Parents of boy who vanished 30 years ago still have hope he's alive

For 30 years, Paulette Anderson has been searching for her son.

ByAmanda McMaster via logo
November 28, 2019, 8:17 AM

For 30 years, Paulette Anderson has been desperately searching for a single clue, any shred of evidence, that could lead her to her son, Aaron.

He was just 22 months old when he vanished from her rural Minnesota backyard.

"I remember seeing other kids abducted on TV. And I remember I'd just cry and think, 'If that ever happened to me,' and I'd fall apart," Anderson said.

But Anderson is still standing, just as desperate to find Aaron as she was April 7, 1989.

VIDEO: Parents of boy who vanished 30 years ago still hope he's alive
VIDEO: Parents of boy who vanished 30 years ago still hope he's alive
ABCNews.com

"I was 26 years old at the time when he was taken," she said. "And I remember thinking, 'How can people be so mean and wicked and cruel?' I mean, because it was like, he was everything to me."

Anderson was home making lasagna when she said Aaron came to her with his winter coat on, his boots on backwards, and his hat askew.

"He was like, 'Outside, outside,' stamping his feet," she recalled. "It was really the first nice day of the year. It was really nice out. So I said, 'All right ... you need to stay right where mama can see you' ... and sent him out."

Anderson said she was keeping an eye on him through the window while she cooked, but at one point she looked up and Aaron was gone.

"I'm thinking, 'What the heck, where is he?'" she recalled.

She frantically called 911.

"All of a sudden," she continued, "there's this convoy coming down the road, the dirt road with cars and police, and it was, like, the search team, whatever they were going do. And I started wringing my hands and going, 'Oh my gosh, this can't be happening to me, this can't be happening to me.'"

The agonizing minutes turned into hours, then days. Authorities focused their search on the Snake River, which ran right behind the Anderson home, about 150 feet from their back doorstep.

At the time, Pine County Sheriff John Kozisek told media a bloodhound was brought in and tracked Aaron's scent to the river. Aaron's parents said that for over a week, search and rescue teams canvased 6 miles of the river but found no trace of him.

"They pulled up boots, they pulled up everything off the bottom and they said something would have showed up," Anderson recalled. "A river always gives up its body."

It did not make sense to the Andersons. Steve said the bloodhound also traced Aaron's scent around the property, away from the river. "When it was tracking Aaron's scent, it went across the adjoining property, up their driveway and down the dirt road," he said.

Was Aaron abducted? News reports at the time posed that theory from Jerry Morris, a volunteer investigator who looked into this case for Missing Children Minnesota. Morris told ABC News affiliate KSTP in 1990: "You don't conclude that he's drowned until you find some evidence that would point to that. And there's absolutely no evidence, so I think we should then be looking for a child that's out there and that has been abducted."

Over the years, hundreds of tips poured in, but nothing solid. The Pine County Sheriff's Office told ABC News the case is still open but would not comment on whether or not Aaron's parents were ever considered suspects. Morris recently told ABC News he found no evidence to suggest they were involved in his disappearance.

The Andersons went on to have three more children, moved away from their home by the Snake River and eventually divorced. They remain united in trying to find their son -- launching Facebook pages and even joining DNA-testing sites.

"What if he put his DNA out there because he's, like, questioning where he came from?" Paulette said.

Aaron would now be 32 years old.

VIDEO: Parents of boy who vanished 30 years ago still hope he's alive
VIDEO: Parents of boy who vanished 30 years ago still hope he's alive
ABCNews.com

His father still holds onto hope he's alive.

"Just in the natural course of living," he said, "things happen in people's lives, you know ... But I certainly would say that in the event that it's possible that he is, wouldn't it be wonderful to find him?" To be able to say, "You know, my long-lost son, here he is?"

If you or anyone you know has any information about Aaron's whereabouts, please call the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST.