Man Says Dying Mom Tried to Tell Him He Was LI Boy

"I didn't fit in with my family"

By JOHN P. WISE
|  Thursday, Jun 18, 2009  |  Updated 2:06 PM PDT
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Man Says Dying Mom Tried to Tell Him He Was LI Boy

AP

This 2-picture combo shows Stephen Damman, left, in an undated file photo and John Barnes, June 17, 2009. Barnes is hoping DNA tests will confirm that he is Damman, who was snatched from outside a bakery on New York's Long Island in 1955.

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The man who believes he was snatched from his real parents half a century ago said he thought his dying mother was trying to tell him that she wasn't his real mother.

"She was trying to tell me that, but she was dying of lung cancer," John Barnes told the "TODAY" show in an exclusive interview Thursday. "She was on a bunch of different drugs -- morphine -- but that's what she was trying to do, I believe."

Barnes claims he was a 2-year-old boy named Steven Damman who was taken while standing in front of a Long Island bakery more than 50 years ago. His mother had rushed inside, leaving him and his older sister alone.

Barnes' story has made national headlines this week, as he insists he is far different from the family that raised him.

"I didn't fit in with my family," he told the "TODAY" show. "I didn't look like them. They were all dark-complected -- brown eyes, dark hair -- they were shorter than I was, they have different personalities. I've always known that, and that's what got (my curiosity) started a long time ago."

But the Michigan man who raised him, Richard Barnes, insists that he's the biological father, and dismissed any other speculation as "a bunch of foolishness."

"I'm his dad," Richard Barnes said on Wednesday. He replied, "No, no," when asked whether he had kidnapped John Barnes.

Cheryl Barnes, Richard's daughter, said she was "flabbergasted" by her brother's claims and is willing to undergo DNA testing to prove she and John are biological siblings.

"I can't begin to know why he would think this," said Cheryl, 50. "Everybody in my family thinks John looks just like my dad."

John Barnes said he's not looking to stir up trouble. He just wants to know who his real family is, if it's not the Barnes family. And he's confident that DNA testing will prove he's Steven Damman.

"I don't want to see anybody go to jail," he said. "I just want to find out where I came from. Right now I'm pretty confident that those tests will come back positive."

Police in Nassau County, N.Y., have said a Michigan man contacted their office in the past few months saying he believed he was the missing toddler. Barnes said the FBI took a sample of his DNA via a cheek swab in March.

Barnes, a laborer now in his 50s, said he tried to talk about it with his father in the 1990s, but was dismissed.

"I talked to my dad about 15 years ago and he wasn't interested in anything I had to say about it, so I kind of dropped it," he said. "There's an investigation going on right now, and when that's over with, I'll know who I am and he won't be able to dispute anything."

"I never asked them if they kidnapped me. I asked them why I was so different from them," he said of his parents.

Barnes, his wife and their dog live on a dirt road in Kalkaska, almost 200 miles northwest of Detroit. It's not known when his DNA test results will come back.

Watch the full "TODAY" show interview below:

 

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