Details of Disappearance
Arlin was riding his white and yellow bicycle in his family's mobile home in Moscow Mills, Missouri, about fifty miles north of St. Louis, on July 25, 1991. He was last seen between 5:00 and 5:30 p.m. the day he vanished. Arlin has never been heard from again.
Joshua Spangler confessed to Arlin's murder in 2001, ten years after the child disappeared. Spangler was 13 years old at the time of the alleged killing, and he could not have served prison time for his role in the alleged crime because of his age.
Spangler was apparently involved in drug activity in 1991 and was associated with George N. Gibson and his older brother, Charles "Chuckie" Gibson; he says he sold drugs for them. Charles is currently imprisoned on federal drug and money laundering charges.
Both of the Gibson brothers were initially charged in connection with Arlin's case in the spring of 2001. Spangler told investigators that a member of Arlin's family owed money to Charles Gibson, and Spangler was paid $10,000 to kill Arlin as a warning.
Spangler stated that he was riding in a truck with George on July 25, 1991, the day Arlin vanished, and they abducted him and held him in a house in Davis, Missouri for a few days. He claimed he shot Arlin in the head with a nine-millimeter pistol in a creek bed near Davis on July 28, three days after the boy was abducted, and buried the body along the Mississippi River.
Investigators searched a site near Winfield, Missouri in the summer of 2001 for Arlin's remains. Nothing was located. Authorities withdrew charges against both of the Gibsons in October 2001 after learning that Spangler lied regarding their involvement in the crime. Citing numerous discrepancies in Spangler's account, they charged him with perjury in connection with his testimony about Arlin's supposed death.
Spangler plead guilty to perjury and was sentenced to seven years in prison. At the time of his plea, he was serving a four-year prison sentence for unrelated charges of burglary and evidence tampering. Authorities now believe Spangler and the Gibsons had nothing to do with Arlin's disappearance. They say he made up the story as a malicious joke to make the police look incompetent.
Authorities have not cast aside the theory that Arlin's disappearance may have been drug-related, but his mother denies allegations that she or any of her family members were involved with drugs.
Arlin's mother describes him as a fun-loving boy who enjoyed telling stories, swimming, diving and bike riding. His favorite school subjects in 1991 were social studies and science. He lived with his mother at the time of his disappearance; his father had died of emphysema in 1990.
Arlin's sister was murdered ten years after his disappearance, but the crime was not related to his case; his sister was killed by her estranged husband, who subsequently committed suicide. Arlin's mother still lives in the same trailer park where her son used to live, but in a different mobile home. Her husband's name is still listed in the phone book in case Arlin decides to call home.
In 2007, investigators began investigating Michael J. Devlin for possible involvement in Arlin's disappearance and in several other cases, including the 1988 disappearance of Scott Kleeschulte
and the 2005 disappearance of Bianca Piper
Shawn Hornbeck, a fifteen-year-old boy who disappeared at age eleven in 2002, and William "Ben" Ownby, a thirteen-year-old boy who was abducted in 2007, were both found alive in Devlin's house in January 2007. Ownby had been missing for five days and Hornbeck for over four years. Both boys had been held against their will by Devlin, who subsequently pleaded guilty to kidnapping and child molestation and was sentenced to life in prison.
Authorities initially suspected Devlin could be linked to other missing child cases, and formed a multi-jurisdictional task force to investigate this theory. In October 2007 the task force dissolved, as it could not find any evidence that Devlin was involved in any other children's disappearances.
Arlin's bicycle was found in a bean field three months after his disappearance and was taken by the police as evidence. Investigators hope to identify a set of fingerprints discovered on its frame. A photo of the bicycle is posted with this case summary.
Arlin's disappearance remains unsolved.