Details of Disappearance
Taj resided with his mother, Annette Dean, and his stepfather, Clarence Dean, at an apartment in the 10 block of Naples Street in Leominster, Massachusetts in 1981. He disappeared from bed in the middle of the night, taking his slippers with him but no other clothes. He has never been heard from again.
Annette called her mother, Eunice Narbonne, at approximately 8:00 a.m. to report that Taj was not in the family's yard and could not be located. She stated his slippers were also missing. A search of the area produced no clues as to his whereabouts. Eunice says Taj was afraid of the dark at the time he vanished. The temperature that morning hovered around freezing.
Annette initially believed that her son left of his own accord to get away from his stepfather, but Taj was never located and at nine, it is unlikely that he had the capabilities to disappear without a trace. Eunice said that he called her the evening of his disappearance and asked her to come and get him, saying he was afraid. She told him to go to sleep.
Annette, who was nine months pregnant at the time, told authorities that Taj was terrified of Clarence and did not want to live with him, and he often lived apart from his family as a result. Taj's grandparents stated Clarence detested Taj, and suggested racial issues were to blame; Clarence is African-American.
Taj himself had told his teacher and his best friend that he was being abused at home. Annette was frightened of Clarence's temper and planned to leave him and take Taj and her other child, age one, with her. She delayed her departure, however, due to her pregnancy.
Annette stated that the day Taj came back home, Clarence arrived at 11:30 p.m. He and Annette had a beer together and went to bed at about midnight. She woke up at 1:30 a.m. and realized she was alone in the bed, and got up to look for Clarence.
She accidentally knocked over some bottles and then told Clarence he'd better go to Taj's room in case he was frightened by the noise. Annette then returned to bed. When she woke up in the morning, Taj was gone.
The clothes she'd laid out for him to wear were still there, and she found a note reading "I'm going away because I don't want to live here anymore. I don't have to listen to anybody anymore."
Police procedures involving missing children were much different in 1981 than they are today. It was about a week before Taj's disappearance was publicized. His family placed advertisements in several newspapers and hired a private investigator to assist with the search, but none of the leads went anywhere.
In 1982, Clarence was sentenced to six years in prison for kidnapping and stabbing his estranged wife. He and Annette divorced in 1983. She went into hiding with her children for a time after Clarence was released from prison.
Clarence suffers from mental illness and is now a resident in Bridgewater State Hospital. Annette has since remarried and moved to New York; she now goes by the name Annette Long.
Authorities searched a barn on Pleasant Street in Leominster in June 1989, over eight years after Taj disappeared. The barn was less than one mile from his family's residence. Investigators stated that they searched for his remains, but no evidence was located. Wal-Mart sponsored a billboard profiling Taj's case in October 1996, 15 years after he was last seen in Leominster.
Taj was a fourth-grade student at Fall Brook School at the time of his disappearance, and is described as an intelligent, well-mannered and soft-spoken child who was mature for his age. He saw the school guidance counselor on a regular basis to talk about his problems.
Taj never had any contact with his biological father, who died in 2009. His mother and grandparents are still alive and still live in Leominster. His case remains unsolved and continues to be classified as a non-family abduction.