By Janie Jones
The Morgan Nick AMBER Alert is Arkansas’ version of the nationwide system used by law enforcement and media to notify the public when a child may have been abducted. The sooner the word gets out, the better the chances are finding the juvenile. AMBER is an acronym for America’s Missing: Broadcast Emergency Response and was named for Amber Hagerman, who was kidnapped while riding her bicycle near her Arlington, Texas, home in January 1996. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), roughly 90 percent of missing minors are runaways. Fewer than 1 percent are abducted by strangers.
Among the kidnapped children from Arkansas is Matthew Wade Crocker, and he is the youngest person in the Arkansas database. He was only four months old when abducted from his home by a woman who was going by the alias “Kathy Johnson.” Coincidentally, this happened on June 9, the same month and day as Morgan Nick’s abduction from an Alma ballpark, but Matthew disappeared 12 years earlier in 1983. Van Buren Police Department (VBPD) Detective Daniel Perry is the lead investigator on the case, and he confirmed that Johnson had been working at a carnival that was passing through Fort Smith when she met a man who knew Matthew’s mother.
“The guy talked Matthew’s mother into letting her stay during this time she was working at the carnival,” Perry says.
That night, Matthew was being fussy and was crying. Kathy told his mother to go on to bed, that she would stay up and take care of him and try to get him to go to sleep. His mother agreed, but when she woke up the next morning, Kathy and Matthew were gone. Johnson stole a 1973 Chevrolet Vega that belonged to the man she had met at the carnival, but it was recovered the next morning in Sallisaw, Okla.
Matthew has brown eyes and would be 36 years old now. He was born with a concave chest, a relatively rare condition that affects about one in 1,000 children. Surgery may have been required to correct this medical anomaly. Investigators hope the publicity will help find Matthew. It’s possible he could even recognize himself. Just as Kamiyah Mobley did.
The 18-year-old Mobley told a friend she had been abducted as a newborn. The NCMEC received two tips about the kidnapping in 2016 and discovered that a woman named Gloria Williams, posing as a nurse, had stolen Kamiyah from a Florida hospital just after her birth and raised her under the name Alexis Kelli Manigo. Some details are unclear, partly because Kamiyah still thought of Williams as her mother. Williams received an 18-year prison sentence for the crime.
According to NCMEC, 325 infants have been abducted in the United States over the past 50 years, and almost all were taken by women. Though some, like Williams, may raise the child as their own, that’s not necessarily true in Matthew’s case.
“There wasn’t anything to point toward that,” Perry said, but he would like to think that Matthew is still alive and just doesn’t know who he is. DNA can confirm his identity if someone comes forward.
Johnson, who may have also used the first name Judy, was a petite brunette and had tattoos of a unicorn on one arm and the name “Kathy” on her other arm. She had a third tattoo of a green and yellow star or sunburst on her chest. She had a long scar on the back of her right shoulder and another scar on her left shoulder blade. She would probably be around 60 years old now.
With the advent of the internet came a different kind of kidnapping, one in which children unknowingly became complicit in their own abductions. Such was the case with Kacie Woody, 13, who thought she had made a new friend in an online chat room. Unfortunately, the boy she knew as “Dave” was actually 47-year-old David Fuller.
Kacie’s naïve and trusting ways made her the perfect victim. The FBI would later learn that Fuller had tried to lure other girls, but they hadn’t provided addresses or phone numbers and had eventually cut him off.
Kacie lived in the Holland community near Greenbrier with one of her older brothers, Tim, and her father, Rick Woody, who was an officer on the Greenbrier police force. She was only seven-years-old when her mother died in a car wreck. Her home was in a pastoral setting at the end of a rural road. The woods that framed the house were particularly dark on the cold, drizzly night of Dec. 3, 2002.
Officer Woody was on duty that evening. Tim was studying in Torreyson Library at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, so Kacie was alone. She was chatting with one of the boys she had met online. It was he who first became alarmed when Kacie stopped typing abruptly, and it was he who would provide authorities with the name “Dave,” because while she was chatting online, Kacie had also been on the phone with Dave.
After her family realized Kacie was missing, they notified law enforcement. The Faulkner County sheriff at the time was Marty Montgomery.
“We were the lead agency for the case with great assistance from the FBI and Conway [Police Department],” Montgomery recalls. “It was one of the most seamless investigations of multiple agencies I have ever been a part of; we had one purpose – to find Kacie alive and return her to her family safe.”
An FBI agent found a note in Kacie’s bedroom that read “Kacie Rene Woody loves David Leslie Fagen.” By then, Tim had found the chat room message that had been interrupted and learned that Dave was from San Diego, Calif. Checking with Conway motels and hotels, detectives discovered a man named David Fuller from California had registered as a guest at a Motel 6. They also ascertained that Fuller had rented a Dodge Caravan, but the whereabouts of the van and Fuller were unknown.
Using the number provided by the motel and the car rental agency, investigators traced Fuller’s credit card history, which showed he had rented a storage unit in western Conway. CPD Sgt. Jim Barrett went to inspect the unit. With guns drawn, Barrett lifted the unlocked door and started to enter. A gunshot reverberated from inside.
“Shots fired! Shots fired!” Barrett told dispatch as he retreated.
Backup arrived within five minutes, but it became a tense waiting game, as authorities set up a negotiation team and waited for camera equipment so that they could see the interior of the storage unit. They found David Fuller dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound, but before committing suicide, he had shot Kacie to death. Her body was in the back of the van.
Sadly, Kacie Woody’s story became a cautionary reminder from which parents and children can learn a valuable lesson. Pedophiles and other predators can stalk their victims while hiding behind a computer screen, revealing their true identities only when it’s too late for their victims.
Anyone with information about Matthew Wade Crocker’s case should contact the VBPD’s Criminal Investigation Division at (479) 471-5022 or the NCMEC at 1-800-THE-LOST.