KALKASKA — John Robert Barnes always felt different.
He didn’t look like anyone in his family.His older brother and younger sister were short and had dark hair. Barnes is 6 feet tall with light skin and green eyes.“I don’t look like them,” Barnes said this
afternoon. “They are small. They have brown eyes, real dark hair.”Now, Barnes thinks he knows the reason. He said he is almost 100% sure that he was kidnapped as a child.“I’m waiting on the FBI to tell me the results,” he said of DNA testing expected to determine whether he is actually Steven Damman, who
disappeared just before his 3rd birthday from outside a Long Island, N.Y., bakery on Halloween 1955.Sitting on his couch this afternoon, talking about the day his mother died — at least, the woman he thought was his mother.“She was dying of cancer and I think it was kind of like a deathbed confession,” Barnes said. “She wanted me to come over there alone.”Elizabeth Grundell, the woman who raised Barnes and whom he had always called mother, died in Elk Rapids in 1999, he said.She had lung cancer, and she was heavily
medicated as she spoke to him.“I think she was trying to tell me something, but she wasn’t making sense,” Barnes said. “It was a bunch of gibberish.”Through the gibberish, through his gut feeling, he said he figured it out: He wasn’t her child.It was something Barnes said he had always felt. But she didn’t give him any specifics.“I never told anybody that she might have confessed,” Barnes said. “I said she might be trying to tell me something.”For almost 20 years, Barnes said he had been trying to
uncover his real background, going through old newspapers and searching the Internet because he didn’t look like his other family members. He said he was looking for children, around his age, who had been kidnapped.“It was a lot of time,” he said. “I had been doing it before” his mother’s deathbed confession. “It was a lot of time and patience.”