Details of Disappearance
Daniel was last seen playing near the banks of Perdido Bay, Alabama between 9:30 and 10:00 a.m. on June 18, 1959. He resided in the 1700 block of Thrush Drive in Mobile, Alabama at the time, and had gone camping at Perdido Bay with his parents, a cousin and three of his six siblings. His other siblings were staying with relatives. The campsite was about an hour's drive from the Barters' home.
Daniel apparently wandered away from the rest of his family while his parents were preparing some fishing equipment. He was carrying a bottle of Nehi soda at the time. His mother, Maxine Barter, began searching for him ten or fifteen minutes after she last saw him, but was unable to locate him. He has never been heard from again.
The area Daniel disappeared from is swampy and infested with alligators and snakes. Authorities investigated the theory that the child had been attacked by an animal. They even killed and gutted two alligators to look for human remains, but found no evidence of such an attack.
An extensive search of the region, on both land and water, turned up no sign of Daniel or his remains. Even his Nehi soft drink bottle was never found. Bloodhounds were used, but didn't uncover anything useful.
Maxine stated Daniel did not like the water and she did not believe he would have gone into the bay voluntarily. The bay was very shallow at the time and a person could walk a considerable distance without getting very wet. The undergrowth bordering the campsite was thick and prickly, and as Daniel was barefoot and wearing only a pair of shorts, his loved ones don't believe he would have gone into the bushes.
After the search turned up no evidence, investigators decided it was unlikely Daniel had wandered into the woods or water near the campsite. They looked into the possibility of abduction, but they were never able to find any clues supporting this theory. The Barter family was not wealthy and they never received any communication from the supposed kidnapper(s), so a ransom motive is unlikely.
A month before Daniel's disappearance, his mother saw a mysterious vehicle parked in front of their home in Mobile. Maxine approached the car and the driver, a man, immediately covered his face with a newspaper, then drove away. One evening not long afterward, a neighbor saw a strange man peering into the Barter boys' bedroom where the boys, including Daniel, were asleep.
The neighbor told Maxine and they went to the place where the man had been standing. He was gone, but there were footprints in the dirt under the window. The police made casts of the prints and took photographs, but it is unclear whether this evidence still exists.
On the morning before Daniel's disappearance, Maxine drove him and one of his brothers to the store and went inside, leaving the boys in the car. While she gone, an unknown man drove his car up next to the Barters' car and stared at the boys for awhile without speaking to them, then drove away. Daniel's brother told Maxine about it when she returned.
These incidents have led the Barters to suspect Daniel was kidnapped by someone who had been stalking the family for some time. His case was reopened in the 21st century, nearly fifty years after his disappearance. Many of the original investigative files have been lost or destroyed in the intervening decades.
Daniel's father died in 1965 and his mother in 1995. One of Daniel's brothers, who was born after his disappearance, died of cancer in 1997. The rest of his siblings are all alive and still hope his case may be resolved.