerated in Ohio since 1987. Some of Penton’s cell mates stated that Penton claimed responsibility for the disappearances of Ara, Amber, and Angelica. This has not been proven.

Ara’s disappearance remains unsolved and foul play is suspected. She was the second child of her family to be lost. 9 months before her disappearance, her 6 year old brother drowned and died.


Investigating Agency

If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

Upshur County Sheriffs Office 903-843-2541


Source Information

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

The Charley Project

The Doe Network

NamUs