Catherine Barbara Davidson

Catherine, circa 1973; Anna Young, circa 2017

  • Missing Since 09/01/1973
  • Missing From Sawyer, Michigan
  • Classification Endangered Missing
  • Sex Female
  • Race Black
  • Date of Birth 12/13/1966 (52)
  • Age 6 years old
  • Height and Weight 3'10, 70 pounds
  • Clothing/Jewelry Description A white blouse, blue shorts and white sandals.
  • Distinguishing Characteristics African-American female. Black hair, brown eyes. Catherine's hair was braided into tight rows at the time of her disappearance. Her nickname is Cathy.

Details of Disappearance

Catherine is from Chicago, Illinois. She was reported missing on September 1, 1973, after her family traveled to Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Michigan for a picnic.

Her father, Robert, and stepmother, Anna, said that while they unpacked the car, Catherine and her five older siblings went to explore Paintervillle Drain, which empties into Lake Michigan. Fifteen minutes later, all the other children had returned to the vehicle except Catherine. An extensive search of the area turned up nothing but a pair of green underpants, and it wasn't established whether they were Catherine's or not.

The police noted that Catherine's parents seemed unusually callous about the situation. Three days into the search, Anna and Robert were seen sitting in a car with other couples, laughing and drinking alcohol. The police were suspicious, but there was no evidence to implicate that Davidsons at that time, and all their children backed up their story.

Anna and Robert had another daughter, Joy, after Catherine's disappearance. More than thirty years after the child went missing, Joy went to the police and said her older sister had told her Catherine had never gone to Warren Dunes State Park that day and was, in fact, already dead by then.

Joy stated she was told Anna bound and gagged Catherine and placed her in a closet in the family's home in Chicago. The other children heard scratching coming from the closet all night long, then the noises stopped. When Joy's sister looked in the closet she saw her sister lying in a fetal position, dead.

The Davidson parents turned to religion after Catherine went missing. They moved to Zebulon, Georgia and then to rural Florida, and in the mid-1980s they founded the House of Prayer for All People, a religious group that operated under a system of collectivism and Old Testament style beliefs, including adhering to a kosher diet and wearing full-length robes and head coverings.

At its largest, the group comprised 24 members. They would take new names upon joining. Robert changed his name to Jonah Young and Anna became Anna Young.

Anna, who was in charge, was cruel to the other members, particularly after her husband died in 1988. She forced members to turn over all their savings, separated parents from their children, and frequently starved, humiliated, beat and tortured the members, especially children, for their "sins." Each beating took 33 lashes with a whip, the same number Christ had received before the crucifixion.

At one point Anna ordered a cult member to abandon a two-year-old Marcos Cruz at a church in Puerto Rico because he was "full of the devil." The toddler's ultimate fate is unknown. In 1992, she bathed a twelve-year-old child in bleach, causing severe burns, then left her tied to a bed, which exacerbated her injuries. The victim had permanent scarring.

After the girl's parents found her and took her to a hospital, Anna was convicted of child abuse. Before she could be sentenced, she went on the run with Joy, who was still a child at the time. The cult dissolved in her absence. In 2000, Anna was located in Alton, Illinois and sent to jail, where she served six months for the child abuse charge. After her release she settled in Cobb County, Georgia and kept a low profile for fifteen years.

In 2017, Joy accused her mother of having killed Catherine and a toddler she knew as Moses Young, who had been a member of the House of Prayer for All People. She went to the police, who were able to identify the boy as Emon Harper. He was about two years old at the time.

Other former cult members supported Joy's story, stating that in 1988 or 1989, Anna had beaten and starved the boy over an extended time period until he was found dead inside her closet. His body has not been found; witnesses report that Anna put it in a large straw hamper and burned the hamper in a fire. She told other cult members that she had given the child away to be raised by monks.

Anna was charged with Emon's murder in December 2017. Investigators believe she may have killed other children as well. One man who was in the cult as a child said Anna forced other cult members to beat and torture his two-year-old sister, who subsequently died. At the time her death was classified as natural, but it is being re-investigated.

A photo of Anna is posted with this case summary. She had been arrested once before Catherine's disappearance, in Ohio in 1968, for child abuse against a five-year-old girl. Joy believes her mother suffers from untreated mental illness and this caused her violent behavior. She is now 77 years old and, if convicted of Emon's murder, could face life in prison.

No charges have been filed in Catherine's case; her body has never been found and her case remains unsolved.

Updated 4 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated February 2, 2019; details of disappearance updated.