Cold cases are some of America’s greatest mysteries, fueling both societal imagination and horror with their often-complicated stories. Each Monday in October, we’re exploring history’s most myserious cold cases. If you missed the first post in our series, be sure to read the story of The Servant Girl Annihilator!
A Body in the Water
The tale of Little Lord Fauntleroy begins at the Waukesha, Wisconsin quarry. On the morning of March 8, 1921, an employee discovered a body floating in the quarry pond. The body, a young boy, looked to be no more than five or six years old, and there was no indication of how long he’d been left to his gruesome fate. The boy was unknown to John Brlich, the employee who discovered him, and also to the county sheriff and coroner, who eventually came to collect his remains.
In an attempt to help identify the young boy, the police elected to display the body at a local funeral home, and invite the public. Hundreds poured in to view the body, but no one could definitively name him. His story soon spread to the newspapers, who described his shaggy blonde hair, brown eyes, and outfit, all in an attempt to positively identify the child.
Although the public could provide very little information on who the boy might be, a quarry worker came forward approached authorities with what seemed to be a promising lead: A woman in a red sweater had been by the property about a month before, asking if anyone had seen a young boy in the neighborhood. After learning that nobody had, the woman left the quarry with a male acquaintance.
A Mysterious Woman and Homer Lemay
Detectives worked to determine the identity of the woman in the quarry, but their efforts were mostly in vain. No one knew who the woman might have been, and it seemed like another dead end in the search for Little Lord Fauntleroy’s identity. After several days of leaving the boy’s body on display, the authorities buried him in a white coffin, with the words “our darling” carved into its lid by a mourner.
A short time after burying the mystery child, police received more news: The mystery woman had reportedly committed suicide, in the same quarry pond where they had originally found Little Lord Fauntleroy. Authorities searched the area for her body, even dragging the waters and setting off dynamite in the hopes of revealing her remains. No corpse was ever found.
It wasn’t for almost three decades that another possible identity for the boy’s body was given. In 1949, a coroner from Milwaukee theorized that the body of Little Lord Fauntleroy may have been that of Homer Lemay, a young boy who had gone missing during the same time period. Homer was six at the time of his disappearance, and his father, Edmond Lemay, claimed the boy was being cared for by the Nortons, some family friends. Lemay also claimed the child had perished in a car crash while in South America with the Nortons, and that he had no idea about the fate of his child until he was sent a newspaper clipping describing the crash.
Edmond’s story didn’t add up for authorities, however – not only was there no evidence of a car crash in South America, but they soon found out that the Nortons themselves were most likely made up. In addition to these discoveries, Lemay was later accused of falsifying his wife’s signature, who had also gone missing. Despite these accusations, Edmond Lemay was found not guilty of any crimes, and his wife and son were never found.
Today, the identity of Little Lord Fauntleroy is still unknown. He may have been Homer Lemay, or he may have been another child, left behind in a quarry pond. For years following his death, townspeople claimed a heavily veiled woman visited his grave once a year, placing flowers while she sat by his headstone. They claimed this woman knew the true identity of Little Lord Fauntleroy. Whoever she may have been, whatever she may have known, went with her to the grave.