It was Christmas Eve 1985 when the frozen body of a 9-year-old boy was found by the roadside in Thayer County, Nebraska. The child had been dressed in a blue pajama sleeper and had one hand placed tranquilly over his heart. After an autopsy and three months of investigation, the identity of “Little Boy Blue”—as well as the cause of his death—remained a mystery. The people of Chester and nearby Hebron (total pop. 1,500) in Thayer County had embraced him as if he were one of their own. They named him Matthew, meaning “gift of God,” and on March 21, 1986, after a funeral service, they laid him to rest in the Chester cemetery. The farming communities felt that they had been visited by something evil and unexplained. Nobody in Thayer County knew who the boy was or where he had come from. And nobody knew how he had died. There was an overall feeling of sadness for this unidentified child. Authorities distributed sketches and enhanced photographs of the boy throughout the country and enlisted the help of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Ten days before his body was found, on Dec. 14, 1985, Danny Stutzman had stood in the front window of a split-level home, whistling his favorite song, “Buffalo Gals,” and excitedly waiting for his father to pick him up. Eli Stutzman had phoned his son, saying the two of them would be driving to Apple Creek for the holidays. Danny’s small suitcase was packed, along with boxes filled with toy cars, robots, books and Christmas presents. Although he was disappointed about leaving his new friends and missing the school Christmas party, he was thrilled to be reunited with his father. A polite and affectionate child, he never quite understood why Eli had left him behind. He missed him.
Today, Danny Stutzman’s death and the dark crimes of Eli Stutzman continue to be part of a compelling true crime mystery. After leaving his Amish roots and being implicated in multiple mysterious deaths, HIV positive Eli Stutzman took his own life in 2007, leaving a trail of blood and unanswered questions. At the quiet end today, in The Story of Little Boy Blue, we will try to answer some of these lingering questions. We are delving into the life of a man who, many believe, went undetected for years as a sadist and a heartless serial killer.