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Missing Walter Dunson
Missing Since 06/05/1998
Classification Endangered Missing
Date of Birth Used 07/02/1900 (120)
Age 97 years old
Height and Weight 5'8, 150 pounds
Clothing/Jewelry Description A light brown shirt, dark brown pants, black leather shoes and a dark blue navy peacoat.
Distinguishing Characteristics African-American male. Gray hair, brown eyes. Some agencies give Dunson's Date of Birth Used as July 2, 1899 or July 7, 1900. He wears dentures and reading glasses.
Details of Disappearance Dunson's son, Gary Adams, reported him missing on June 5, 1998. He said they were shopping together at Findlay Market on Elder Street in the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood of Cincinnati at about 2:00 p.m. when Adams stepped into a butcher shop for a moment to purchase steaks, and when he came back out Dunson was gone.
Dunson was carrying a black leather wallet with about fifteen dollars in it when he disappeared. He may also have been carrying a lottery ticket; a clerk at Cee Kay Beauty Supply in Findlay Market remembered selling one to a man matching Dunson's description. Other people at Findlay Market also recalled seeing an elderly man that day, but he appeared to be at least twenty years younger than Dunson.
Investigators believe that Adams's version of events is fictitious and Dunson actually died years, perhaps over a decade, before his alleged disappearance.
There were no prescription medications for Dunson in the house, although he had a history of medical problems. Adams's son had lived in the room for two months in 1988 and visited the home regularly afterwards; he said he'd never met his grandfather or even heard of him until he was reported missing.
Dunson's driver's license expired in the 1970s and has not been renewed. The most recent photo of him that authorities were able to find was from 1973. He was hospitalized at Cincinnati's University Hospital three times in 1980 for treatment of dementia or possibly a mild stroke, but not has not been a patient there since then.
He has not seen a doctor, made an insurance claim, had any prescriptions filled, held a bank account, voted, or owned a library card since about 1980.
Dunson once belonged to the Calvary Baptist Church in the Walnut Hills neighborhood of Cincinnati. He was an usher there, but none of the other church members recall seeing him since at least 1980, except the pastor, who thought he'd seen Dunston at some time before 1986. The pastor's statement is the only independent evidence of Dunston's existence past 1980.
When confronted with this evidence, Adams stated that Dunson does not believe in doctors or banks and that is why the paper trail for him stopped in 1980. He described his father as a quiet, reclusive man who only goes outside during the nighttime, because he had the latest shift throughout his working career and was used to sleeping during the day.
Adams also stated Dunson kept to himself in part because he afraid the family would get in trouble with their landlord for having too many tenants, but Adams's landlord says there are no restrictions on how many people can live in the home.
Dunson was reported missing four days after the Social Security Administration (SSA) sent a letter to his and Adams's residence. The letter requested that Dunson meet with an SSA representative in person to verify his identity.
Dunson had been drawing a pension and Social Security benefits since 1970 and the SSA was doing a routine procedure which they do for all recipients approaching 100 years of age, to make sure he was still alive and receiving the payments and no one else was impersonating him to cash the checks.
Authorities believe Adams had been co-signing his dead father's checks and depositing them into his own account for years under the pretense that Dunson was still alive. The amount of money over the years totaled over $100,000.
The court determined that Dunson had most likely been deceased since at least 1985, and Adams had therefore been misappropriating his benefits since 1986.
Adams was sentenced to 27 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution. He has never been criminally charged in connection with his father's disappearance and police say that, unless they find Dunson's remains, the case is likely to end with the theft convictions.
Dunson's case remains unsolved; he is presumed deceased.
Investigating Agency / Department