For five months, police searched for nine-year-old Walter Collins. On March 10, 1928, the California boy's mother, Christine, gave him money to go to the cinema, but he never returned.
Reports of possible sightings flooded in from across the state; San Francisco, Oakland and the town of Glendale, where a petrol station attendant claimed to have seen him in the back seat of a car, wrapped in newspaper from the neck down.
But in August that year, a breakthrough.
A child, who identified himself as Walter Collins, had handed himself into authorities thousands of kilometres away in the midwestern state of Illinois.
The boy's discovery was a victory for the embattled Los Angeles Police Department, which had come under fire for corruption and incompetency in recent years (the previous December it failed to stop the grisly murder of 12-year-old kidnapping-for-ransom victim, Marion Parker).
But when the child was brought back to California, at Christine Collins' expense, the single mother looked at him and uttered the now-infamous words:
"I do not think that is my son."
The true story that inspired the 2008 film, Changeling. (Post continues below.)
"Try the boy out."
Eager to see the case brought to a swift conclusion, Los Angeles police insisted they had found Walter Collins.
The boy had a vague story about being the victim of an abduction, which they used to explain differences in his appearance.
As the Los Angeles Times reported on August 19, 1928, "Not only was the youth's body sadly emaciated and his face drawn, but his mind had been affected, according to officers who examined him, apparently the result, they said, of harrowing experiences he had been subjected to by his kidnapper."
Despite her doubts, Christine Collins was persuaded to — as investigator J.J. Jones reportedly said — "try the boy out" at home.