Russell and Wallace

Date Published 02.02.11
"It was the beginning of a nightmare that has no end."

Those are the words of Ruth Mort.  She was talking to a state task force on missing children about the moment her son, Russell, vanished.  Russell was playing in his sandbox in his family's fenced-in backyard.  Ruth darted inside for a few minutes.  When she came back out, the sandbox was empty.  The fence was still closed and locked from the outside, but Russell was gone.  He was 2 1/2 years old.

That was on May 5, 1982, in Wheatfield, New York, a small town next to Niagara Falls.  The important details about Russell went out immediately to the public --- his upper left tooth was chipped; he had a tiny cleft chin.  But no sightings or trail ever materialized, just a series of age-progression photographs and a heartbroken mother telling a task force about how her husband, still withdrawn years later, refuses to speak about Russell to anyone but her.

Russell Mort

I came across Russell Mort's story after hearing the recent news about Carlina White, who was abducted as an infant and, after years of doubts about her caregiver, finally reunited with her biological parents, 24 years after she was smuggled out of Harlem Hospital by a disturbed woman posing as a nurse.

Carlina's story got me thinking about other abduction cases where the motive doesn't appear to be custodial (most common), or sexual (most violent).  Are there other people out there with doubts about their family history, scanning missing children sites, as Carlina did, wondering if they'll come across their baby picture?

Stranger abductions where the intent is to rear the child oneself, or sell the child on the black market, most often involve infants or toddlers; women are almost always the perpetrators, either alone or with a male accomplice.

Which leads me back to Russell Mort.  Some officials believed that Russell wasn't abducted at all.  They said he likely fell into the nearby Niagara River, and was swept away.

But the backyard gate was closed; it was locked from the outside.

And what about the mysterious couple?

A young man and woman in a 1965 or older white Corvette with a black convertible top were seen near the Mort family's home around the time Russell vanished.  The woman was in her mid-20's, with curly brown hair.  The man was a few years older and had light brown hair and a mustache.

Russell Mort suspects

No one saw them take Russell.  Still, they've never been identified and, like Russell, were never seen again.

Nine months later, on January 10, 1983, in Tacoma, Washington, Wallace Guidroz approached the duck pond at Point Defiance Park.  It was cold, and getting dark, but Wallace had spotted a little girl about his age and wanted to play.  His father, Stanley Guidroz, didn't recognize the girl or her parents, but they didn't raise any alarm in him.

"I could see the kids playing," he later said.  He felt safe.  He left Wallace with the little girl and the woman he took to be her mother, and began to walk around the pond with the man.  They shared a beer and made small talk.

When Stanley returned, Wallace, the girl and the woman were gone.  Stanley and the man agreed to split up to search for them.  The man took off.  Stanley never saw him again.

Stanley spoke to the media in the hours after Wallace disappeared.

Wallace Guidroz

"He's afraid of the dark," he said.

Despite a massive search effort, involving helicopters, bloodhounds, and draining the duck pond, no sign of Wallace was ever found.

A woman later came forward and said a couple matching the description Guidroz gave police twice tried to grab her children in the park earlier that afternoon.

Like Russell Mort, Wallace Guidroz was 2 1/2 years old.  Like Russell, a mysterious couple was implicated in his disappearance.

A somewhat interesting similarity that gets far more interesting once you see the sketches of the Wallace Guidroz suspects.

Wallace Guidroz suspects

Side by side comparison.

Niagara Falls and Tacoma are across the country from each other, but they're both quite close to the Canadian border.  Was this a couple from Canada crossing into the United States to abduct young children?  To raise as their own?  To sell in black market adoptions?

Are Russell Mort and Wallace Guidroz alive somewhere, feeling vaguely unsettled?

I couldn't find an age progression for Wallace, but this is what Russell Mort might look like:

As far as I know, a connection between these two cases has never been made. 

Tacoma Police Dept 253-591-5940
Niagara County Sheriff's Dept. 716-439-9393

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RT @emilynussbaum: The artful @hodgman's straightforward case for Hillary:
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@johnlevenstein Can't convey it all thru Twitter but yes, she has flaws. Too poll-driven, burned needed bridges, trouble owning mistakes.