Details of Disappearance
Maurice had been under the supervision of Maryland's Department of Social Services or DSS since February 1987, when he was three months old. He was placed in foster care after being hospitalized multiple times with broken bones. His mother was seen throwing him roughly into a crib while he was hospitalized, even though he was wearing a body cast.
Although no child abuse charges were filed and Maurice was released to his mother's care in July after she attended parenting classes and met other requirements, authorities determined the baby was not being properly cared for and assigned a social worker, Phillip Maguire, to visit him once a month.
The last confirmed sighting of Maurice was on September 8, 1987, when a social services aide visited him and his mother at their home on North Washington Street and reported he was in good health.
Maurice's mother, Jacqueline Louise Bouknight, repeatedly canceled subsequent visits to the home, and on the rare times she was at home when Maguire and the service aide visited, they were unable to see Maurice and were told the baby was in the care of a relative or friend.
Maguire made no efforts at all to find Maurice between December 7, 1987 and March 22, 1988, after which point Maurice's paternal grandmother reached out to him and told him Maurice's father had been murdered in a drug-related shooting and Bouknight was "walking around in a daze." Maguire then resumed his efforts to locate Maurice. But it wasn't until April 12, 1988, more than seven months after he last saw the child, that Maguire reported Maurice's disappearance to the police.
Bouknight was ordered to produce the child in Circuit Court on April 20. She failed to appear and a citation was issued for her. She was arrested in her foster father's home on April 27. Maurice wasn't with her. A photo of Bouknight is posted with this case summary.
Bouknight's foster father said he hadn't seen the baby since he asked Bouknight to move out of his home in the autumn of 1987. He stated that Bouknight did leave at that time with Maurice, and around Christmastime she came back alone and asked to be allowed to move back in, saying she had given Maurice to the care of someone else.
The foster father stated Bouknight continued to buy baby things, but never brought Maurice to the residence. She also stole a check from a home she had been hired to clean and used it to pay part of Maurice's life insurance premium, something she was later charged for. Bouknight's foster father said he believed she loved the baby and, although she did not know how to take care of her son, he didn't think she would have killed him.
Bouknight provided conflicting stories about her son's whereabouts, at one point claiming he was with relatives in South Carolina, and at other times claiming he was in Texas or in New Jersey. Authorities determined Maurice was not in the care of any of his relatives and that some of them had been looking for him too.
Maurice's mother was 21 years old at the time of her arrest and is described as a deeply troubled woman with an intellectual disability who grew up in foster care from the age of five and had been in and out of psychiatric hospitals. A psychological evaluation of her was performed, and the evaluator felt she was not capable of providing adequate care for Maurice. However, the Juvenile Master who returned custody of Maurice to Bouknight never saw that report.
She was jailed for contempt for her refusal to disclose Maurice's whereabouts, and invoked her Fifth Amendment rights against self-incrimination. This resulted in a legal battle that went up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in 1990 ruled that Bouknight could not use the Fifth Amendment to avoid answering questions about her son.
In spite of the court's ruling, she still refused to speak, and so remained in jail on civil contempt charges for seven years. She was finally released from jail in November 1995, and stated Maurice was alive and she planned to find him herself.
Maurice has never been located. Foul play is suspected in his disappearance.