I am passionate about missing persons cases due to a personal family experience of having someone go missing in my family.
David Warner was just 12 when he went missing. He was between 5'2" and 5'5" and weighed 110 pounds. A Caucasian male with blond hair and brown eyes, he suffers from epilepsy. He also answers to "Little David" and was last seen wearing a black and white Pittsburgh Steelers sweatshirt with blue jeans and sneakers. David has two prominent front teeth as well, giving him a unique appearance. David is classified as endangered missing.
David was born on January 30, 1971, in Jefferson City, Tennessee. His mother, Barbara Warner Soares, was an unmarried 16-year-old at that time. He was diagnosed with epilepsy the same day he was born. David’s grandmother, Faye Warner, became his legal guardian when she adopted him. While no longer legally his mother, Barbara still remained in close contact with him through his life.
He was raised by his grandmother on Beeler Avenue, and when he got older, he learned who his biological mother was and still saw his aunts Kathy Nash and Addie Maples as older sister figures in his life. He grew up in a small, close community and had a few neighbors that also helped to watch him. This could have led to David’s over-friendliness and his trusting anybody of any age. To him, it seemed there were no strangers, only new friends.
Despite this, his family said he had street smarts beyond his age due to going around town by himself and to the arcade with his friends. He was a good kid and helped his neighbors, but he was still mischievous. He never crossed the line from this into any delinquency or serious bad behavior, though.
While he was a very kind child, although a little rough, he had struggled a bit with academics. His grades held him back in the 4th grade at Jefferson City Elementary. It is unknown why he struggled so much in school; it could have been the class environment he had trouble with. David was known to be a very intelligent child, and he excelled in certain subjects.
On Wednesday, March 2, 1983, David’s school handed out report cards, and David was excited about his A in physical education. He returned to Beeler Avenue after school and was seen by neighbors Bob and Joyce heading for the small church a few houses away from his own. David told them he was excited to be going to a gathering at the church, and while he did make it into the church, David stopped and looked inside before heading off again. He made his way past the church and to Druther’s Restaurant.
The restaurant had a policy for children with good grades: When they presented their report card, they could get a free meal. Because David had gotten an A on his report card, he was rewarded with a free hamburger and soft drink. When he left the restaurant, it’s unclear where he went next. Some reports mention that David went to a friend's house to watch TV and play until 7:00 p.m., while other reports mention that he was last seen on the corner of Odell and Sycamore Lane, though it is unknown why he would have been in this area. His family claims the last location they saw him was at the end of Beeler Avenue close to Broadway Boulevard as this was his preferred route to the stores and restaurants, such as Druther's.
On March 3, 1983, David’s aunt Addie awoke to find David’s bed made up to look like someone was in it, but upon further inspection, she noticed he was gone. His family checked in with his friends' parents to see if he may have spent the night without letting them know, as he sometimes did. The first friend’s father, Bob Mabe, said David was not at their house. After finding he wasn't at any of his friends' homes, David’s grandmother called the police to report him missing.
When he was reported missing, the authorities launched a massive search effort including ground and air support. The search had firefighters, a rescue squad, and even over 200 volunteers, but sadly nothing was found of David. The sheriff of Jefferson City, Tom Eslinger, said this is about the time when they concluded that he just ran away from home. Some think the police came to this conclusion due to David’s known street smarts and the fact that his bed at home was made up to look like someone was sleeping in it. David’s family has never believed or accepted this as an answer to what happened.
With his family not accepting the runaway theory, and with no evidence of foul play being found, no solid conclusion could be put forward. Little David simply vanished without a trace of evidence.
The Florida Tip
After several months of no leads or new clues, the police got an anonymous tip from someone claiming David was living in Miami, Florida, with an Ivan Red Wilson, who was a cousin of David's father Edgar Wilson. Tennessee police contacted the authorities in Florida and gave them a picture of David. The Florida authorities sent out a detective to scout Red Wilson’s address. The detective saw two boys, one who had a strong resemblance to David, within the vicinity.
The police between the two states had some legal entanglements, and it took three months before they could continue on with the case and this development. The Florida police informed David’s father of the incident and questioned him about his son. Edgar claimed he had no idea of his son's disappearance and that he had no idea of David’s whereabouts now. Edgar did, however, mention and hand over a strange printed letter he received. The letter was crudely written and said:
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"Eadger . . . if your son is at your cousins in Miami you better do something now! (someone) has told them that you do. —A unknown friend."
After this, police tried to catch up and talk with Red Wilson, but he had since moved out of the address the police had him at and claimed he knew nothing about David or his disappearance. The detective on David’s case said he was satisfied that David was not in Florida with Mr. Wilson. He also said the tipster's credibility was highly questionable to begin with.
David’s case is now frozen, as despite his picture and information being shown all over the country, they have had no further credible tips or leads in this case. The authorities have so little to go on that they only have theories. Police initially believed him to be a runaway but now think something more sinister happened to him.
With no evidence and very few tips or leads, there are only theories about what happened to David.
Witness to a Crime
One of the lesser believed theories was that David saw a crime he shouldn't have and was taken to prevent him from saying anything. There is no substance to these claims other than his high level of street smarts and from him roaming around town often alone.
Taken by His Father
The first big theory is that David’s father had something to do with his disappearance. In 2013, David’s aunt Kathy Nash was worried that Edgar Wilson had something to do with David. Though Edgar Wilson has passed away, Kathy told the local news station that she believes his biological dad had something to do with it. She claimed he was the type of person who naturally wanted to be in the spotlight. She also felt that due to him never coming to help look for David, or ever helping in any way, she feels he had to have known something. Police, however, have already ruled out his father and his father’s cousin in Miami.
Abducted by a Stranger
The second theory is that David was abducted by a stranger. It’s possible David knew his abductor, or even if he didn't, David might have trusted them. He was a well-liked child and made friends easily. He was also eager to help people, so he could have easily been lured into someone's car. His aunt Kathy said David would have gotten into a stranger's car and thought nothing of it. His uncle Paul David Warner also said
"There are a lot of cruel people in this world, but David thought everybody was his friend, I think he could be talked into going with someone (if they tricked him) with 'Help me find my puppy' or something like that."
Police say they have no solid suspects and that this case continues to haunt them. They believe he was abducted and murdered, although they don’t know why someone would do this.
Barbara still cries when she talks about her son. She wants to believe he is still alive out there somewhere. Her mind tells her he’s gone, but her heart still believes there is hope. Kathy Nash runs the Facebook page Find Little David Warner and tries to keep his picture and story in the public's eye. His family has to wonder what the kind, smart little David would have grown up to be. What could he have achieved, and who could he have become if he hadn't been taken away so young?
David’s grandmother, Faye Warner, died in 2007, and on her death bed asked if they had found little David yet. The family and police know someone out there knows what happened to David, and they can only hope and pray someone comes forward with information. David Warner’s case is and will remain open until they get answers and can give closure to his family.
If you have any information regarding David Clayton Warner, please call the Jefferson City Police at 865-475-2002.
You can also message the Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/FindLittleDavidWarner/ and follow it for more updates.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.