© 2005 – 2018
Iowa Cold Cases
All Rights Reserved
If you'd like to reprint a post or case summary, please contact us with the name of the requested post/article. Thank you in advance!
On March 29, 1986 — the day before Easter — 13-year-old Marc James Warren Allen told his mother he planned to walk to a friend’s house down the street but never arrived at the neighbor’s home and hasn’t been seen since.
Based on previous media reports, Allen initially was thought to be the third Iowa paperboy to vanish without a trace during the ’80s. Johnny Gosch, 12, of West Des Moines, disappeared September 5, 1982. Thirteen-year-old Eugene Martin vanished from Des Moines’ south side just two years later on August 12, 1984, under very similar circumstances.
An in-depth Des Moines Register article on Iowa’s missing persons published August 18, 2013, confirmed Allen was not a paperboy in Des Moines.
Three decades later, however, all three boys’ cases remain unsolved.
Marc’s mother, Nancy Allen, admitted her son had been a handful; the teen had been shifted back and forth between her Iowa residence and his father’s Minnesota home most of his young life and he’d often get into trouble.
But in late November 2010 — a week normally filled with family get-togethers, shopping and holiday activities — Nancy took time to speak with WHO-TV Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck about what it’s been like waiting so many years for answers and wondering about the fate of a young son who never quite seemed to fit in.
“It was hard because he had been living with [his] dad for a while and then came back and lived with me,” Nancy Allen said in the WHO-TV story broadcast Nov. 25, 2010. “His younger brother and older sister were real close and he wanted to be in there, in tight.”
They never got the chance for that to happen.
The night before Easter in 1986, the teen left his southwest Emma Avenue home to hang out with friends and perhaps take in a movie just as his siblings prepared for a pizza dinner.
“He walked out the door and the kids were getting ready to have pizza and I’ll never forget it as long as I live,” Allen told Brilbeck. “The last thing he said to me as he walked out the door was ‘Save me some pizza, Mom. I’ll be hungry when I get home.'”
Nancy watched her son walk down the sidewalk, past the bushes, and then he was gone.
“He waved when he got to the bushes and I waved at him and that was that and I never saw him again,” his mother said.
The next morning when Nancy realized Marc hadn’t come home the night before, she knew immediately something wasn’t right but hoped against hope he’d prove her wrong.
“It was Easter Sunday so I thought maybe he went to Grandma’s knowing Grandma would have an Easter basket there for each of the kids. So I asked my mom but he wasn’t there,” she said. “I had phone numbers for his friends. Called all of them. No one had seen him.”
Allen said she called police, but they told her they couldn’t do anything for 48 hours. Days turned into months.
Police checked in Minnesota where Marc’s father lived, and in Connecticut where the boy’s paternal grandmother lived. Nothing.
Allen told Brilbeck she didn’t know whether her son’s disappearance was linked to the disappearances of Johnny Gosch and Eugene Martin, but said police seemed reluctant to help her because of the other missing teens.
“I just feel like, at this time, they were just afraid of …afraid of what would happen with the Eugene Martin and Gosch thing. I got the distinct feeling that they did not want parents to be frightened to let their children sell newspapers or do different things,” she said.
The Des Moines Police Department’s Sgt. Jeff Edwards disagrees.
“I know detectives followed up on leads that did not pan out,” Edwards told Brilbeck in a separate interview for the story WHO-TV aired Thanksgiving Day 2010. “They were not able to locate him. He’s still listed as a missing person.”
Marc’s mother said she doesn’t know whether her son is alive or dead, but that after 25 years she’d like to know for sure so she — and her son — can find peace.
“There are times when the news says they’ve found a body and they’re not sure yet how old it is but they’re pretty sure it’s male,” said Nancy. “And in one instant you hold your breath and bite your fingernails and hope that it’s not your child. And in other ways you wish they would come out and say that it is your child — so you can finally bury them and go to rest.”
Marc Allen was last seen wearing a light blue t-shirt, blue jean shorts, white socks and gray tennis shoes with velcro tabs. He has a small scar on the top of his head, and his first name might be spelled “Mark” by some agencies involving missing children and persons.
WHO-TV Channel 13’s Aaron Brilbeck reports on the unsolved March 29, 1986 disappearance of 13-year-old Des Moines paperboy Marc James Warren Allen. November 25, 2010
To date, there is no definitive evidence connecting Marc Allen’s case to that of Johnny Gosch or Eugene Martin.
Dental information and charting is available and entered into NamUs. A DNA sample has been submitted, but as of July 16, 2016, tests were not complete.
If you have any information concerning Marc Allen’s disappearance, please contact Abby Giampolo at the Des Moines Police Department at (515) 237-1430.