New Columbia, PA is a small town in the eastern part of Union County. People in my town, which they affectionately call “Newky,” say that it’s the kind of place where everyone knows each other. It was thought to be calm, quiet, and safe because there were less than a thousand people living there. But when people woke up on October 12, 1986, they heard news that made them wonder how safe their town really was and how well they knew their neighbours.
Deb Wise lived in New Columbia with her two kids in 1986. Alberta Sones, who had two kids of her own, lived with them in the house on Second Street. The roommates’ day on October 11 had been normal, and as night fell, they started getting their four kids ready for bed. David, four years old, and Samantha, two years old, were sleeping in a bedroom on the second floor. Niıa, Debbie’s four-year-old daughter, joined them. Debbie’s son Corey, who is two years old, was sleeping in her bed in the front bedroom on the second floor. Debbie went to check on the kids around 11 p.m. and saw that they were all soundly asleep. After settling down in front of the TV, Debbie and Alberta decided around midnight that they were hungry for pizza. In New Columbia, no stores were open that late, so Debbie chose to drive to Milton, which is right next door and has a convenience store. She would stay at home in case any of the kids woke up and needed something.
The temperature had been close to 50 degrees earlier in the day, but it had been dropping all night and was below freezing when Debbie left to get the pizza. She got back to the house around 12:40am after a short trip. She was shocked to see the front door open when she got out of her car. There was no wind that night, so she knew she had closed it behind her. It also couldn’t have opened on its own. Alberta seemed to be unaware that the front door was open when she got inside the house because she was still watching TV. She told him that she hadn’t heard anyone enter or leave the house or anything that would have made her think that the kids were awake. Debbie went up to see how the kids were doing. Deborah went into her own bedroom and saw that the bed was empty and Corey wasn’t anywhere to be found. David, Nina, and Samantha were still sound asleep. She quickly searched the room for him, looking on the floor and under the bed, but he wasn’t there. He also hadn’t gone to the room where the other kids were sleeping. The little boy had just disappeared, and this didn’t wake up any of the other kids or make Alberta realise anything was wrong.
At 1:10am, it was clear that Corey wasn’t in the house, so Debbie called the police to say he wasn’t there. Because he was so young, the police came right away. When she told the police that she came home to find the front door open, they first thought that he had just gone off on his own, but no one could figure out how he could have gotten past Alberta without her noticing him. Debbie had only been gone for 30 minutes. As soon as she got back to the house, she called the police. This meant that Corey had been missing for no more than an hour, and police were pretty sure he hadn’t gone too far. They began searching the area right away for the little boy. It became clear very quickly that Corey wasn’t in the area, so the search had to be brought to more places.
By 5 a.m., more than 30 police officers and volunteer firefighters were helping with the search. They knew they had to find Corey quickly because it was very cold and he was only wearing pyjamas. Each minute that went by made it more likely that he would die from being outside. Even though bloodhounds were brought in, they couldn’t find Corey’s scent anywhere.
The house was close to the Susquehanna River, so some people thought he might have gotten too close and fallen in. People looked all along the riverbank but didn’t find anything. There were no tracks or other signs that someone had fallen into the water. Even the bloodhounds couldn’t find Corey’s scent up there.
The police had to change their first opinion because Corey would have been found by then if he had just gone off on his own. They were sure that the two-year-old child couldn’t have gone anywhere outside the search area by himself. They had to think about the chance that he had been taken away. By 8 a.m., it looked like the whole town knew that Corey had gone missing, and everyone was shocked. People in New Columbia couldn’t believe something like this could happen, and everyone came together to support Debbie. At first, reporters came to the house in the morning, but neither Debbie nor Alberta talked to them.
As soon as it was clear that Corey had probably been taken, the investigation really got going. It was important for detectives to find out as much as they could about Corey and his family in order to figure out why someone might have taken the boy. For safety reasons, investigators would first talk to Corey’s close family members because young children don’t spend much time with people other than their own family.
Joyce Edkin and James Edkin had Corey on June 11, 1984. Not long after Corey was born, his parents got a divorce, and Corey didn’t spend much time with his father. James was thought to be a possible suspect in Corey’s disappearance, but investigators quickly ruled him out immediately. Corey went missing on the night in question. He was not in New Columbia because he lived in Muncy, Pennsylvania. Even though James and Debbie were divorced, they kept a friendly relationship and never fought over who would have custody of their children.
Debbie told the investigators the same things she had told the police the night Corey went missing. From 12:10am to 1:30am, she left the house, went to a convenience store, bought pizza and gas, and then came back home. Investigators asked people who worked at the convenience store if they remembered seeing her that night to try to confirm what she said. Instead of just an eyewitness account, they left with video evidence from the store. The video they got proven Debbie’s story. A pizza was bought for her inside the store at the time she said she was there. Debbie was quickly ruled out as a possible suspect by the police.
