Above: James circa, 1991
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: July 28, 1991
Missing From: Lancaster City, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: circa, 1987
Age: 4 years old
Height and Weight: 3’3″ and 60 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: African American Male, Brown hair, Brown eyes, James may use the nickname “Squirt”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A white muscle shirt with a black trim on the arms and neck, blue/yellow shorts, and white tube socks
NCMEC Number: 757142
Details of Disappearance
James was last seen in Lancaster City, Pennsylvania on July 28th 1991. His mothers live in boyfriend, Marcell Martin, said that he left James in the car while he went into Giant Food supermarket located in the 300 block of north Reservoir Street. He said that when he came out a few minutes later, the child was gone. James has never been seen again. His mother, Debra Johnson, and Martin both reported him missing at 8:30 am the same day.
Authorities initially believed that James had wandered away and got injured or that he was abducted and murdered. It was eventually discovered that Martin was lying about the events leading up to the child’s disappearance and the story of him disappearing from the car was false.
In October of 1991, Martin was charged with criminal homicide in James disappearance. Johnson would reveal at his trial that Martin absurd the child regularly and also abused her. He would make James stand in a corner for hours at a time and would whip and hit him with various objects.
At one point, he even gave James a soda which was spiked with hot sauce. Various witnesses which included neighbors also noticed that James was harshly punished by Martin. He was seen hitting James with a tree branch and kicking the child. He also even phoned the child’s preschool teacher and said she should hit him if he misbehaves.
Martin was Investigated for possible child abuse earlier in 1991. Social workers went to their house various times. Johnson and Martin both states there was absolutely no violence that occurred in the household and that both James and his baby sister were fed and healthy. Child welfare authorities closed the file on James and his sister about two months before James disappeared.
Martins attorney didn’t state that his client abused James but that he was not involved in the disappearance. Two witnesses stated that James was seen alive after his disappearance. Nevertheless, Martin was convicted of 3rd degree murder in May of 1992.
The jury found that Martin has unintentionally murdered the child while abusing him and that he created the abduction story to cover up his death. He served 20 years in prison before being released in 2012.
James has never been located and remains listed as missing. Many of his family members have moved away from the area he disappeared from.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Lancaster Police Department 717-735-3300