Aug. 23 of this year marked the 100th anniversary of the alleged kidnapping of a boy by the name of Bobby Dunbar, a story that has fascinated America for years, including airing as an episode on National Public Radio’s “This American Life.”
The Dunbar family was enjoying an afternoon at their camp on Swayze Lake near Opelousas when four-year-old Bobby vanished. After extensive searches of the area, the parents became convinced the boy had been kidnapped.
The case soon gained nationwide attention, with newspapers following the case for months. Eight months later a boy believed to be Bobby was found in southern Mississippi, the companion of a wandering tinker named W.C. Walters. The parents, broken by the disappearance of their son, traveled to Mississippi and claimed the boy as their own, despite physical discrepancies and the boy’s reaction. Walters insisted the boy belonged to a woman named Julia Anderson of North Carolina, but the Dunbars took him back to Louisiana and Walters was incarcerated.
When Anderson arrived in Opelousas to view the boy, she insisted Bobby Dunbar was Bruce Anderson.
And so became the nationwide mystery as two mothers insisted the boy was their own. Even after the case was settled and Walters sentenced, Bobby Dunbar could never fully believe he was who his parents claimed he was.
This fascinating case is told in a new book, “A Case for Solomon,” by Tal McThenia and Bobby's granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutright. Cutright had heard the tales of her grandfather’s notoriety and inherited the newspaper clippings of the case. She decided to discover the truth for herself, to learn if her grandfather had become someone else due to a mother’s pain and grief. Cutright met descendants of the Anderson and Walter families and convinced her father to conduct a DNA test, which proved, after all these years, that they weren’t Dunbars after all.
“A Case for Solomon” is a lengthy examination of the case, with detailed information from all involved. It’s obvious the authors conducted painstaking research from the media, local archives, library collections and personal histories. It’s a fascinating read of a case that not only captivated a nation but haunted a young child who grew into adulthood doubting his identity.
Cutright and McThenia will sign copies of “A Case for Soloman” at 7 p.m. Monday, Sept. 10 at the Lafayette Barnes and Noble and 6 p.m. Tuesday, Sept 11, at the Baton Rouge Barnes and Noble.