Details of Disappearance
Anthony was last seen on August 29, 1981. Shortly after he was born, his parents divorced and his paternal grandmother began caring him. Ten months prior to Anthony's disappearance, with her eyesight failing, his grandmother turned custody of the boy over to his aunt and uncle. Anthony lived with them on Cotton Drive in Mansfield, Texas.
Anthony's uncle, Terry Lee Woodson, said that in the early morning hours of August 29, he wanted to go out and get a drink, and didn't want to leave Anthony at home because Terry's wife, Della, was asleep. He put Anthony in the backseat of his car and drove to a 7-11 store in the 1000 block of east Broad Street at 3:30 a.m.
Anthony was asleep in the car when Terry went inside the store to buy a soft drink. After a few minutes, Terry returned to the car and drove home. He didn't realize Anthony had disappeared from the vehicle until after he'd arrived home. The police were called at 3:50 a.m.
Police interviewed Anthony's father, who was in prison by this time, and he had no idea where his son was. Terry's polygraph about his nephew's disappearance showed deception. Investigators were suspicious of Terry's story and thought Anthony may have never gone to the convenience store that night.
The Woodsons divorced after Anthony's disappearance, and Della has since died. The investigation was revived in 2017 and witnesses were re-interviewed. In August 2018, Terry was arrested and charged with his nephew's murder. A photo of him is posted with this case summary.
In an October 2017 interview with police, Terry told them Anthony had died after being beaten by Della, and that he had dumped the child's body along a dirt road off Highway 287, between Mansfield and Midlothian, Texas. Investigators drove around in the area with Terry, trying to find the dump site, but couldn't locate it.
In March 2018, Terry changed his story, stating Della had begun beating Anthony with an extension cord, then asked Terry to continue the beating. He beat Anthony until there were U-shaped marks from the extension cord on Anthony's back and blood was soaking through the child's shirt. He covered Anthony and left him on a bed, and when he checked on him later, Anthony had died.
Neighbors told police they'd seen Anthony's guardians beat him with a lamp cord and that they'd come to recognize the sound of the cord, and the screaming and crying from the beatings. Terry speculated that his nephew might have lived if he'd gotten him medical attention after the beating.
Since his arrest, Terry has retracted his confessions, stating that because of blood sugar problems caused by his diabetes, he would get confused and say things that weren't true and which he didn't remember later on. He denies having ever abused his nephew.
Terry is awaiting trial in the case. Police are still hoping to locate Anthony's body, but experts have stated it's likely his remains were scattered by animal scavengers and are unrecoverable. Foul play is suspected in his case due to the circumstances involved.