Left: Charles circa, 1979
Right: Age Progressed to age 40
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: April 9, 1979
Missing From: Santa Ana, Orange County, California
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: March 29, 1972
Age: 7 years old
Height and Weight: 3’0″ and 45 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Male, Brown hair, Blue eyes, Charles has a scar on his forehead and his nicknames include “Chris”, “Chrissy”, and “Christy”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A denim blue Levi’s jacket with United States Army patches on the arms and pockets, a multicolored t-shirt, and blue colored pants
NCMEC Number: 1148055
Details of Disappearance
Charles was last seen in Santa Ana, California on April 9th 1979. On the day of his disappearance, he accompanied his father, Dennis, to work. Dennis delivered water tanks to businesses and private homes in 1979. After he finished his work, Dennis left Charles at the corner of Chestnut Avenue and Lyon Street while he went to unload his truck at approximately 5:40 pm.
Dennis did not want his boss to find out that he had taken Charles to work that day as children were not permitted to ride in the trucks. He told Charles to walk to an address in the 300 block of south Lyon Street and wait for him to pick him up. Dennis left and came to the designated location approximately 10 minutes later. Charles was nowhere in sight. He was never seen or heard from again.
Dennis searched the neighborhood before calling the police to report his son missing. Investigators initially believed that Charles disappearance might have had something to do with his parents custody battle. Charles mother had legal custody of him in 1979 but he lived with Dennis for a large majority of his life. Dennis and Charles traveled to California from Colorado 3 weeks before so he could attend a custody hearing which was scheduled for April 26th.
Investigators looked into the possibility that Charles was being concealed by one of his parents but there’s no evidence of this. Neither of them have been completely cleared in the investigation. Authorities also believe Christopher might have fallen victim to a child predator while he was alone that day.
Child killer James Crummel is considered a primary suspect in Charles disappearance. He was described as a violent serial child molester who has a criminal record of child molestation which dates back to the 1960s. All of his known victims were roughly the same age as Charles. He’s also considered a suspect in the 1995 California disappearance of 9 year old Jack Phillips.
On April 19th 1979, 13 year old James Trotter was abducted by Crummel as he walked to school in Costa Mesa, California. He remained a missing person for 11 years until Crummel “discovered” his charred remains off Ortega Highway in 1990. Investigators originally assumed the remains belonged to a female decedent but the remains were identified as those of Trotter in 1996.
James’s abduction occurred just ten days after Charles went missing and Crummel was known to be in the area at the time. Crummel was convicted of killing Trotter in 2004 and was sentenced to death. After his arrest in the case, investigators asked him about the Jack Phillips disappearance and he stated he would openly confess to killing the boy if he could avoid the death sentence. The deal was denied.
Crummel is believed to have more victims and might be a serial killer. In February of 1967, Frank Clawson was abducted as he rode his bike in a trailer park in Drexel Heights, Arizona. His bike was found the same night he disappeared. In the morning, Franks strangled body was discovered by a police officer searching for him. He was strangled with his own belt.
Frank managed to break away from his kidnapper for 30 feet until being recaptured and killed. Crummel lived in the trailer park with his partner, Steve Shimer. 5 days after the murder, they left town. Shimer told authorities that Crummel confessed to killing Frank as they left the area. He said he did it because he heard the boys parents calling his name and he feared the boy would answer.
On August 29th 1967, Crummel picked up 14 year old Steve Scallon in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He was returning home from football practice at the time. He picked the boy up in his laundry delivery truck. He stopped to get ice cream and then asked Steve if he wanted to go on a delivery. Steven accepted the offer.
When they drove a few miles down the road, Crummel stopped the truck in front of a wooded area. He invited Steve to go for a walk and when they got into some trees, Crummel said he wanted to show Steve a rope trick and proceeded to tie his hands together. He told the boy to try and get out of it and that he wouldn’t hurt him. Crummel molested Steve and then took him back to the truck.
They drove a few more miles and stopped again. They both walked back into the woods where Crummel molested him again. Steve lost consciousness and Crummel beat him with a tree limb severely and tossed him into a ravine. Scallon survived the attack and crawled out of the ravine the next morning. He had a fractured skull.
Crummel was arrested two days after Steve’s abduction. He was convicted for that crime and was originally sentenced to serve thirty years in prison. He served five years of that sentence and was released in 1972. In 1983, Crummel was convicted of killing Frank Clawson and was sentenced to life in prison. However, in 1987, his conviction was overturned on the basis of ineffective counseling. He did plead guilty to kidnapping Clawson and was released later that year.
In June of 2012, Crummel took his own life by hanging himself with a electric cord. He was never charged with Charles disappearance but he remains a strong suspect. It should be noted that Charles and Jack Phillips are the only presumed victims of Crummel that remain missing.
Detectives are not fully convinced that Charles was abducted and killed. They believe he might still be alive and are urging him to come forward. Charles uncle believes that Charles is still alive and moved in with another family with the help of Dennis in 1979.
In 2015, investigators thought they might have found Charles alive and living in Colorado Springs, Colorado. This is the area Charles lived in before moving to California with his father. The man who was thought to be Charles also shared the same exact name as him. The man also resembled an age progressed image that was made of Christopher in 2012.
The man was asked if he was Christopher and he didn’t really know himself at the time. A DNA test proved the man was not Charles. Investigators remain hopeful that Christopher is still living. It’s possible he was abducted by someone he knew.
At the time of his disappearance, Charles was described as quiet and shy. His family has stated he wouldn’t talk to a stranger or get into a strangers vehicle willingly. Both his parents said he wouldn’t have wandered off and was independent for his age. He even walked home from school everyday while he lived in Colorado Springs. His disappearance remains unsolved and he’s missing under suspicious circumstances.
Images: James Trotter, circa 1979
Image: James Crummel, circa 2012
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Santa Ana Police Department 714-245-8600
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
California Department of Justice
The Los Angeles Times 04/11/1979