It’s been 52 years since Diana Clinton White last saw her big sister, Denise Sue Clinton.
White was just 6 in that summer of 1965, when a neighbor friend told her that 9-year-old Denise had been kidnapped.
White really didn’t understand what the word meant, but she knew it was something bad.
And it shattered the innocence of what to then had been an idyllic childhood.
Never miss a local story.
“On that day, I found out how terrible man could be,” White said in a 2015 interview.
The night before, Denise had gone to spend the night with her grandparents at the motel they managed on U.S. 71, about a mile south of where Kansas City International Airport is now located.
Her grandmother was awakened about 2:20 a.m. when a customer entered the lobby. But this customer didn’t want a room.
He wanted money. He pointed a gun at the woman and demanded money.
After handing him the $246 from the register, she was herded at gunpoint into a back room where she and her husband were gagged and bound with duct tape.
The robber left, and after several minutes the couple freed themselves and called police.
It’s then that they discovered Denise had been taken from the bed where she had been sleeping.
Kansas City police and Platte County sheriff’s deputies began searching, setting up roadblocks along the highway. But at that time, they had no vehicle description and could only look for a girl with reddish-blond hair and wearing a checkered nightgown.
The FBI was also called in to help.
It was only later, long after the kidnapper could have left the area, that another motel guest gave authorities the car description.
A composite sketch of the suspect was released, and searchers on horseback and on foot using dogs scoured the surrounding countryside.
FBI agents camped out in the basement of the Clinton home in Independence, waiting to record any phone calls that might come in seeking ransom.
But that call never came, despite the offer of a $10,000 reward.
Through the trying days that turned into months with no word of Denise, White says it was only her mother’s inner strength and religious faith that kept the family together.
Finally in September 1967, more than two years after Denise was taken, the family got some news.
Two men riding on horseback through a pine forest in Wyoming had found human remains. Testing confirmed that it was Denise.
Though it was the worst thing they could have heard, White’s mother comforted her by saying, “Denise is with Jesus now.”
The person who ripped Denise from their lives has never been found. And her parents have since died.
But White and childhood friends of Denise have never forgotten her. In 2015 to mark the 50th anniversary of the crime, they gathered to release balloons at the Independence elementary school they all once attended.
White said recently she has resigned herself to the fact that her sister’s killer may never be known.
“At this point, most likely he’s probably dead,” she said. “I think everybody would like to have closure, but I don’t think we will ever know.”
Name: Denise Sue Clinton of Independence.
Circumstances of the crime: Kidnapped from a Kansas City, North, motel on July 8, 1965. Her remains were found in Wyoming two years later.
Suspect information: A young white man with brown hair and blue eyes, possibly driving a 1959 white four-door Oldsmobile.
Anyone with information is asked to call: The TIPS Hotline at 816-474-TIPS (8477).