The police were especially interested in Alberta Sones because she was the only adult who was there when Corey went missing. The story she told the police about that night was the same as the one Debbie gave them during their first interview. Since Debbie was gone, she watched TV the whole time and didn’t hear anyone come or go from the house. Investigators didn’t seem to believe her story completely, so they asked her if she would be willing to take a polygraph test about what happened that night. She agreed to take one, and she did well. A lot of other people close to the family also took polygraphs and passed them all. The detectives were confused and said they had no idea what had happened to Corey. The investigation seemed to lose steam at this point.
As time went on, a truck driver who had been in the New Columbia area said he saw Corey getting into a car with two women wearing big hats. Detectives couldn’t say for sure if this sighting was real or not.
At least some of Corey’s family members said they got ransom calls in the days after she went missing. That person who called Debbie said that her son would be sold if she didn’t do what they said. The police put tracking devices on Debbie’s phone to try to find out who called, but she didn’t get any more calls. It was more than four years after Corey went missing, but Corey’s grandmother said she got a ransom call in January 1991. Nobody was ever found out who was calling, and it’s possible that the calls were just a cruel hoax.
Investigators still don’t know what happened to Corey after more than 30 years. His picture showed up on milk cartons soon after he went missing. In May 1989, detectives watched a house near Harrisburg after getting information that Corey had been seen there. However, they couldn’t find any proof of these sightings. In 1998, a picture of Corey that showed how much he had changed over time was sent all over the country to help find missing children. This led to calls about possible sightings from all over the country. Detectives tried to follow up on leads from Hawaii to New York but were unsuccessful.
Many ideas have grown over the years about what might have happened to Corey. There were three other kids and an adult in the house when he went missing, but none of them heard anything. This makes the case even more disturbing. It doesn’t seem likely that someone could have broken into the house, gone to Corey’s room, picked up the sleeping child, and taken him out of the house without anyone noticing. A reporter talked to Pennsylvania State Trooper Philip Davis, who was in charge of the case for a while and said that he thought it was “almost impossible the kid got out there without anyone knowing it.” Almost every time a child goes missing, police look at family members as possible suspects. This case was no different. From the start, there was a lot of talk that the family was involved in some way. However, the police have said that both of Corey’s parents are no longer suspects.
Alberta Sones, the only adult who was with Corey when she disappeared, took a lie detector test. The examiner found that she was telling the truth when she said she hadn’t heard anything strange that night. But how well do polygraphs work? Some people don’t trust them, and courts won’t use test results as proof, but the American Polygraph Association says that when they are done right, the tests are over 90% accurate. Some people say that the accuracy rate is only about 70%. There have been times when guilty people were able to pass a polygraph, but most of the time, innocent people show signs of lying even when they are telling the truth.
Some people who know how the house is set up say that Corey could not have left through the front door without Alberta noticing. If we assume that Alberta was awake and watching TV while Debbie was away, then Corey couldn’t have left through the front door, either by himself or with someone else. Debbie told the police that the last time she saw Corey was around 11 p.m. that same night. It’s not clear when Alberta last saw the kid. Could it be that he wasn’t there when Debbie left to get the pizza? Some people think that something bad happened to Corey earlier that night and that Debbie disposed of his body somewhere, using her quick trip to get pizza as an excuse. This would certainly explain why Alberta didn’t hear anything while Debbie was away, but there is no proof to back up this theory.
A lot of talk has also been made about the alleged ransom calls that the family got in 1987. They didn’t give investigators enough specific information to figure out where the calls were coming from or if the person calling had any information about Corey. When police put a tracer on Debbie’s phone, the calls stopped. This made some people think that Debbie was the one making the calls because the caller must have known something about how the investigation was going. The police looked into it, but they couldn’t find out anything about who made the call.
In 2015, James, Corey’s dad, told a reporter that he thought his son was still alive but that it was hard not knowing anything. The reporter also talked to Debbie as the 29th anniversary of Corey’s disappearance drew near. “I hope he is safe all the time.” The family is having a hard time. I want to find him, but I don’t want to ruin his life. A lot of people were shocked and confused by what she said. If a mother found her long-lost son, would she really think that it would ruin his life? Debbie said that she had been called on the phone in 1987 and told that they would sell Corey if she didn’t do what they wanted. Now, people were wondering if Debbie had sold Corey herself and then said he was missing to hide what she had done. These ideas were seen as the best case because it meant Corey was probably still alive, but investigators couldn’t find any proof that this was what happened.
The Pennsylvania State Police said in June 2020 that they had new information that made them think they would soon be able to solve this case. They say that new forensic techniques and help from people who didn’t want to be named have helped them figure out what happened to Corey. They now think that a family member had something to do with Corey going missing, and they want anyone who knows anything about the case to get in touch with them. A reward of $10,000 is being offered for information that helps solve this case.
The last time anyone saw Corey James Edkin, he was two years old and had light blonde hair and blue eyes. He would be 37 years old now if he were still alive.
If you know anything about this case, please call 570-524-2662 and talk to the Pennsylvania State Police in Milton.