VAN BUREN, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — It’s the summer of 1983 in Van Buren, police reports are written on typewriters, Amber Alerts do not exist, and a four-month-old baby is missing.

“It’s hard to go back and get the evidence you didn’t know you needed back then,” Sgt. Jonathan Wear said.

Sgt. Wear says they’ve had a suspect from day one, Kathy Johnson.

The 26-year-old met the Crocker family through a friend while working at a traveling carnival stand. She soon moved in with them to help babysit, since four-month-old Matthew’s father was in jail.
Within days the Crockers woke up to find Kathy, a car, and Matthew – gone.

A police sketch of Kathy Johnson

“Since that time there’s been no known sighting of Matthew Crocker,” Sgt. Wear said.

Oklahoma State Troopers found the car at a rest area on I-40 around Sallisaw but no sign of Kathy or Matthew.

There’s not a lot known about Kathy but police say she claimed to be from Kentucky.

“Our investigators just reaching out to people trying to find out, ‘hey, are you familiar with somebody named Kathy that may have been here when the fair was here,'” Sgt. Wear said.

The police did have one piece of critical information, Kathy’s tattoos and scars. She has a unicorn on her left arm, the word “Kathy” with a ribbon above it on the right arm, and a star above her left breast.

She has a scar on her right shoulder going towards her back and a puncture scar on her right thigh.

“We believe that’s her actual name,” Sgt. Wear said. “She could be using an alias, that’s why the tattoos come in.”

There’s also very little yet specific information known about Matthew. At four months old, he had brown hair brown eyes, and a concave chest but that information wasn’t enough – the case ultimately went cold in the ’90s.

Matthew Crocker at 4-months-old

Then in 2015, officers reopened the case after getting a phone call from Matthew’s father. On the other side of the line, Lt. Daniel Perry.

“It was pretty much shocking because nobody knew of this case,” Lt. Perry said. “Everyone who was working then had no idea about it.”

A lot had happened from the ’90s to 2015 – officer turnover, a flood destroying evidence, and of course advanced technology, all of which required Lt. Perry to start from the beginning.

“I’ve met with certain different fair groups,” Lt. Perry said. “I’ve gone to Kansas to run lie detectors on people that were witnesses then, just to confirm their stories.”

Now, with new DNA technology and social media, Matthew’s case has been shared worldwide.

It prompted some people who either had a concave chest or didn’t know much about their ancestry to reach out to police.

“I’ve had people in Canada that said, ‘hey my parents are truck drivers and they went on a road trip and I came back with them and here we are,'” Lt. Perry said.

“We’re looking through eyes now that we weren’t able to then,” Sgt. Wear said.

So far, DNA tests have not found a match.

“It really kind of gets discouraging sometimes because every time you get a lead you think this could be it, this could be it, this could be it,” Lt. Perry said.

Age progressed photo of Matthew Crocker at 38-years-old

Then last year, an age-progressed photo was released, showing what Matthew could look like at 38-years-old.

“You know how that is – that’s just a guess, there’s no way to know for sure,” Sgt. Wear said. “You get to see how difficult it is to actually go take a case that your evidence is 30 plus years old and try to put something together.”

Matthew’s case will resurface from time to time as agencies share his story. To this day, Lt. Perry says he’s still in contact with the family, hoping Matthew is out there somewhere.

“They stay pretty hopeful I think,” Lt. Perry said. “If he’s still alive, it’s absolutely more than likely he doesn’t know who he is.”

We did try to connect with Matthew’s family but were unsuccessful.

His birthday just passed on Feb. 12th, he would be 39 today.

Kathy would be about 65 years-old-year.

If you have any information about Matthew or Kathy, contact the Van Buren Police Department
at 479-474 -1234.