By JOHN FLESHER
KALKASKA, Mich. — For most of his life, John Barnes has suspected the couple who raised him were not his biological parents — and he’s waiting for DNA test results that could prove it.
But the man who calls himself Barnes’ father described as “a bunch of foolishness” the suggestion that Barnes was the 2-year-old boy snatched from outside a bakery on New York’s Long Island more than a half-century ago.
“I’m his dad,” Richard Barnes told The Associated Press on Wednesday. He replied, “No, no,” when asked by a reporter whether he had kidnapped John Barnes.
Cheryl Barnes, Richard’s daughter, said she was “flabbergasted” by John’s claims and was willing to undergo DNA testing to prove they are biological siblings.
“I can’t begin to know why he would think this,” said Cheryl Barnes, 50. “Everybody in my family thinks John looks just like my dad.”
For his part, John Barnes said he never really bonded with the mother and father who raised him. He said they didn’t look like him and just didn’t seem like family.
“I just had a hunch that something was fishy,” said Barnes, a laborer who is now in his 50s.
“I never asked them if they kidnapped me. I asked them why I was so different from them,” he said of his parents.
Police in New York’s Nassau County have said a Michigan man contacted their office in the past few months, saying he believes he was the missing toddler. Barnes said the FBI took a sample of his DNA via a cheek swab in March.
“I don’t know if I’m related to the Dammans or the Barneses. I’m just waiting for the DNA results,” he said during an interview at his mobile home, located on a dirt road in Kalkaska, almost 200 miles northwest of Detroit, where he lives with his wife and a 12-year-old Labrador.
Years earlier, Barnes started his own investigation and found some potential answers on the Internet — a few pictures that led him to conclude he could be the missing toddler, Stephen Damman.
Barnes said pictures of the missing boy’s mother when she was a young adult resembled what he looked like at the same age.
“I thought I looked like her, so I had something to sink my teeth into,” he said.
The mother, Marilyn Damman, left the boy and his 7-month-old sister waiting outside a bakery while she went inside to shop on Oct. 31, 1955, according to police and news accounts at the time.
Marilyn Damman came out of the bakery after 10 minutes but could not find her children. The stroller, with only her daughter inside, was found around the corner from the market a short time later. A flier at the time said the boy walked with his toes turned out and had a small scar under his chin.
“Yeah, I do have a scar,” John Barnes told the AP as he pointed to a faint line, less than an inch, that runs below his chin and slightly up the right side of his face.
Barnes said he was born in 1955 — the same year a 2-year-old Stephen Damman disappeared — but only saw his birth certificate once and doesn’t have a copy. He said the FBI is looking into the discrepancy as part of its investigation.
Richard Barnes is retired and lives in a rural subdivision just eight miles from his son, although the two have not talked in about a year. Richard Barnes said his son was born in a Navy hospital in Pensacola, Fla., on Aug. 18, 1955.
“We brought him home two days later, and he’s never been out of our sight,” the elder Barnes said, referring to John’s childhood.
Cheryl Barnes, who lives with her father, said John had never been close to the rest of the family and previously had suggested he’d been switched at birth.
“He wanted to be by himself, do his own thing, be a loner,” she said. “I feel bad for him that he feels this way. I feel bad for my dad. This is going to leave a lasting scar on him.”
During his research on the kidnapping, the younger Barnes said he drove to Newton, Iowa, where Jerry Damman, the father of the missing boy, lives. But they did not meet.
Physically, Barnes resembles somewhat the Iowa farmer he believes could be his biological father, though they are far from identical. Both men have fair skin with a ruddy complexion, blue eyes and wide, round faces.
Reached Wednesday in Iowa, Damman told the AP “it’s almost too good to believe” that Barnes could be his son.
Barnes said he has become close with the woman who could be his sister, Pamela Horne of Kansas City. They did a home DNA test in March and he said it indicated they could be related.
“I’m really glad that I’m finally finding all of this out, finding out who I’m related to. Because I didn’t want to get old and die and not know.”