By Don McAlavy: CNJ columnist
Six-year-old Matthew Roberts, son of Debbie and Geoff Roberts of 500 W. Christopher in Clovis, went missing on May 8, 1990.
His disappearance sparked a massive search by residents and law enforcement officials that included approximately 5,000 people. The disappearance was given national television attention, massive media coverage and national exposure by a missing children’s organization.
Police said the entire city was covered at least four times in the search on the night he disappeared.
The boy disappeared after his mother left him at home with his grandmother, Evelyn Guaidabasso, while his mother drove to a nearby store.
The child apparently tried to follow her and ran out of the house before his 76-year-old grandmother could stop him. He had been at home recovering from chicken pox.
Clovis residents Robert Farkas, 26, and Keith Farkas, 22, discovered Matthew about two weeks later when they smelled an odor coming from a 1978 Chevrolet Impala station wagon parked in the driveway at the Roberts’ home. The two were walking in front of the home at the time.
“He opened the station wagon and in a compartment, in the back part of the station wagon, was the body of Matthew Roberts,” Clovis Police Chief Caleb Chandler said at a press conference.
The vehicle’s compartment was approximately 18 inches long and 12 inches wide. It contained a latch similar to an ordinary glove compartment, Chandler said.
The storage compartment was located on the left rear side of the back of the station wagon. Matthew was 45 inches tall and weighed 40 pounds.
“He was found drawn up in a fetal position,” Chandler said. “There was nothing obviously unusual about the position.”
Matthew was dressed in the same clothes he was wearing the day he disappeared, police said. The partially decomposed body was identified by investigating officers from the New Mexico Department of Public Safety Crime Lab in Santa Fe. The compartment in which Matthew was found had a latch that could not be opened from the inside.
“I think the effects will be felt in the community for a long time,” Chandler said. “Everyone involved in the search felt like Matthew was their own child. I have never seen a community that bonded together so much for one purpose. Everyone’s been very involved and dedicated.”
Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: email@example.com