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The unsolved case of Clare Stone, the Baltimore girl who went missing 97 years ago

The story that appeared 97 years ago today still resonates when the name Clare Stone is mentioned.

An 8-year-old schoolgirl left her Elmora Avenue home near Clifton Park. She normally caught a southbound Belair Road streetcar and transferred at North Avenue. Her destination was a brick schoolhouse at Wolfe Street, the Christopher Columbus Elementary School.

But she never made it — and for generations later, Baltimore parents have warned their children about winding up like Clare Stone. It is a chilling cautionary tale.

It’s also a story that will not go away. Members of a Facebook group, the Northeast Baltimore History Roundtable, recently discussed the case.

“Kids are so vulnerable,” said Christine Muldowney, a roundtable member who lives in Lauraville. “The case had a resonance today. I heard about it as a child. It’s almost like a case of Little Red Riding Hood in the city.”

The Sun of Feb. 23, 1922, reported, “Little Clare Stone’s body was found yesterday in Duncan’s Woods, near Orangeville, ravaged, shot through the head and stretched half naked in the mud.” The article went on to say that city and state police had been searching for two days. She was found by a man out for a Washington’s Birthday trek in a wooded area not far from the tracks of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

“Last night police and volunteers were still beating the woods over a wide area for some trace of the murderer’s identity,” The Sun’s report said. “Police Commissioner Gaither himself took charge of the investigation, throwing into the task the best men available from detective headquarters. … Word flew to every station in the city — lookout for Clare Stone.”

The paper said, “Probably no crime in the recent police history of Baltimore has aroused so much horror. Volunteers in the search are numerous. They included not only great numbers of neighbors but many who live far away.”

Clare Stone lived at 3163 Elmora Ave. in what we call the Four By Four neighborhood. It was then a new neighborhood. Tidy front-porch homes were filled with growing families. Much of the surrounding area in nearby Belair Edison was still open fields and small farms. It was the suburbs.

It was Clare’s custom to board a streetcar and ride to school. “At least none of the streetcar crews who work that route saw her. And they all know her,” The Sun said of the Tuesday morning she did not show up for school. She was known — recalled as a happy child who waved at tradesmen along her route, a mix of homes and backyard light-industrial sheds and garages.

What happened between the time she left the house and when her body was found remains unclear. If she did not catch a streetcar, she apparently walked part of the way.

“The coal man saw her,” the paper said of her walk to school. “He knew her as well, as did the garage man.” News stories said that people knew her name.

She was dressed for the winter in a wool cape. She carried her school books and wore a tam-o’-shanter hat. Her hair was fastened with a butterfly bow of ribbon.

Her parents reported her missing that evening when she failed to arrive home the day before the Washington Birthday holiday. A man taking a walk, Frederick Weidner, found her body in the woods at a remote spot off Edison Highway along Duncanwood Lane, less than a mile from her home.

Her funeral was held at the family home. Mourners and curious lookers arrived as she was taken across the city to Loudon Park Cemetery. “Before a throng of sympathetic thousands that packed Elmora Avenue. ... the little white casket was bourne solemnly to the hearse,” The Sun reported. “It was the final act in a tragedy that has stirred Baltimore to its depths.”

Police kept the case open for decades, but Clare Stone’s murder was never solved.

jacques.kelly@baltsun.com

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