Details of Disappearance David was taken from his family's residence on 13th Street in Newport News, Virginia under false pretenses on December 11, 1980. His abductor called herself Marie Kelly and told David's mother, Vanessa Blockett, that the state Department of Social Services (DSS) was sponsoring a function for children at Riverside Regional Medical Center. The woman convinced Vanessa to let her take David and his two-year-old brother, Frederick, to the party.
Later that afternoon, Frederick was found wandering alone at a shopping center near Old Mallory Road in Hampton, Virginia. He had a piece of paper in his pocket with his name and address on it, and the police returned him to his mother. There was no indication of David's whereabouts, however, and he has never been seen again.
That same day, however, a woman believed to be the abductor called David's mother at home and asked her what sort of formula the baby was taking. The person hung up before police could trace the call. Several days after David's abduction, authorities found a diaper bag and a leather folder near a parkway in Yorktown, Virginia. They believe the items belonged to the abductor.
The abductor is described as African-American and 32 to 35 years old, with a medium complexion and large hips. She was approximately 5'4 to 5'8 tall and 145 to 155 pounds. A sketch of her is posted with this case summary. She has never been identified.
The DSS didn't employ a social worker matching Kelly's name or description, and there was no Christmas party for children at the Riverside Regional Medical Center. Authorities believe whoever took David may have gotten his name and address from the local newspaper, which provided a listing of recent births three days before he was taken. Around the same time as David was kidnapped, a person posing as social worker approached another family with a newborn. The mother of that baby told the person to go away.
In a stunning coincidence, two of David's nephews were abducted in June 2011, over thirty years after his own kidnapping. The boys were the sons of his younger brother, Dante, and were five and six years old at the time. Their mother, Yovanda Denise Bennafield, had taken them to work with her when a stranger, Sommer Pannell, asked for a ride to North Carolina. Bennafield agreed and told Pannell to take her car and take the children to the park and watch them until she finished her shift. Instead, Pannell and the children disappeared.
All three were found unharmed in Halifax, North Carolina hours later and Pannell was charged with abduction. She has a long history of mental illness, and in January 2012, she was found not guilty of the kidnapping by reason of insanity.
Vanessa died of an aneurism in 1997, at the age of 35. Frederick now lives in North Carolina. As an adult he could vaguely recall the abduction and stated that there was a man driving the car, and neither the driver nor Marie Kelly would look at the children. He remembers the couple dropping him off in Hampton.
Investigators still have the diaper bag, which contained David's booties, his blanket, a sweater and a pair of jeans. There was also a comb with some hair stuck to it. They hope to be able to test the items for DNA.
David's case remains unsolved.
- Newport News Police Department
Updated 9 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated March 1, 2020; age-progression updated.