James Richard Howell

Left: James circa, 1969

Right: Age Progressed to age 50

Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

Missing Since: May 28, 1969

Missing From: Sterling, Whiteside County, Illinois

Classification: Endangered Missing

Date Of Birth: October 28, 1959

Age: 9 years old

Height and Weight: 4’5″ and 79 pounds

Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Male, Brown hair, Brown eyes, James is hyperactive and was taking mild tranquilizers to ease his condition, his nickname is “Jimmy”

Clothing/Jewelry Description: A white t-shirt, a pair of blue jeans, and white sneakers

NCMEC Number: 872770

Details of Disappearance

James was last seen in Sterling, Illinois on May 28th 1969. During that day, he found an injured pigeon bird and took it to his home. He then went to a neighbors home to ask for wood in order to build a cage for the injured bird. The neighbor was reluctant at first but obliged and gave Hames wooden boards to use for the cage.

James sought the help of his sister, Debra. She agreed to help him build the cage but had to go inside the house to get a hammer and nails to build. She said she couldn’t have been in the house for more than a minute. When she came back out, James was gone. The wood boards he gathered were now scattered in the middle of the road in front of their home.

There have been conflicting reports regarding what happened on the day of his disappearance. Some agencies state that James mother and stepfather were both at home when James went missing and others say they weren’t. They both searched for their son all day until a neighbor called the police to report James missing at 10:35 pm.

He was allegedly sighted several times after his disappearance. One sighting was reported by his stepfather, Cornell Hutch. He claimed he saw James with a neighborhood boy at some after his disappearance. Another sighting placed James running from an unknown man away from a field near his home.

A neighbor also said she saw James carrying a gray pigeon under his arm as he walked across a field near his home. None of the sightings have been confirmed and James is missing under unknown circumstances. Extensive searches of land and water turned up no sign of him. Over 400 people joined the search.

James was considered a possible runaway when he initially disappeared. He had a somewhat chaotic life prior to his disappearance. He and his siblings which included Debra were sent to an orphanage following the divorce of their biological father and their mother in the early 1960s. Two of the children were later sent to live with an aunt while James and a brother were put in foster care.

All of the children were returned to their mothers care in 1968. His mother stated she doesn’t believe he ran off. He liked animals but was afraid of bugs at the time of his disappearance. He also didn’t like the dark. He was a third grade student at the time of his disappearance. His disappearance remains unsolved.

Investigating Agency

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

Whiteside County Sheriffs Office 815-772-4044

Source Information

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

The Charley Project

The Doe Network


James “Jimmy” Howell Still Missing

Porchlight International for the Missing & Unidentified