Left and Center: Anthony circa, 1981
Right: Age Progressed to age 34
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: August 29, 1981
Missing From: Mansfield, Tarrant County, Texas
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: August 20, 1976
Age: 5 years old
Height and Weight: 3’0″ and 50 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: African American Male, Black hair, Brown eyes, Anthony might use the nickname “Burt”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: An adult sized short-sleeved shirt with a burn hole on the left side and on the back from welding and a pair of underwear
NCMEC Number: 735170
Details of Disappearance
Anthony was last seen in Mansfield, Texas on August 29th 1981. He was living with his uncle, Terry Woodson and his aunt, Della Woodson at their home on Cotton Drive. He had been living with them for approximately eight to ten months before his disappearance. Shortly after Anthony was born he started living with his paternal grandmother, Mae Woodson, in Grand Prairie, Texas. She gained legal custody of him in March of 1980 shortly after his parents divorced.
However, Mae’s eyesight began to fail and it became more difficult for her to raise and care for Anthony so she resigned custody to Terry and Della. Mae said she last spoke to Anthony over the phone the night before he was reported missing. He said “Momma, Uncle Terry said I could stay up tonight but starting Monday I can’t stay up. I have to start School!” He was scheduled to start Kindergarten in the days following his disappearance.
According to Terry, Anthony went missing after a late night trip to a 7-Eleven Convenience Store located at 1016 east Broad Street near downtown Mansfield at approximately 3:30 am on August 29th 1981. He claimed that Anthony climbed into the backseat of his truck with him and he drove to the store to purchase soft drinks and possibly something to eat. He said he saw the child sleeping in the backseat and left him in the car for a few minutes.
Terry said he got back into the vehicle after making his purchase and began driving back home. While driving back home, he realized that Anthony was no longer in the backseat of the truck and had disappeared without a trace. Some reports indicate that Della, who stayed behind at home to sleep on the couch, woke up to find her husband and nephew missing. Out of worry, she drove around downtown Mansfield looking for them and she managed to find Terry turning the corner to come home.
Della said she was slightly upset with him leaving her at home and he told her that he went to the store. When she asked where Anthony was, Terry replied that he was in the backseat and that’s when they realized he was gone. They both drove back to the convenience store to see if they could find the child but couldn’t. Terry contacted the police and filed a missing persons report at 3:50 am. An extensive search would take place for Anthony afterwards.￼
In the days following Anthony’s disappearance, Mansfield Police officers, a Dallas Police helicopter unit, and multiple area volunteers searched for him. In total, there were approximately 35 volunteers who helped in the search. The search continued for two days after Anthony went missing and was called off when nothing could be found to indicate where he was or what happened to him.
Police did brief the FBI on the case as there was much consideration that Anthony’s case was a kidnapping. Most missing children agencies continue to classify Anthony’s case as a non-family abduction. A clerk at the 7-Eleven store said they witnessed another vehicle pull up right alongside Terry’s truck while he was inside but when Terry went back out, he said there were no other vehicles by his truck at the time. However, it was also believed that the child could’ve simply crawled out of the vehicle and wandered off.
Investigators administered polygraph exams to Terry and Della. According to earlier reports, he passed the exam and was not considered a suspect in Anthony’s disappearance. The results of Della’s test have never been released to the public. They also interviewed his mother, Deborah Faye Lewis Woodson, who lived in Nacogdoches, Texas when her son disappeared. She too was given a polygraph exam and passed as well. Other relatives were interviewed and were cleared as well.
Anthony’s father, Johnny Woodson, was in prison for charges of forgery at the time and was immediately ruled out as a suspect as well. A year after his son disappeared, he told the media that he believed Deborah had taken their son and that he was living with her somewhere in East Texas. There were reported sightings of Anthony after his disappearance but none were confirmed as being him. Deborah also maintained she knew nothing about her son’s whereabouts.
The investigation into Anthony’s disappearance eventually grew cold and no suspects ever really developed in the case. In May of 2017, the investigation into Anthony’s disappearance was reopened by police. They stated they always had their doubts about the supposed abduction story from the convenience store and later revealed that Terry’s polygraph exam showed signs of deception in it. This indicated he might’ve known more about Anthony’s fate than he let on.
Terry was interviewed in October of 2017 and ultimately changed his story about Anthony going missing. He admitted the story was indeed a lie and that Anthony had died before he was reported as missing. Terry stated that Anthony died as a result of child abuse by Della. She died prior to the confession and was unable to be charged with anything in relation to her nephew’s disappearance or presumed death.
Woodson stated that Anthony died at least a day before he was reported missing. He told police that Anthony was killed after being beaten as “discipline” by both him and his wife. Terry claimed that Della began beating him with an extension cord from a lamp in the living room after she said the boy needed to be under control. Terry said that Anthony did not fight back during the attack and that they covered him with a blanket in his room afterwards.
When he was checked on later, Terry and Della realized that Anthony was dead and they had caused it. Terry told investigators that he drove the child’s body to an area between Mansfield and Midlothian off Highway 287 and left his body in a heavy brush off Lakeview Road. In March of 2018, He also admitted to beating the boy until u-shaped marks showed up on his body and blood began seeping through his shirt.
In addition to that, Terry also confessed he drove to the 7-Eleven store to have an alibi for Anthony’s disappearance. On August 16th 2018, Terry was charged with Anthony’s murder. He was booked into the Tarrant County Corrections Center on a $200,000 bond. Following his arrest, Terry’s sister was stunned and defended her brother by saying he would never have harmed Anthony in the way that’s been described.
His sister took him into her care after their mothers death in 2016 due him having severe diabetes and said it was because he was sick and had no where else to go. She also did it to honor her mothers request of doing it since she was dying. Up until his arrest, Terry lived with his sister in Fort Worth, Texas. She also stated that she doesn’t believe Anthony was dead but alive. She pointed out that relatives long suspected another relative abducted him.
She also claimed he had confessed after being unfairly hounded by law enforcement and was low on blood sugar. She stated he admitted to causing Anthony’s death because he was done with the treatment he was receiving from police. However, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as well as law enforcement have conducted searches for Anthony in the years since his disappearance and no proof has surfaced to suggest he’s alive.
Investigators have heard from witnesses who saw both Terry and Della physically abusing Anthony prior to his 1981 disappearance.A childhood friend who lived by the Woodson home in Mansfield remembers how Terry would constantly beat Anthony with a lamp or extension cord. Another childhood friend also came forward and stated he last heard his friend being beaten on the night of August 27th 1981.
The man said he could hear the extension cord hitting Anthony and also heard his screams and cry’s. By the next morning, Anthony was gone. He claimed he asked Della about his friend was told that Anthony had been in trouble and they would not be seeing him. This is one of the last times Anthony was seen alive by anyone. Della and Terry had divorced not too long after their nephew’s murder. Terry is currently awaiting trial for the death of Anthony. He has since recanted his confession and claimed he tends to say weird things while being low on blood sugar and that he did not abuse his nephew either.
At the time of his disappearance, Anthony was described as being a sweet child who liked staying with his aunt and uncle until the allegations of child abuse came out. He had a puppy he named “Rex” and was said to love helping to water the hogs and feed the chickens. He would usually help Terry tend to all the animals after he got home from work. He previously won awards in Sunday School.
Anthony’s body has not been recovered. Foul play is strongly suspected in his case.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Mansfield Police Department 817-473-0211