Bobby Dunbar was the name of a 4 year old child who disappeared while on a fishing trip near Swayze Lake in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana, on August 23, 1912. After an eight-month nationwide search, investigators believed that they had found the child in the hands of William Cantwell Walters of Mississippi. Lessie and Percy Dunbar identified the boy as their son, Bobby Dunbar, though press accounts differed on how sure they really were. The return of the Dunbar child was celebrated by the press and with a local parade.
Walters was charged with kidnapping and later convicted. Some sources state that the verdict was overturned on appeal, and that he was never retried; others that although he was granted an appeal for a new trial, the city of Opelousas declined to undertake it out of concern for the costs.
At the same time, a woman named Julia Anderson was claiming that the boy was not Bobby Dunbar, but was in fact her own son, Charles/Charlie Bruce Anderson, whom Walters had taken with him, with her permission, on his tinkering journey. The press declared Miss Anderson to be a woman of loose morals and untrustworthy, and a court turned down her claim, awarding custody to the Dunbars.
The boy raised as Bobby Dunbar eventually had four children of his own and died in 1966. Years after his death, one of his granddaughters, Margaret Dunbar Cutright, started to conduct her own investigation of the decades-old mystery. In 2004, her efforts led to conclusive DNA proof that the child in Walters' custody could not have been Bobby Dunbar and that Walters had been wrongfully convicted. The DNA results of tests conducted on his son, Bobby Dunbar, Jr., and the son of Lessie and Percy Dunbar's other child, Alonzo, established that the two putative cousins were not related by blood. The fate of the real Bobby Dunbar is unknown.
In March 2008, Public Radio International's This American Life featured The Ghost of Bobby Dunbar, a radio documentary about the investigation of the case by Margaret Dunbar Cutright, the daughter of Bobby Dunbar's eldest son, Bobby Dunbar Jr. She expressed her own opinion that the real Bobby Dunbar most likely fell into Swayze Lake (considered a swamp) during the fishing trip in 1912 and was eaten by an alligator. This episode was repeated in February 2009.