Today we are going to examine the disappearance of Catherine Davidson, a young black girl who disappeared from a Michigan park. This case is just one of many black stories that need to be told. Let’s get into it.
Catherine, who typically went by the nickname Cathy, was born on December 13, 1966 in Chicago, Illinois. She was described as a lively, active child in 1973 – standing at 3’10” and weighing around 70 pounds, she seemed to be properly taken care of as well. She was a few months away from her 7th birthday when a trip to a park in Sawyer, Michigan would hold a devastating tragedy…that is, if you believe the reports of her disappearance as they are. As you’ll see later in this post, there is some sort of treachery afoot.
The Davidson family drove to Sawyer, Michigan on September 1, 1973 to have a picnic. After parking, the adults – Catherine’s father Robert and stepmother Anna – set to unpacking the car and the kids ran off to play. They walked to the banks of the Painterville Drain – a canal that emptied into Lake Michigan. After about fifteen minutes, all of the kids except Catherine returned to the adults. Catherine has never been seen again. The police were called and searches began for the 6-year-old. The only thing found during these searches was a pair of green underpants that are not known to be connected to Catherine.
The police were fairly skeptical of the parents from the get-go, as their attitude was cold and seemingly uncaring as they reported Catherine missing. Only three days after Catherine’s disappearance, Anna and Robert were reportedly seen hanging out with another couple, and having a grand ol’ time. They were laughing and drinking, like nothing had happened. As strange as this behavior was, the kids all backed up their story and the police could find no evidence to implicate them.
As stated in the intro, Cathy stood at about 3’10” and weighed around 70 pounds. She was last seen wearing a white shirt with blue shorts and white sandals. At the time of her disappearance, her hair was in tight rows.
One reason why Catherine’s disappearance is so interesting is what happened after she vanished. Catherine’s stepmother went on to start a cult. Yes, an actual cult. After Catherine’s disappearance, her family moved from Chicago. They spent some time in Zebulon (What a name!), Georgia before they settled in Florida. Anna and Robert then founded a religious organization called House of Prayer for All People. The group required a strict kosher diet and modest dress, including floor length robes and head coverings. The group discouraged individuality on all fronts. When members joined, they had to shed their old name and take on a new alias. Anna changed her name to Anna Young and Robert changed his name to Jonah Young – though he died shortly after the founding of the group, in 1988. New recruits were also required to forfeit their savings to Anna and Robert.
The cult was obviously not a happy place. Anna was reported to be extremely viscous in her practices and behavior. She made a practice of separating children from their parents – and then refused to feed them, routinely humiliated them in front of other cult members, and beat them. It should be noted that Anna did this to the adult members as well, but it occurred more frequently with the children. She claimed she was harming members because they had sinned, and the beatings consisted of 33 lashes with a whip – the same amount Jesus endured before he was crucified. Other punishments included child abandonment, bathing a member in bleach, and starvation until death. Anna had faced charges of child abuse and murder and was finally caught and charged with the murder of a young cult member in 2017.
If nothing else, this shows that Anna had a propensity for violence towards children. Keep this in mind as we examine the theories.
In the time since Catherine’s disappearance, speculation has run rampant in regards to where she went and what happened to her. There are two broad theories here: Catherine was murdered and Catherine was abducted. Each of these theories can be broken down into subtheories.
The first subtheory under the abduction umbrella is that Catherine was abducted by a stranger and kept alive. This is the theory of the hopeful. While situations like this do happen, the abducted is usually far younger than Catherine was. Catherine was old enough to have stable memories of her family and would likely ask questions of her abductor – which would lead to the danger of being exposed. This does not seem very likely to me. The other side of that theory is that Catherine was abducted by a stranger and murdered. This is slightly more likely in my mind – we have seen cases time and time again where a child was snatched while doing something routine in public. I don’t have any information on how busy the park was on the day Catherine disappeared, but outdoor activities are pretty popular in Michigan in the fall. It stands to reason that other people were in the park, and maybe the wrong person found Catherine and seized an opportunity to fulfill some sort of dark fantasy. It’s definitely possible, but the chances seem slim, statistically.
Now let’s look at the theories under the death umbrella. The first theory is that Catherine died at the park in an accident. Now, this one could involve an intentional murder or an accidental death. Logically, it’s possible that Catherine fell into the drain and her body was not found before it was swept out into Lake Michigan. It’s also possible she was pushed or intentionally drowned by a stranger or a family member. However, this is all conjecture as no solid evidence of Catherine having been at the park that day has ever surfaced.
The second theory we’re going to discuss is a third murder theory: Catherine was murdered before she even went to the park. This theory came about decades after Catherine’s disappearance, when one of her sisters came forward, having been told a disturbing memory by another sibling. According to them, Catherine never went to the park that day because she was already dead. Allegedly, Anna tied Catherine up, gagged her, and locked her in a closet. Catherine’s siblings heard scratching sounds from the closet door, but eventually those stopped. When the door was opened the next day, they found Catherine deceased. Though it is not known what happened to her body after her death, the assumption is that Anna or Robert disposed of her body somehow.
Though we can’t know for sure what happened, the last theory rings the most true to me. With Anna’s track record of abuse, we know that she has it in her to harm children. Unfortunately, I don’t see this one being solved without a confession or Catherine’s remains being found. If you or anyone you know, please contact the Michigan State Police at 296-683-4411. Catherine deserves to have her full story told and deserves to rest easy.