The Maine Cold Case of Daniel K. Wood Jr.

On July 22nd, 1954, Daniel Wood Jr. grabbed his fishing pole and let the screen door slap shut behind him as he set off on foot down Portland Road in Gray. His best friend lived just a mile down the road — it wasn’t a long walk or an unusual trip for him to make. His mother believed him when he said he was just headed off to go fishing with a pal. 

The Wood family home is still there today. It sits within view of route 100, and though it is slightly obscured by trees it’s not far back from the street. There’s just a short driveway between the house and the road that Danny was assumed to walk down, fishing gear in hand, headed towards the nearest body of water with fish willing to bite.

Danny’s mother was inside the house as he left, tending to her other children, 2-year old David on her hip. She heard a car door slam and a car drive off outside. A little odd maybe, for that location, but she was quickly pulled from the thought and back to mothering. Summer vacation isn’t much of a vacation for parents.

Ten minutes later, the phone on the wall of the Wood family home rang. It was Danny.

“I’ve got a job with a magazine salesman,” he told her. “I’m going to get 50-cents an hour.” Danny excitedly explained that he’d met a door-to-door salesman, and he was going with him to Lewiston to make house calls.

Lillian Wood paused and considered her son’s announcement. He’d only left the house a few minutes ago, and now he was calling from a phone at a store in Gray Center, about 3 miles away. He couldn’t have made it there on foot that fast. She thought back to that car door she heard slamming. Someone must’ve driven him there.

Danny couldn’t wait to get a job. It was all he talked about that summer. He was always pestering his mother and father for permission to earn his own spending money. At 12-years old, the employment opportunities weren’t exactly plentiful, but bowing to their son’s unrelenting requests they told Danny he could sign up for a job picking beans at a farm nearby in late August. It was early July. Patience for a 12-year old boy was hard to come by. 

Daniel was such an ambitious boy. She thought to herself, almost chuckling, it must be some daydream of his that he found a job with a traveling salesman. But whether real or imagined, Lillian extended a warning to her son. The exact words change from source to source, but in effect, the mother told young son, “Don’t go out with strangers, you may not come back alive.”

To which Daniel replied before swiftly hanging up the call, “I’ll be back by dark.”

This is the Maine Cold Case of Daniel K. Wood Jr.