The Disappearance of Billy DeSousa



While researching the Grimes sisters story, I discovered a crime that hit even closer to home. Ten-year old Billy DeSousa attended a carnival in the parking lot of the Scottsdale Shopping Center in Chicago in June 1972. He didn’t return home, and was never seen again.  Billy was a student at a Catholic grammar school I once attended, and my family probably attended the same carnival. A massive search ensued for weeks after the carnival, but the police were unable to find Billy.

According to several news sources, the boy’s skeleton was finally found in 1975 in a tree hollow in Palos or Orland Park. For all I know, that tree could have been located near the property where someone I know now lives. Although some people surmised that the boy had been one of Gacy’s early victims, the serial killer Charles E. Pierce confessed to the murder shortly before he died. William “Freight Train” Guatney, a carnival worker in that area in the early 1970s, was another suspect, but he was never charged. Like many similar cases in the 1960s and 1970s, it was never officially solved.

According to the February 5, 1975 issue of a local newspaper:

“Two and one-half years of waiting by Donald and Isabelle DeSousa came to an end this week when the body of their 10-year-old son, Billy, was found in a remote section of forest preserve near Palos Park.

The remains were skeletal and he was identified by clothing and possessions, including a key which opened Billy’s bike lock.”

In those days, no one talked about the few crimes that occurred in the area. Neighbors didn’t leave flowers, candles, and stuffed animals at the family’s home like they do today. The disappearance and discovery of Billy’s remains weren’t mentioned in the community at all, except by parents behind closed doors. I found a message board post from a classmate of Billy’s who stated that the nuns at the Catholic grammar school Billy attended never mentioned anything about the disappearance.

Everyone in the community knew each other, although some neighbors were friendlier than others. Shop owners, teachers, policemen, and firemen lived in the same neighborhood. There was no apparent crime or danger – no street gangs, graffiti, or any visible crime, not even litter or an unmowed lawn. Children played outside unsupervised until dinnertime. In the summers, they played outside at night until the streetlights came on without fear of foul play.

That’s why Billy’s disappearance came as a shock. Such a crime was incomprehensible, and the adults didn’t know how to process the reality of it or address it.

If a kid asked why their classmate hadn’t been in school, it seemed like the kind of situation where the adult would say, “He transferred to another school” or “Mind your own business.” Even marginally unpleasant things weren’t addressed between adults, much less to children, at that time, in that neighborhood. (I think that’s still the attitude in many Midwestern bedroom communities today.)

Rest in peace, Billy DeSousa.

Here is a link to a message board discussion about the case on Websleuths.

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