Details of Disappearance
Cody was reportedly last seen playing in a neighbor's backyard on Hosack Street in Columbus, Ohio at approximately 7:00 p.m. on March 11, 1997. He has never been heard from again.
Cody vanished the day before his mother, Robyn Yvonne Stepp, was released from prison. She served 17 months for two theft convictions. She has a history of drug use and prostitution. Robyn's sister, Mickey Stepp, had had physical custody of Cody since January 1994 and legal custody since December 1996.
Mickey told authorities that she believed Cody's maternal grandmother, Janice Stiles, was supervising him while she went to the store. Stiles claimed that she thought Cody accompanied Mickey on the errand, but in fact Cody went to play in a neighbor's backyard and disappeared.
Robyn attempted to have her son declared legally deceased in 1998, approximately 17 months after he was reported missing. She claimed that Mickey and Stiles withheld information regarding Aaron's disappearance. Several family members testified that they had not seen the child for several months prior to March 1997.
Mickey and Stiles denied allegations that they allowed Cody to be removed from their home in order to receive illegal monthly welfare benefits of $279. One of Stiles's children testified that she physically abused her children in the past.
Stiles's two-year-old daughter died in 1964. The cause of death was listed as bronchitis, but numerous burns were found on the child's body. Authorities closed the case without filing charges against anyone.
Investigators were unable to locate evidence suggesting Cody even resided with Mickey and Stiles after he was reported missing. Authorities said that there was no clothing, toys or photos connected to the child inside the home, and neighbors stated they had not seen Cody for about a year prior to his reported disappearance.
Robyn testified that she saw Cody for the final time on December 18, 1995. She claimed that her mother and sister refused to allow her to speak to her son when she called from prison. In February 1997, Mickey took a toddler to get vaccinated and told the nurse he was Cody, but the nurse later said the child wasn't Cody. The nurse identified another boy as the child who was used to impersonate Cody during the vaccination appointment.
Investigators testified that they suspected foul play was involved in Cody's case, but could not produce evidence to support the theory. The judge refused to declare the child legally deceased due to the inconclusive nature of his case.
There was an unconfirmed sighting of Cody in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania on July 12, 1997, four months after he disappeared. The witness reportedly saw a child fitting Cody's description between 3:00 and 6:00 p.m. at DeFluri's Restaurant on Benner Pike.
The child was accompanied by two unidentified adult females and two other children at the time. One of the women was described as a Caucasian female with medium-length dark hair. She was approximately 30 to 40 years old and 130 pounds.
The second female was described as being of Asian or Pacific Islander descent with very short dark hair. She was in her late teens or early twenties and wore dark-framed eyeglasses and full-length jeans or denim shorts. The people spotted in the restaurant have never been identified, including the children.
Mickey died of natural causes in 2004. She maintained her innocence in her nephew's case until the end.
Authorities are uncertain what happened to Cody, and have stated they do not necessarily believe he is deceased. His case remains unsolved.