CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - He was just nine years old, walking home from his Cub Scout meeting in Cape Girardeau, Missouri. What happened to him five decades ago remains one of this city's oldest mysteries, one you may be able to help solve.
Tonight, we are taking you back to the scene of the crime in a new series called "Heartland Unsolved."
We will show you this unsolved crime from every angle. Maybe you hold the key to ending a family's suffering, or bringing a criminal to justice.
Our first report, which highlights the unsolved killing of Darrell Allen, is titled Scout's Honor.
"We found this box back approximately in 2004 when we were going through some old evidence back in our evidence room," said Cape Girardeau Detective Jimmy Smith as he showed us the box containing the clothing of a 1960 hit and run victim named Darrell Allen.
"We have a young boy's coat," Smith said as he lifted the striped wool coat out to show us.
You can see a discoloration of the inside collar and back, an indication of the little boy's fatal injuries.
"A Cub Scout's shirt," Smith said as he continues taking Darrell's clothing out of the box. "The damage is caused by...they cut the shirt off the young man when he was taken to the hospital."
The contents of that box are heartbreaking.
The memories of Darrell Allen bring a smile.
"From what I was told he was a nice, happy kid that enjoyed riding bikes," said Darrell's younger brother Mike Allen. "In fact, going through the pictures, I had a difficult time deciphering if it was me or him."
Born two and a half years after Darrell's death, Mike said he learned he had an older brother who died around the time he started school.
"You know, at that age it doesn't really sink in at all. Nothing like it does when you're in your mid-50s like I am now," he said. "You know it really hits home."
As we revisit Darrell's case, Mike get the opportunity to talk with several people who grew up with Darrell as his friends and neighbors.
"One lady said that they used to ride bikes together. One gentleman that was in his Cub Scouts said that he was very proud to be a Cub Scout and that he was very proud of the uniform," he said.
Darrell's prized uniform remain pieces of an unsolved puzzle, one that brought us to the Cape Girardeau Police Department to meet with one of the officers who first helped investigate the boy's tragic death, and the detective hoping to finally bring this cold case to a close.
"We don't anticipate any criminal charges, but at the very least it would be wonderful to be able to provide the mother of this child the answer of what happened to her little boy," said Detective Smith.
"This is a very emotional time, when you get a call involving a fatality and it turns out to be a youngster," recalled former Cape Girardeau officer Bill Adams.
The day Darrell died
On December 5, 1960, at 5:30 p.m., Darrell Allen headed home from his Cub Scout meeting.
Dark and rainy outside, it's not clear why Darrell opted to walk the 18 blocks or so, instead of asking for a ride.
He wore a dark wool coat and dark pants, his blue Cub Scout cap.
The only color drivers may notice as they passed him would have been the gold Cub Scout neckerchief peeking out of his coat collar.
Darrell headed north on Boulevard, now known as West End Boulevard.
"The driver of an unknown vehicle was believed to have been going at a high rate of speed," read the police report.
It's believed the driver, either knowingly or not, struck Darrell from behind as he walked, knocking him off his feet and out of his shoes, small brown loafers found still tied along the side of the road.
A passerby found Darrell's body in a pool of blood at the intersection of Boulevard and Highland Drive.
"It was just always a tragic accident," Mike Allen said of the story his parents told him about Darrell. "And they'd always kind of told me they didn't think the person who hit him maybe didn't even know they'd hit him."
Taking another look at the case
We met briefly with Darrell and Mike's mom as we prepared this story.
Police back in 1960 described Mrs. Allen's reaction to learning what happened to her son.
"When she told that her son was dead, Mrs. Allen collapsed and was assisted back into her home," Adams reads from that original report.
But, that wasn't the only shock.
"It was the consensus of the opinion of just about everybody that worked on this case; we're looking at a homicide here. This was deliberate. This was no accident," Adams recalled.
If it wasn't a tragic accident, then what really happened to Darrell Allen as he walked home that night?
Police believe somebody intentionally caused Darrell Allen's death.
It seems hard to believe, but that's where the evidence lead investigators, then and now.
"Darrell had no injuries whatsoever below his neck," Detective Jimmy Smith explained.
The autopsy conducted on nine-year-old Darrell Allen revealed he wasn't hit by a car as he walked home from his Cub Scout meeting on December 5, 1960.
"Seven vertebrae just below the base of the skull, a number of those were broken," Smith said.
However, from the neck down, Darrell didn't suffer any injuries; no cuts, scratches or bruises.
Also, highway patrol investigators found no broken glass, or other material from a vehicle, on Darrell's coat.
"This was deliberate," Adams said of the crime.
He recalled how hard they worked back then to figure out what happened.
