Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

John Joubert, Nebraska Boy Snatcher


The investigators documented the scene, looked for evidence in the surrounding area, and searched for Danny's clothing.  That this child had come to such a terrible end depressed them and they were determined to find the perpetrator.

Because the murder involved a child, and because President Reagan had recently put murders and the kidnapping of children under federal jurisdiction, the local police called the FBI office in nearby Omaha.  They responded by sending Special Agent John Evans to the scene.  He also referred the case to the FBI's newly formed Behavioral Sciences Unit.  The unit had known some success with assisting local jurisdictions with multiple murders, including providing some ideas that helped to close the case on the Atlanta child murders in 1980.  But they were largely an unknown to police departments, and behavioral science was itself suspicious to hardened cops.

Photo: Robert Ressler
Robert Ressler

Special Agent Robert Ressler traveled to Nebraska to talk with the authorities there, and he describes his experience in his book (and to this author).  He'd been on his way to a homicide seminar when he got the call and went immediately to Omaha.  From the few details he heard about a missing newsboy, he was reminded of another case — a missing newsboy in Des Moines from the year before, who had never been found.  He wondered if there was a connection.

Photo: Offutt Air Force Base, aerial
Offutt Air Force Base, aerial

It's always important to understand the town demographics when such incidents occur.   Bellevue was a Midwestern small town, largely reliant on employment from the nearby Offutt Air Force Base, where the Strategic Air Command was situated.   Danny Joe's father had once been in the Air Force.  It was a tight-knit community where people normally felt safe.  

What Ressler particularly liked about being involved in the investigation from the start was getting to see things firsthand. That way, he could decide which items were important and which items might just complicate the process.  When he arrived in Omaha, he went to see the site where Danny Joe's body had been found.  He was looking for specific clues.


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