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Federal, local police ask for help in missing Wheatfield 2-year-old from 1982

LOCKPORT – Federal and local police are trying to make progress on one of the county’s oldest cases: the disappearance of 2-year-old Russell Mort from his Wheatfield backyard in 1982.

Sheriff James R. Voutour and Brian E. Boetig, Special Agent in Charge of the Buffalo FBI office, appealed Thursday for anyone who lived in Lynch Trailer Park on River Road at the time, or who knew of the layout, to contact them with any memories they have of the people there.

Mort, who would be 35 if he is alive, disappeared without a trace May 5, 1982, from his sandbox at his home in Lynch Trailer Park on River Road in Wheatfield. The yard was fenced and gated.

His mother told investigators she went inside the home to repair a broken toy guitar and was inside for five minutes or less. When she came out, Russell was gone and the gate was locked from the outside.

“Russell had climbed the fence a couple days earlier and got out, went to a neighbor’s house,” Voutour said.

The Niagara River is about 100 yards away from the home.

Old leads, such as a story of a young couple in a 1960s white Corvette driving near the scene that day, have produced no results, Voutour said. So now, investigators are trying an elaborate effort at neighborhood reconstruction.

Voutour and Boetig said the trailer park today is far different than it was 33 years ago. It had 160 homes in 1982, but has only about half as many now.

The lawmen urged anyone who had any connection with the trailer park in 1982 – residents, friends, relatives, delivery people or anyone with any knowledge of how things were then – to call the FBI at (800) CALL FBI or the Sheriff’s Office at 438-3393. They said they’d like whatever memories can be offered of Lynch Park in 1982, even from people who didn’t know the Mort family.

Last year, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children released a photo projection of what Mort might look like today, and it was posted by the Sheriff’s Office on its Facebook page.

A man in northern New York contacted the Sheriff’s Office via social media and said he might be Mort, Voutour said last year. DNA testing showed he wasn’t.

In 2005, a Texas man told police, based on a description of Mort, that he thought he might be the missing boy. He also was DNA-tested, but he wasn’t Mort, either.

“He could be married and have kids. Or he could have died that day,” Voutour said.

Either way, police would like to solve the mystery.

“I’m sure out of 160 trailers, there has to be somebody who’s on Facebook,” Boetig said.

Voutour said there are many cold cases, but this one strikes a chord.

“This is a little boy, a 2-year-old boy. How do you not do everything you can?” the sheriff said.

Boetig said the FBI’s Cold Case Working Group and other resources are available to help. “I’m committed as long as the Sheriff’s Office is committed, or until we resolve this case,” Boetig said.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com