Sheila Mackerley felt vaguely unsettled when she woke up on the morning of June 7, 1984. She was scheduled to have surgery that day, a tubal ligation that would be done on an out-patient basis. She knew she would be home later that evening, but surgery was never something to look forward. Sheila and her husband, Harold, had four children. Their oldest, named Harold after his father, was nine. Louis was seven, Sheila was three, and the baby, Eddie, was only a few month old. Harold, a manufacturing laborer, had to work that day, so Sheila had arranged for one of the children’s aunts to babysit.
The older boys went to school all day. Louis planned to go see a neighbour who lived a few houses away when they got home. Helen was an elderly neighbour who liked having kids from the neighbourhood come over to visit. Since she had her own grandchildren, she always had candy and toys for guests to enjoy. Louis cared about the woman and went to see her often. Harold wasn’t in the mood to go with him that day, even though he tried to pull him along. He informed his brother that he planned to remain at home and watch TV. Louis chose to go by himself. He told his aunt where he was going and then left the flat and went down the street.
They had only lived in Allentown for a year, but Louis was friendly with a lot of the people who lived there. His favourite thing to do outside was just wander around, and he would often stay outside until about 9:30pm every night. Louis was a nice kid, but he could also be a pain. He was told he had a learning disability and was set to start special classes in September of that year. Besides having emotional issues, he had a short attention span and did not listen well. Ritalin is a narcotic amphetamine that was just started by his doctors. It was supposed to help him stay calmer and more focused.
When Louis left his flat that day, he had planned to go see his neighbour, but things quickly went wrong. When two teenage boys saw Louis outside, they made fun of him. When they started to follow him, he went by Marco’s Doggie Shop, a hot dog stand in the area. He was out of breath when he told the stand owner that he was running away from some teens who were after him. Early in the afternoon, around 4:00pm, he went into the stand and stayed there until about 4:45pm. Those teens must have made him think that they were no longer a threat, so he felt safe enough to go back outside. Later, people who saw Louis said they saw him near where Fourth Street and Gordon Street meet, which is about a block from his flat. It’s not clear where he went next.
People didn’t worry too much when Louis didn’t come home for dinner. He often stayed outside until it got dark. But when 9:30pm came and went and the boy wasn’t there, his parents got worried. Harold chose to go look for him, and Sheila insisted on going with him even though she was still a little dizzy from surgery earlier that day. They walked up and down the streets where he often hung out, calling his name but not getting a response. By 11 p.m., they still hadn’t seen Louis, and they knew something was very wrong.
Sheila called the police at 11:10 p.m. to say that her son was missing. It’s crazy that the police told them they had to wait 24 hours before they could file a missing person report, even though Louis was only seven years old. The family looked in every part of the neighbourhood they could, but no one had seen Louis. His parents thought he had been taken away. That means Louis could have been anywhere in the country by the time the police got there the next day.
At the time, no one could have known that the search for Louis would become one of the biggest and longest in Allentown’s history. Police searched the neighbourhood by going door-to-door to see if anyone had seen Louis on the day he went missing. They talked to the owner of the hot dog stand, who said that Louis used the stand to get away from some teens who were bothering him. The two boys who had been chasing Louis were caught by the police and asked about what had happened. Even though it was very bad of them to pick on a child less than half their age, they were not found to have anything to do with Louis’s disappearance.
A person who saw Louis near the river around 4:30 p.m. on the day he went missing came forward and told police about it. This person said that Louis was talking to a man and a woman at that time. Police couldn’t confirm this claim, and the time frame didn’t match up with what the hot dog stand owner said, but they also couldn’t say for sure that it wasn’t true either.
Louis’s family was very worried about the idea that he might have been seen talking to a man and a woman close to the time he went missing. Frank and Elizabeth, a man and a woman, raped Louis a few months before he went missing. Louis told his parents and a school nurse about it. In different stories, he explained what had happened in different ways. One story said it happened by the river, while another said the couple had taken him to their flat, raped him there, and then driven him back to where he lived. The police took the accusation seriously, but they couldn’t do much to find the people who were said to have done it without more information. It was impossible for Louis to remember their last names or where they lived. Yet, Louis told his older brother Harold that the couple had told him that if he told the police, they would take him away. To Harold, this was just too strange of an event. The police were told what happened, and now Louis was not there. Harold was sure that his younger brother had been hurt by the couple.
Even though the police didn’t say for sure, they didn’t rule out the idea that the alleged molestation might have had something to do with Louis’s disappearance either. They had to keep an open mind and look into all the different scenarios that could happen.
In 1984, the recent kidnappings of Etan Patz and Adam Walsh were news all over the country. People were just starting to believe that there were se*xual predators out there who specifically went after children. This was something that police had never dealt with before. Strangers were much less likely to be to blame for child abuse than one of the child’s parents. It was soon clear that the police thought Louis’ parents had something to do with him going missing. It would cause trouble in the years to come.
The police had numbers on their side when they chose to focus their investigation on Harold and Sheila. At least at first, looking into the parents was a smart thing to do. When Louis’s parents found out that police thought they had hurt him in some way, they were obviously angry, but not really surprised. Most likely, they knew that the police would have to rule them out as possible suspects at some point. Finding out that the police thought they could hurt Louis hurt, but it was something that every parent of a missing child had to go through. Detectives talked to them over and over again. They let the police and the news into their home because they knew they had nothing to hide. Harold had been at work, and Sheila had been in the hospital. The police could check out their alibi. But the police kept coming back to the couple because they had no other leads. After three weeks of searching, the police and FBI finally went up to the parents and asked them to take polygraph tests about the missing person. They agreed right away, and both of them passed. Investigators would sometimes go back and look at them again, but in the end, they were ruled out as suspects.
