Around 4:30 p.m. on April 7, 1989, 2-year-old Aaron Anderson was playing in his family’s yard in Pine City. His mother, Paulette Anderson, had been checking on him periodically, telling him he was a “good boy” to stay there. Then she checked on him again. He was gone.
The Pine County Sheriff thought he’d fallen in the nearby Snake River and drowned, but neither they nor their bloodhounds could find a trace of him. No body. No boots. His family still holds out hope that one day, Aaron, who would be just over 30 now, will be found. Paulette told Fox 9 in 2016 that his family misses him, and just want him to come home.
Today, you can see Aaron’s grinning face on the Minnesota Missing and Unidentified Persons Clearinghouse website. And the face of Toni Bachman, a White Bear Township woman who disappeared in 1997, when she was 37. And Roger Borowiak, a bespectacled man from Mankato, who went missing at age 46 under “unclear” circumstances in 1995.
There are 91 missing people on that webpage, some vanished as recently as last year, others gone since 1951. These short reports are also posted on the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System (NamUs), which has an even longer list of lost Minnesotans: 183 entries.
Though 11,000 people are reported missing in Minnesota each year, the good news is that most don’t stay missing for long. In 2012, NamUs reported 661,000 missing persons cases, and cleared all but 2,079. Most (76 percent) are even found alive. Still, it’s the cold cases -- the missing little boys and smiling young women who aren’t seen for ages -- that hit us the hardest.
But years, even decades later, there is still hope. Earlier this month, Paulette, Aaron Anderson’s mother, spoke to KSTP with renewed optimism. She and her family believe he is alive, and they have a new way to find out for sure: Ancestry.com. She submitted her DNA to the website in hopes that Aaron, perhaps looking for her, will also submit his. If they get a match, she’ll finally know where her son is.
It may sound like a long shot, but stranger things have happened. DNA is now helping Minnesotans close cases some thought might stay open forever.
In February, it helped identify remains found 49 years ago in an abandoned Milaca house fire. It turned out they belonged to Gloria Frieda Rieken, an 18-year-old woman who’d disappeared from Minneapolis in 1970. That same month, a discarded napkin and a genealogy site led to the arrest of Isanti man Jerry Westrom for the stabbing of 35-year-old Jeanne Ann Childs in 1993.
As hard as it is to find a long-lost person, investigators say it’s getting easier all the time. Sometimes it’s just a matter of holding out for an answer until we finally have the tools to uncover it.
If you think you might have information about any of the missing people on the clearinghouse webpage, call the investigating agency listed on their entry.