NEW YORK (AP) _ From the same Harlem playground, at about the same time of day, on the same day of the week, two toddlers who lived in the same apartment building vanished.
Investigators now are distributing posters around the country of 2-year-old Christopher Dansby and 19-month-old Shane Walker.
Shane disappeared 5 p.m. Thursday, while Christopher was last seen 7 p.m. on Thursday, May 18.
The two never played together, but authorities say the disappearances may be linked because of the eerie similarities.
Just before they vanished, the toddlers were even playing with the same children.
The two playmates, a 10-year-old girl and her 5-year-old brother, cannot recall seeing anyone take the boys from the busy playground, police said. Authorities have questioned them extensively.
″No one that we have found yet has seen anybody with the child, taking the child by the hand, carrying it, leading it, taking it through a fence, or leaving the playground,″ said Deputy Chief Ronald Fenrich, head of Manhattan detectives.
He said two black men ″similar only in their dreadlock hair styles″ are being sought for questioning. He declined to elaborate.
Christopher and Shane, who both lived in the Martin Luther King Jr. Towers housing project, vanished from the development’s large playground.
Rosalee Glover, Shane’s mother, said she and Shane went to the playground about 5 p.m. She sat on a bench as Shane played with the two children, she said.
The kidnapping ″happened so fast,″ she said. ″I turned my head away when this guy asked me a question.″ When she looked back, Shane was gone.
Elizabeth Manley, Christopher’s grandmother, believes the two cases are connected. ″In both cases, the kids were taken right under our very noses,″ she said.
Manley said she, too, turned her head away for a minute at the playground, ″and my grandchild was gone.″
The national search includes rewards for the return of the children totaling about $30,000.
Police have searched the area’s sewers, roofs, basements, and air shafts of occupied and abandoned buildings, but have found no signs of the boys.
The disappearances also have led investigators back to their files: They’ve reopened the cases of two other infants kidnapped in the area in the last two years. One theory they have is that Christopher and Shane were taken as part of a conspiracy to steal or sell babies.
But the heads of two private adoption agencies in the city, which place large numbers of black children with adoptive parents, discounted that thought.
″It’s hard to imagine,″ said Elaine Rosenfeld, executive director of the Louise Wise Services. ″There is a black market for white babies, but for black babies, I don’t think so.″
Catherine Unsino, director of the adoption department at Spence-Chapin, said: ″I have not heard of kidnapping any children of that age to satisfy the wishes of adoptive couples ... I can’t picture the end result (of a kidnapping) being adoption.″
She added: ″People have used babies as fronts for illegal activities ... children are being sold for drugs.″
Detectives were looking at other theories as well, including abduction by a pedophile, an adult who has abnormal sexual desire for children, or simply by a person who wished a child harm.
Investigators had ruled out ransom as a motive, saying no one had contacted the families for money.
″We’re going over everything with a fine-tooth comb because we really have nothing to go on, and just have to dig, dig, dig,″ Fenrich said.