The Day Kurt Newton Disappeared
“From the beginning we never discounted the possibility that Kurt was abducted,” said State Police Lieutenant G. Paul Falconer, who headed the initial investigation, adding, “but there are no facts to indicate he’s not in the woods.” A team of investigators interviewed everyone known to have been at the campground, using polygraphs when in doubt. One camper reported that she had seen a white station wagon roar out of the campground leaving a cloud of dust in its wake shortly after the time Kurt disappeared. But no such car was registered at the campground, and nobody else reported seeing it. Upon further questioning the camper hedged: perhaps she’d been mistaken.
Experienced trackers reported they could find no evidence of recent vehicle traffic on the logging road beyond where Ron Newton had been cutting wood, the only road available for a “back-door” abduction. “With so many children available in the cities, why would a kidnapper come to one of the most remote campgrounds in the state, hoping to find a child riding a tricycle alone down a deserted road?’ asked State Police Detective Richard Cook, who assumed charge of the investigation, and who heads it today.
There was a grim report that a captive bear, often teased by local children, might have been released a few miles from the campground shortly before Kurt disappeared. A bear could have carried Kurt swiftly outside the area, experts conceded, but it was highly improbable that there would be a complete absence of signs.
The police sent teletype descriptions of Kurt throughout the United States and Canada. Soon Kurt Newton stared hauntingly from post-office walls in hundreds of cities. A call came from a man in Connecticut. He had returned from camping in the Canadian Rockies. There he had noticed a small blond-haired boy staring at him with a quizzical expression. He said he was struck by how nervous the boy and the man with him seemed with each other. He saw the same boy, he said fervently, on a Kurt Newton “Missing” poster. That same week a call came from Vermont. Two waitresses were sure they had seen Kurt in their restaurant. Detective Cook drove to Vermont and found that boy. It wasn’t Kurt.
There was an electrifying day four months after Kurt was lost. A call came from New Orleans that a small blond-haired boy of perhaps three or four had been found wandering in the French Quarter. He was very shy. He responded only to names with a k sound, like Kenny or Kurt. The Newtons raced to Boston to view a videotape of the child. But even as they watched it, certain he wasn’t their Kurt, the boy was identified as the abandoned son of an itinerant Missouri woman who was hitchhiking out west, and his name was Clifford.
Jill would wake up and admonish herself, “You’re being ridiculous. You’ve got to make up your mind. Either he’s in the woods or he’s with someone.” She went to Laconia, New Hampshire, for an interview with famed psychic Jeane Dixon. Dixon told Jill she knew about Kurt’s disappearance and had been meditating on it.
Jill said, “I told her the police felt very strongly he was in the woods. I was trying very hard for her not to tell me what I wanted to hear. She said, ‘No, I feel your son is alive.’ I said it was unbelievable to me that in ten minutes on a deserted road anyone would have had the time or the inclination to take him. She asked me if I had other children. I said, ‘Yes, a six-year-old daughter.’ She paused, then said, ‘No, I’m picking up your son’s vibrations. But he’s going to have to be missing you a great deal for me to pick up a direction. And it’s very easy to appease a four year old.’ ”
It became Jill’s singular determination to “get Kurt’s picture to everyone in the United States and Canada.” At first the Newtons went “door-to-door, like traveling salesmen,” driving to Quebec City and stopping at every gas station and store to pass out posters. That experience exhausted them, and they returned convinced they must mount an unprecedented mailing campaign of mind-boggling proportions.
With help from friends in the printing trades, their basement soon overflowed with more than seventy-five thousand posters stacked into every conceivable space. They sent for telephone books from major metropolitan areas in the United States and Canada. Every night friends gathered, twenty and thirty strong, in the firehouse to confront a mountain of Yellow Pages. Ron bought stamped envelopes by the thousands. “Our home resembled a paper factory,” Jill said. Pictures of Kurt left the tiny Manchester post office for department stores and restaurants thousands of miles away.
Jill was troubled by the memory of her own response to such posters when she was a girl. “I’d see the pictures ofwanted criminals and I’d say to myself, ‘Today I’ll see him for sure,’ and then I’d forget what they looked like. No matter how much you stick a child’s picture in front of people,” she fretted, “they can’t remember.”