Saturday, April 14, 2007

Nicole Bryner now missing 25 years, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

Since I posted on the 24th anniversary a year ago, there has been a new development in the case of Nicole Lynn Bryner: the arrest of and charges filed against her mother's then boyfriend.
More details and photos come from the Charley Project (

Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: March 11, 1982
from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Classification: Non-Family Abduction
Of Birth: February 20, 1979
Age: 3 years old
Height and Weight: 2'6, 35
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian female. Brown hair, brown
eyes. Some agencies may spell Bryner's middle name "Lynne."
Details of
Bryner's mother, Melody Thomas Childs, told authorities that
her daughter was abducted from a shopping cart on March 9, 1982. Childs claimed
that Bryner was sitting inside the cart at a Giant Eagle supermarket store at
23rd Street and Jane Street on the south side of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She
stated that when she turned around for a moment, Bryner disappeared. A
photograph of Childs is posted below this case summary.
Authorities were
skeptical of Childs's account from the beginning; no one else remembered seeing
Bryner in the grocery store at all that day. Several days after Bryner
disappeared, a letter was found in her mother's home which was purportedly from
Bryner's abductor. The letter stated "Nikky" was dead and buried. Handwriting
analysis determined it was probable that Childs herself had written the letter.
An extensive search yielded little evidence at the time and Bryner's case became
Timothy Wayne Widman, confessed to Bryner's murder four years later in
May 1986. A photograph of Widman is posted below this case summary. He was
imprisoned on burglary charges at the time of his claims. He had been Childs's
boyfriend and lived with her and Bryner in the 2000 block of Sarah Street in
1982, but by the time of his confession he had ended his relationship with
Childs. Widman said that he hit the child after she bit his toe, and she died as
a result of her injuries in March 1982. He claimed that he and Childs buried her
body in a wooded area along Timberland Road in Brookline, Pennsylvania and
reported the abduction to cover up Bryner's death. People who knew the couple
reported that Widman regularly abused both Bryner and her mother, and that
Childs was fearful of him. She was still married to her first husband, Bryner's
father, at the time she was involved with Widman.
A search was conducted in
the region for Bryner's remains, but nothing was located. Widman was
nevertheless charged with involuntary manslaughter in her case shortly after his
confession, but the charges were dropped in 1987. Prosecutors stated that there
was not enough evidence against Widman to support any charges; the law at the
time dictated that a body had to be found to prove homicide. Childs, who moved
to Garland, Texas and married after Bryner's disappearance, was arrested in June
1986 and charged with felony counts of hindering prosecution and providing false
reports to the authorities in connection with her daughter's case. The charges
were dropped after Widman refused to testify against her. Childs died in Texas
in 2001.
In September 2006, Widman was charged again with criminal homicide
in Bryner's presumed death. Investigators apparently do not have any fresh
evidence against him, but it is no longer unheard of for homicides to be
prosecuted without the victims' bodies, so authorities decided to go forward
with the case against Widman. He has reportedly been cooperative in the
investigation. Authorities stated they will search again for Bryner's body if
additional information becomes available.
The missing child's report date is
listed as March 11, 1982, although Childs claimed Bryner was abducted on March
9. Her case remains unsolved and continues to be listed as a Non-Family
Investigating Agency
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Pittsburgh Police Department
The second row of photos shows how Nicole might look if by some chance she is still alive.
If you would like to print a poster of Nicole, you may do so here. (The poster still lists the supermarket abduction story.)

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