The loss of Louis hurt more than just his parents. It sent shockwaves through his family as well. Harold was hit the hardest because he had turned down Louis’s offer to go with him on the day he went missing. They were younger than him, so they didn’t fully understand what was going on, which was an advantage. When Eddie was young, he would never know what his parents were like before they went missing, and he would never remember his older brother who had gone missing. Sheila, who was only two years old, would only have vague memories of the time before Louis went missing. Harold thought about Louis all the time. He saw how badly the event had hurt his parents. His mother was crying all the time, and his dad wouldn’t leave the house because he liked being by the phone in case someone called about Louis. Since Louis went missing, both parents became much more overprotective, and the other three children were given strict rules to follow.
Harold was also mad that he thought the police were being unfair to his parents. In his world, parents didn’t hurt their kids because he was still a child. He didn’t get why the police were so set on connecting his parents to the crime. He thought that the police let the real bad guy get away because they were focused on his parents.
In the beginning of the investigation, police focused on Louis’s parents, but that didn’t mean they didn’t look into other possible suspects. They followed up on a huge number of leads. Reports of seeing Louis came in from all over the country, and the detectives carefully looked into each one. Someone told them that Louis was going to school in a different city with a different name. The police went to look into it and took Louis’s mother with them. They were able to watch the boy she thought was her son, but it wasn’t Louis. On a different occasion, someone called the police after seeing a boy in New Jersey who looked like Louis and was also on Ritalin. Harold and Sheila tried not to get too excited, but that lead looked like the best one they had seen so far. When police found the boy, they found out that it was actually one of Louis’s cousins. It was a strange coincidence, but Louis’s parents were let down again.
Louis’s picture would end up on milk cartons, newspaper ads, billboards, and even shopping bags. People from all over the country sent leads, but none of them led to Louis. A lead in the case comes up every once in a while, but the case has been cold for years. But the police are still sure that someone knows what happened to Louis. They hope that one day they will get the clues they need to solve the case.
Detectives thought about a lot of different ideas about what happened to Louis, but the most likely one is that he was taken away. No one thinks he would have run away from home, even though he was very independent for his age. He was just too young to live on his own at seven years old. There is a good chance that he would have been found quickly if he had tried to run away or even just gotten lost in his own neighbourhood. teenagers who run away usually don’t get caught, but a little boy who wasn’t even two years old would have been much easier to spot.
Louis was taken away, which is the only conclusion that makes sense. But police have been trying to figure out who took him for more than 30 years. Philadelphia and New York are much bigger cities than Allentown. But Allentown is still a city. In cities, strangers don’t stand out as much as they do in small towns. It’s possible that Louis was taken by someone who was just passing through the area and saw the boy by himself and jumped on him. Because Louis was still young enough to trust most people, his age would have been against him in this case. He was a naturally friendly kid who liked to talk to people as he walked around the city. He had never had to be afraid of strangers, so he wasn’t. Other kids would sometimes pick on him, but he thought adults were safe. That’s why he ran to the hot dog stand when some teens were making fun of him. He might have had more trouble with those teens after he left the hot dog stand. If he was scared and there wasn’t a storefront nearby, he probably would have gone to the nearest adult he could see before running away. It was too bad that it might not have been one he could trust.
We also need to think about the chance that the couple he said had abused him are responsible for his disappearance. Someone said they saw Louis talking to a man and a woman near Jordan Creek. They told the police that they thought they saw this around 4:30 p.m., which was different from what the owner of the hot dog stand said. He said Louis didn’t leave the stand until 4:45 p.m. But it wasn’t that far between the hot dog stand and the place where the witness said they saw the boy—just two blocks. Either witness could have been a little off with their time guess, which means Louis might have run into a couple after leaving the hot dog stand. It’s not clear if these two people were the same ones he said had abused him, but it’s an interesting possibility. The couple that abused Louis did say they would kill him if he told the police what happened, if what Louis told his older brother was true.
A lot has changed since Louis left his flat and into the unknown more than thirty years ago. Parents today are much more aware of the dangers that s*exual predators can pose to kids. As a result, kids today don’t have as much freedom as kids did in the past. If you let your seven-year-old wander around alone after dark, it might have been okay many years ago, but today, any parent who did that could be arrested and charged with neglect or child endangerment. These changes didn’t happen in time to save Louis, which is a shame.
The last time anyone saw Louis Mackerley, he was only seven years old. He is a white man with blue eyes and dark blonde hair. Louis was missing four top front teeth when he went missing. He was about 4’0″ tall and weighed about 45 pounds. The right side of his chest had two burn scars in the shape of circles. He walked in a very unique way. He moved very slowly and leaned forward as he walked. He also spoke with his hands on his hips all the time. There was a red tag on the back of his blue jeans that said “Doggie.” He was wearing a green striped shirt, pinkish socks, and brown shoes when he was last seen. His ADHD medicine wasn’t with him when he disappeared, and he wasn’t taking any of it. Please call the Allentown Police Department at 610-437-7721 if you know anything about Louis.