Remembering Little Boy Blue

Posted by: LuAnnin Nebraska-isms

A quarter century ago on a blustery Christmas Eve, life changed for some Nebraskans, especially those who lived in the tiny village of Chester, located along U.S. Highway 81 on the Nebraska-Kansas border.

On a day meant to be filled with hope with the retelling of the birth of Jesus, parents hugged their children a little bit tighter – and a little bit longer – after a horrendous discovery in an empty cornfield.

Here in this sleepy rural town, a nine-year-old boy, swaddled in blue pajamas, rested peacefully. No sign of parents who had travelled by night only to find there was no room at the inn. No donkeys or lambs gathered around the young life. No wise men came bearing gifts.

Instead, the boy, whose frozen body showed no signs of forced trauma, quietly touched the hearts of the community as word of his death swirled like a whirlwind of heavy snow blanketing this tiny town.

Who was this young boy? Some called him “Little Boy Blue” since he was wearing blue pajamas when a passerby glanced into that barren field, a cerulean wave beckoning someone – anyone – to take a closer look.

A ripple of azure caught the attention of a gas station owner that Christmas Eve, but he never expected to find what he did when he slipped into the field.

At the funeral, community members gave him the name Matthew, “gift of God.”

“Reader’s Digest” came to town in 1987 and offered a heart wrenching story about the strange case. Nationwide, readers poured out support for the life taken too young and the community that accepted him as one of their own sons.

Little Boy Blue’s identity would remain a mystery until a tip from the national magazine article would give him a name: Danny Stutzman. Further investigations revealed he belonged to an Amish family from the Dalton, Ohio area.

Why, or how, did Danny die?

Twenty-five years later, the answer to that question remains somewhat a mystery. Autopsy results were inconclusive, due to the condition of the body. According to Eli Stutzman Jr., the boy’s father, Danny developed respiratory problems and stopped breathing during a trip from Wyoming to Ohio. Eli reported that he panicked when he found Danny unresponsive, so he left the boy at the edge of a cornfield.

Eli spent a year and a half in prison for illegally dumping Danny’s body. Authorities did not have enough evidence to convict the dad for the murder of his son.

Chester residents still provide care for Danny’s gravesite. The town even built a roadside memorial, and when a tornado destroyed the monument, they rebuilt it again, giving credence to the emblem on it: “A small town with a big heart.”

The what-ifs begin to pile up when considering who Danny would be today. Now, Danny would be 34 years old, perhaps with children of his own. Where would life have guided this gentle soul?

Unfortunately, the case of Little Boy Blue remains somewhat a mystery, but the community who adopted this angel keeps his memory alive.

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This entry was posted on Friday, December 31st, 2010 at 12:23 am and is filed under Nebraska-isms. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.