The Unexplained 1930 Disappearance Of Mary Agnes Moroney

On May 14, 1930 a woman who called herself Julia Otis went to the Chicago, Illinois, home of Michael and Catherine Moroney, claiming she was sent by a social worker named Mrs. Henderson. As reported by The Charley Project, Otis said Henderson contacted her after reading a plea for help in a local newspaper.

The Moroneys already had two young daughters, and Catherine was pregnant once again. As the family was struggling financially, Michael placed an advertisement in the newspaper asking for assistance. The request was not unusual, as the country was entering the Great Depression, and newspapers had specific advertisement sections for individuals and families requesting help.

In many cases, social workers and volunteers would offer assistance to the needy families who placed the ads. Therefore, The Charley Project reports, the Moroneys were not suspicious when Otis came to their door, offering to help. It proved to be a tragic mistake.

Julia Otis promised to return Mary Agnes Moroney in a few weeks

In addition to bringing the Moroneys groceries, The Charley Project reports, the woman calling herself Julia Otis offered to take their 2-year-old daughter, Mary Agnes, on a trip to California. However, Catherine was apprehensive about letting her daughter travel so far with a stranger and refused the offer. Otis then left, telling the family she would return the following day with clothing for the children, supplies for the baby they were expecting, and more food.

As promised, Otis returned to Moroneys home the following day. In addition to bringing the clothing and groceries, she once again offered to take Mary Agnes on a trip to California. According to The Charley Project, Otis promised to buy the little girl new clothes and shoes on the trip, and to return her to her parents within a few weeks. As she seemed sincere, and they desperately needed the help, the Moroneys agreed.

Mary Agnes Moroney's parents received two disturbing letters

Otis left the Moroney home with Mary Agnes on May 15, 1930. The following day, The Charley Project reports, the Moroneys received a letter from the woman calling herself Julia Otis, confirming she was taking their daughter to California. However, instead of the few weeks her parents had agreed to, Otis said she would be keeping Mary Agnes for a few months. In the letter, Otis also promised to take good care of the little girl.

Two weeks after Mary Agnes left with Otis, the Moroneys received another letter, which left them stunned and in fear for their daughter's safety. The letter was signed by a woman calling herself Alice Henderson. As reported by The Charley Project, Henderson warned the Moroneys that Julia Otis, who she claimed was her cousin, had no intention of returning their daughter. According to Henderson, Otis' infant child and husband had both died the previous year and she took Mary Agnes because she was desperate for love.

The Moroneys never heard from Julia Otis or Alice Henderson ever again

Michael and Catherine Moroney never heard from Julia Otis or Alice Henderson ever again, and Mary Agnes Moroney has never been found. Authorities conducted an extensive search for Mary Agnes and the two women. However, they were never able to locate anyone with the names Julia Otis or Alice Henderson who could have been involved in the kidnapping. As reported by The Charley Project, authorities also determined the two letters the Moroneys received were most likely written by the same person.

The Moroneys went on to have five sons and another daughter. Twenty-two years after Mary Agnes vanished, a reporter noted the strong resemblance between all of the siblings and decided to publish an article with the siblings' photos, in hopes of finding a woman in her early- to mid-20s who looked like them and may have been adopted.

Time reports the article was seen by a man who noted the Moroney siblings bore a striking resemblance to his wife, Mary Beck McClelland. In addition to being the right age, McClelland was adopted the same year Mary Agnes went missing.

Some evidence suggested Mary Beck McClelland was Mary Agnes Moroney

Time reports that although DNA testing was not available at the time, authorities collected a sample of Mary Beck McClelland's blood, an impression of her teeth, and her fingerprints. Anthropologists also compared McClelland's physical characteristics with photos of the missing girl.

According to Time, the anthropologists concluded there were distinct similarities between the dental impressions provided by McClelland and Mary Agnes Moroney's family. They also found similarities in the physical characteristics between McClelland and the photos of Mary Agnes.

A fingerprint expert compared McClelland's fingerprints with those of the Moroney family, and concluded McClelland could have been related. Doctors came to the same conclusion about the blood samples. However, none of the tests conclusively proved McClelland was the missing girl. Although the results were inconclusive, The Charley Project reports, McClelland traveled from California to Chicago to meet the Moroney family in 1952.

Mary Agnes Moroney has yet to be found and her kidnapper has never been identified

As reported by Nicole Henley on Medium, Mary Beck McClelland and the Moroneys were never certain that they were related, as DNA testing was not performed until years after they had died. Eventually, however, DNA testing would conclusively prove McClelland was not Mary Agnes Moroney. Nevertheless, they considered themselves to be family.

Michael Moroney died in 1957 at the age of 55 and his wife, Catherine, died in 1962 at the age of 49. Mary Beck McClelland died in 2005 at the age of 77. Mary Agnes' kidnapper was never identified and no signs of the missing child were ever found.

At the time of her disappearance, Mary Agnes had blonde hair. Nicole Henley reports she also had blue eyes and was left-handed. She had at least two distinguishing marks, which included a strawberry birthmark on her face and a scar from an operation to correct a ruptured navel when she was an infant. If she is still alive, Mary Agnes would have turned 94 in 2022.