James Dupree Lewis Jr.
James, approximately 1991
Date reported missing : 07/28/1991
Missing location (approx) :
Missing classification : Endangered Missing
Gender : Male
Age at the time of disappearance: 4 years old
Height / Weight : 3'3, 60 pounds
Description, clothing, jewerly and more : A white muscle shirt with black trim on the arms and neck, blue and yellow shorts, white tube socks and no shoes.
Distinguishing characteristics, birthmarks, tattoos
: African-American male. Brown hair, brown eyes. James's nickname is Squirt.
Information on the case from local sources, may or may not be correct : James's mother, Debra A. Johnson, and her live-in boyfriend of one year, Maurice Marcell Martin, reported him missing at 8:30 a.m. on July 28, 1991.
Martin stated he left the child in the car while he went into the Giant Food supermarket in the 300 block of north Reservoir Street in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. When he came out a few minutes later, James was gone. He has never been heard from again and an extensive search turned up no sign of him.
Authorities eventually determined Martin's story about James's disappearance was untrue, and he was charged with criminal homicide in October 1991.
Johnson testified against Martin at his trial, stating he severely abused James on a regular basis, forcing him to stand in a corner for hours at a time and whipping him with various objects, and that he abused her as well. At one point, as a joke, he allegedly gave James a soda spiked with hot sauce.
Neighbors had also saw Martin harshly disciplining the boy, kicking him and striking him with a tree branch. Numerous witnesses testified that James appeared terrified of Martin. Martin also contacted James's preschool teacher and told her she should hit him if he misbehaved.
Martin had been investigated for possible child abuse earlier in 1991, and social workers made multiple unannounced visits to the household, but Johnson and Martin strenuously denied that there was any violence in the home and both James and his baby sister appeared healthy, properly dressed and well-fed with no visible injuries.
Child welfare authorities closed their file on the family two months before James disappeared.
Martin's attorney admitted his client had abused James but said that didn't mean he was responsible for the child's disappearance. Two witnesses who testified for the defense said they saw James alive after he was reported missing. Martin was convicted of third-degree murder in May 1992.
The jury decided he had unintentionally killed James while abusing him and invented the abduction story to cover up his crime. He served twenty years in prison and was released in 2012.
Most of James's family, including his mother, have moved away from the area. His body has never been found.
Other information and links : ncy
Lancaster Police Department
September 2021 updates and sources
The Lancaster New Era
The Harrisburg Patriot-News
Pennsylvania Missing Persons
October 12, 2004. November 30, 2015; Information on the case from local sources, may or may not be correct : updated.
Interactive Missing Person Search Map