Lehigh Valley

30 years later, search still open for missing Allentown boy

Louis Mackerley was only 7 when he disappeared.

Search on for missing boy 30 yrs later

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - This weekend marked exactly 30 years since a young boy's disappearance thrust Allentown into the national spotlight.

The victim's family still holds out hope that he's alive, and is still upset with how police initially handled the case.

Anniversaries are never easy for Harold Mackerley, especially the day his little brother vanished right off the street.

"Every day, every day," he said. "Not a day that doesn't go by that I don't think about him."

Louis Mackerley was only seven-years-old when he disappeared on June 7, 1984.

His last confirmed sighting was near Fourth and Gordon streets in Allentown, inside the old Marco's hot dog shop. The owner, now deceased, told police the boy had ducked in for about 45 minutes to avoid two boys who were chasing him.

A relative was watching Mackerley that day while his mother recovered from surgery. She told police that Mackerley was headed to a neighbor's home that he frequently visited.

Joe Hanna, a former Allentown assistant police chief, spent seven years on the case as a detective.

"It's a task left undone for me," said Hanna.

The case made national headlines. Mackerley was one of the first missing children featured on milk cartons, grocery bags and billboards. His mother, Sheila, appeared on several national talk shows.

In spite of the massive media attention, Harold Mackerley claims Allentown police did not take the report seriously at first, instead focusing on his family and dismissing the possibility of an abduction. Rumors circulated at the time of possible neglect in the home, but Harold vehemently denies those claims.

Mackerley's parents passed several lie detector tests.

"This destroyed my parents," he said.

WFMZ's Rob Vaughn spoke to Sheila Mackerley in a 1980s interview.

"We'll make it," she said. "How? I don't know."

Harold Mackerley is still bitter about the way he said police treated his parents.

"The cops, literally for, like, the first three years, were useless, before they finally said, 'Maybe somebody outside the family actually did do something,'" he said.

Hanna insisted investigators worked overtime on the case, even bringing in the FBI early on and reopening the case in 1990 and in the 2000s.

"We followed up on hundreds and hundreds of leads and talked to just a multitude of people," said Hanna.

After Louis Mackerley was seen at Marco's hot dog shop that day, there was another possible sighting.

A witness reported seeing the boy along Jordan Creek, along with an unidentified man and woman.

Just six months earlier, Louis Mackerley reported that a couple molested him. Police could never identify a suspect.

"He was told that if the cops found out that he was going to disappear," said Harold. "So the cops came down and started asking everybody a bunch of questions, and lo and behold, Louis disappeared."

As the years tick by, there is still hope.

"I will, I have, and I do and I'll continue to maintain that Louis Mackerley will be found someday," said Hanna.

It's one thing police and the Mackerelys agree on.

"We're still looking," said Harold. "We've never stopped."

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