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MailTribune.com
  • Was 'PeeWee' the boy in the reservoir?

    Daughters of Central Point couple who once may have cared for the boy say they remember him being taken away
  • Investigators searching for the identity of a toddler pulled from Keene Creek Reservoir 45 summers ago continue to tease out new tips and follow up leads from long ago.
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      Anyone who knows anything about this case is asked to call the sheriff's department's tip line at 774-8333.
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      Have a tip on the case?
      Anyone who knows anything about this case is asked to call the sheriff's department's tip line at 774-8333.

      Tips can be anonymous.
  • Investigators searching for the identity of a toddler pulled from Keene Creek Reservoir 45 summers ago continue to tease out new tips and follow up leads from long ago.
    Since presenting their case to the public, the team of investigators from the Jackson County Sheriff's Department has collected a new batch of details that could help match a name to the boy found bundled in blankets bound with wire and weighed down with iron assayer's molds designed to refine and cast metal.
    Readers of the first story in the Mail Tribune were quick to identify Mrs. Cecil Johnson, a Central Point woman who had gone to police to voice concerns that the little boy found by a fisherman July 11, 1963, matched the description of a foster child who had been taken from her care.
    Sparse follow-up at the time left current investigators with few details about who she was, but Beulah Johnson's daughters still live in the Rogue Valley and were quick to call and offer help this time, too, Detective Sgt. Colin Fagan said.
    They, and other callers, said Cecil and Beulah Johnson had a small dairy on Scenic Avenue. He worked at the Double D Lumber mill and was active in local politics while she cared for their son, Cecil, three daughters, Joyce, Janice and Christine, as well as a string of foster children.
    One of those foster children, a boy named Cecil Roy Rapp, was brought to them when he was about 10 days old.
    The family was told he had been born to a developmentally disabled 14-year-old girl, originally from Rogue River, who lived at Fairview Home, a state institution in Salem.
    With two Cecils in the family already, the Johnsons called the boy "PeeWee," and the girls, who ranged from age 10 into their teens at the time, remember him fondly.
    "They had very vivid memories of this little guy," said Jackson County Deputy Medical Examiner Tim Pike.
    They still recall their sadness when a stern woman of about 50 from the welfare office, known only as Mrs. Uridel in the old police reports, abruptly took PeeWee away on Jan. 31, 1963.
    In talking with Pike and Fagan, Janice and Christine recounted how the Johnsons cried together on the front step as the sobbing PeeWee was driven down the lane away from the only family he had ever known, his tear-stained face framed in the car window.
    "It was so painful they stopped taking in foster kids," Fagan said.
    Beulah Johnson became obsessed with finding out what happened to the boy, pestering the local welfare office incessantly and writing letters to various officials, including the governor. In July 1963, when she read news accounts of the body found in Keene Creek Reservoir, she went to police, saying that reports matched the description, right down to the red and white striped shirt and corduroy pants, of the foster child taken from her home.
    In a list of case follow-up notes from September 1963, Fagan found a short mention of her tip. A deputy reported that welfare officials said they had been in contact with the child, who was fine, and Mrs. Johnson was felt to be mentally unstable. However, no information was provided about who or where the child was.
    "It doesn't say who they contacted or name the child or anything," he said.
    Now Fagan and the team hope to unravel more about who little Cecil Roy Rapp was and what might have become of him.
    They've scanned all sorts of databases available to police to see if anyone with that name has a criminal record, or even a driver's license, across the West. Ashland historian Kay Atwood, who has assisted the sheriff's department in past cases, sought Cecil Roy Rapp in genealogy records, including the Social Security death index.
    Those searches found no mention of a child, or a grown man now, by that name.
    Pike contacted the Oregon Department of Human Services Center for Health Statistics to look for Cecil Roy Rapp's birth certificate. No record came up under that name, but officials located what could be the birth certificate of the 14-year-old disabled girl thought to be his mother, Pike said.
    They will delve into the archive to see if they can turn up her name and details about her life to determine if she had a son and what happened to him. If the details match, investigators can try to find her to take a DNA sample and see if the boy from the reservoir is a relative.
    Investigators acknowledge that all this could lead to nothing.
    "This might be a dry hole," Fagan said.
    The name could be misremembered. The child could have been adopted and be living his life, never suspecting that he was once known as Cecil "PeeWee" Roy Rapp and loved by a Central Point family called the Johnsons.
    For now, it's all part of the mystery the team hopes to unravel so they can ultimately find the true name of the boy found in the reservoir and buried in an unmarked grave at county expense.
    Reach reporter Anita Burke at 776-4485, or e-mail aburke@mailtribune.com.
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