A man who described himself as "the son of the witness" to the 1991 disappearance of 11-year-old Mark Joseph Himebaugh could be the key to learning what happened to the Jersey Shore boy. Now, for the first time, authorities are releasing his call to a missing child hotline with hopes of breaking open the cold case.
“Okay. I need to know if you have a pen and paper because I’m not going to be on here long," the tip caller breathlessly told an operator at the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to start the conversation.
It was 3:45 a.m. on Dec. 27, 2010. The man clutched a cold pay phone outside the Sunoco gas station at Richmond and Castor Streets in Philadelphia's Port Richmond neighborhood — some 80 miles northwest from where Himebaugh went missing in the Del Haven section of Middle Township, New Jersey.
After describing more background on the case, the caller then offered up a name: "Gilbert Patrick Marie." He's a person the tip caller said may have been involved in the boy's disappearance.
When questioned by the operator how the caller knows this information, the man said, "I’m the son of the witness of the crime."
Middle Township Police received a similar call the same night, but have been unable to track down the person named by the caller.
"It could be real significant," Middle Township Detective Allan McClure told NBC10's Ted Greenberg Thursday. “The caller’s voice sounded sincere."
So investigators are turning, once again, to the public for help. Detectives went to Port Richmond Thursday and handed out fliers with information about Himebaugh. They also released parts of the tip call. The entire call was not made public to protect the case's integrity.
“We’re hoping that over the years that have passed, maybe somebody can either recognize the voice or the name," McClure said.
The new information is part of a renewed push to solve the 24-year long mystery. Himebaugh was last seen near his home on Nov. 25, 1991 watching firefighters battle a marsh fire. The boy's sneaker was found on a Delaware Bay beach -- the only trace of the boy.
This week, analysts from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) are conducting new interviews and looking for additional leads in Middle Township.
Himebaugh's 35th birthday came and went last week and his mother, Maureen, said she's hopeful she will soon have answers.
“They told me that they feel really good about this, that this is going to be our year. And I believe that," she told NBC10 Monday.
Anyone with information in the case can call Middle Township Police at 609.465.8700 or the NCMEC hotline at 800.THE.LOST.