Details of Disappearance Mary was last seen in Chicago, Illinois on May 15, 1930. She lived with her younger sister and her parents, Michael and Catherine Moroney, in the 5200 block of Wentworth Avenue. Catherine was pregnant and the family was destitute. Michael posted an advertisement in a social service column in the newspaper, seeking help for his family.
On May 14, a woman calling herself Julia Otis came to the family residence, said she was sent by a social worker named Mrs. Henderson, and offered to assist them. She spent some time with Mary's family and gave them groceries. She offered to take Mary to California with her for a few weeks, but Catherine refused.
Otis returned the next day with money and gifts for the family, including more food and some clothing for the baby Catherine was expecting. She offered to take Mary shopping for new clothing and shoes. Her parents permitted her to go. Otis left the residence with the child and walked down the street. Neither of them were ever seen again.
The following day, the Moroney family got a letter from Otis, saying she'd taken Mary to California and would take good care of her, and would return her to her family in two months. Two weeks later, a woman named Alice Henderson wrote to the Moroneys and claimed Otis was her cousin. She said Otis had taken Mary because she was "love hungry," her own husband and baby having died the year before.
Henderson didn't write the Moroneys again. Authorities stated the letters from her and Otis appeared to be in the same handwriting. Otis is described as being about 22 years old in 1930, well-dressed, with protruding teeth and a "cultured" voice. She never contacted Mary's family again and has never been identified.
Mary McClelland, a woman from California, claimed to be Mary Moroney in the 1950s. She had been adopted within a year of Moroney's kidnapping and bore a striking resemblance to Moroney's siblings. McClelland had a highly publicized "reunion" with Catherine and Michael in Chicago in 1952.
An anthropologist claimed to have proven by her teeth that she was a relative of the Moroney family, but McClelland didn't have the hernia scar Mary would probably have still had as an adult. McClelland's adoptive mother claimed she'd gotten her from her physician, who supported the story and said he'd delivered the baby himself on November 17, 1927, but neither of them produced any records to prove this.
Photographs of Catherine, Michael and McClelland are posted with this case summary. DNA testing later proved Mary McClelland was not Mary Moroney. She died in 2005.
Mary has five brothers and two sisters. Her family has never stopped looking for her.
- Chicago Police Department
Updated 3 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated August 2, 2011; details of disappearance updated.