"We canvassed the neighborhood, as I recall we canvassed the neighborhood three times," Adams said.
Adams would move on to work for the Missouri State Highway Patrol a year later without seeing the Allen case closed.
But the well-worn case file shows back in 1962, two men would come forward to share similar stories that brought the original crime scene, and Darrell's injuries, into a horrifying new focus.
"He was a cellmate of one of the individuals allegedly in the vehicle when Darrell Allen was struck and killed," Smith said of one of the men who gave a statement to police.
Here's the story he said he heard:
The second man's version of the story given to police in '62 differs, but only slightly.
He heard it could have been four teens in that car, instead of three. He told police how the older boys drove up behind the younger boy walking alongside the road.
In his version, the teen in the backseat grabbed either a soda bottle or a pipe and hit Darrell Allen with enough force to throw him into the air.
Both statements end with the teens driving out to Snake Hill and throwing the pipe into a creek.
We asked Smith if he thought the teens in the car were persons of interest or suspects.
"I would certainly say they are persons of interest," he answered.
Police identified all four teens.
Two of them, the alleged driver and the back seat passenger, took lie detector tests. Both passed, but the passenger showed a reaction to the question: Did you hit the little boy with a lead pipe?
That teen, and another reportedly along for the ride, have since died.
Detective Smith has reached out to the two men still living.
"Both of them say they know nothing about the case. They have nothing new to add; and one of them refused to come in for an interview after consulting with his attorney," Smith said.
We asked what he thought that meant.
"Well, it makes me a little bit suspicious of what he may have had to do with the case," he said.
"In some ways I feel like it's long overdue," Mike Allen said of the new found attention given to his brother's case.
Honestly, he wondered why it took this long.
"I don't know why it got pushed aside for 55 years but, you know, better late than never that they're finally looking into it even if it is half a century later," he said.
"I think there's people out there with some real evidence they would like to bring forward on this case," said retired officer Bill Adams. "That's just my gut feeling."
Since Detective Smith said he doesn't anticipate filing any charges in Darrell's case, Mike hoped that's added incentive to get his family the closure they deserve.
"You know, it's not going to take anyone's freedom away," Mike pointed out. "And these people have had a whole life to enjoy, unlike my brother who lost his at nine. So, I think it would be fair for them to come forward if they have any information."
Another note about Darrell and Mike's mom Stella; Mike said she's a real lover of mystery stories and whodunit's.
Now we're hoping someone can help solve the real-life mystery Mrs. Allen has lived with for more than half a century.
If you think you know anything about the death of Darrell Allen on December 5, 1960 in Cape Girardeau, you can leave an anonymous tip with the Cape Girardeau Police Department at 573-339-6313.
I want to take a moment to thank all the people who helped us take you back in time for the on-air report you can still watch on our website.
Paul Beggs, who brought our "Darrell" to life, and his parents Bruce and Karen Beggs, who trusted us to handle him with care. Paul took on this role not because he cared about "being on TV," but because he cared about a little boy who lost his life. Paul, you are a rock star in my book.
Provision Productions, Kelin R. Field and Dan Field—thank you for helping bring our reenactment visually to life.
Pastimes Antiques in downtown Cape Girardeau for the jacket "Darrell" wore, the hat worn by our passerby who discovered "Darrell's" body after he was hit and the bottle held by one of our "teen offenders."
Tony Smee of Cape Girardeau for the use of an authentic Cub Scout cap and neckerchief.
Crain Funeral Home of Cape Girardeau for the use of their parking lot and building during our reenactment.
The gold clasp our "Darrell" wore on his neckerchief actually belonged to Darrell Allen. The brown loafers shown on the side of the road in the report also belonged to Darrell Allen. Many thanks to the Cape Girardeau Police Department and Darrell's family for allowing us to use them.
Colton Davis, Dalton Davis and Barrett Davis of Sikeston, who helped bring our "teen offenders" to life (you made your daddies proud!)
Michael Smith who served as our passerby and fourth "teen offender."
The members of the Capaha Car Club and their sweet rides who really helped us take you back in time:
- Floyd Smith - 1949 Ford (the car featured in our report)
- Harold Robinson - 1950 Ford
- Melvin Uelsmann - 1935 Ford Pickup
- Bill Dunning - 1959 Ford Ranchero VP
- Danny Davis - 1951 Chevy Truck (you have the cutest grandson I’ve ever seen!)
- Rich Webb - 1941 Plymouth
- Douglas Keller - 1950 Ford F1
- Dan Brown - 1965 Dodge (Club President)
Cape Girardeau Police Officer Brad Smith who kept West End Boulevard cleared during our reenactment shoot.
Anyone who lives along West End Boulevard who were inconvenienced during our reenactment shoot.