Spotlight case: Clark Handa

It’s been quite awhile since I did a spotlight case so I thought I’d write about Clark Handa today. I updated his case yesterday and will update again soon because I found some old articles about him on NewsLibrary.

Clark was three and a half when he disappeared from his family’s Fairfield, California home in the middle of the night on August 23, 1984. When his mom came in the bedroom in the morning, Clark was missing from his bunk bed and the window nearest the bed was open. A ransom note was left at the scene, demanding a lot of money — the cops have never disclosed just how much. Clark’s family complied with the instructions on the note, but the kidnapper(s) never contacted them again and Clark’s whereabouts are unknown to this day.

This is a highly unusual case for a lot of reasons. To begin with, ransom kidnappings in the US hardly ever happen anymore. The last ones I can think of occurred in the fifties. (They are quite common in Mexico, but Fairfield is in northern California, quite a distance from the border.) Also, this may never have been a real ransom kidnap, seeing as how the abductor(s) never followed through. The Handas were not wealthy and Clark’s house was a very modest one, which doesn’t fit the profile for a ransom abduction. Furthermore, Clark was asleep in a bedroom with four or five other people (the media accounts differ), and nobody seems to have noticed anything until the child was discovered missing in the morning.

My suspicion — and it is only that, I don’t have a lot of info to go on — is that this was an “inside job.” For what it’s worth, Clark’s parents separated a short time before he disappeared, but the cops don’t seem to think they were involved. I wonder about other members of the family though, or neighbors or family friends, and other people well known to the family. If the abductor was someone Clark recognized and trusted, it would have been much easier to spirit him away without a sound. A well-known botched ransom kidnapping in Canada a few years ago (the child was killed a short time after her abduction, I think, though her body didn’t turn up for months) turned out to have been masterminded by a foreign student who knew someone who boarded with the victim’s family. He had visited the home several times for social reasons and was acquainted with the child. If the abductor was someone who knew Clark and the Handa family, it might explain why they were targeted instead of other families who had more money. Assuming the abductor was really after money to begin with.

One must never say never — especially in light of Jaycee Dugard’s recovery — but I don’t think Clark is still alive. If he is alive, though, he may not remember much, if anything, about his real family. He would be twenty-eight years old today.

8 thoughts on “Spotlight case: Clark Handa

  1. emma l September 15, 2009 / 1:11 pm

    I agree that its unlikely to be a stranger. In fact I would put money on it.

    I suspect a kidnapping or assault gone wrong and a ransom note left as a kind of last minute cover up. Not too bright.

    However, like you said, I would never have guessed on Jaycee either. There is a chance that someone took this child because they wanted a child of their own, or for other unthinkable reasons and he is still alive.

    I found the other ransom gone wrong I think you are talking about by the way Ceclila Zhang. Such a gorgeous kid. http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&safe=off&q=Cecilia+Zhang&btnG=Search&meta=

    I don’t always comment on em but I do love these “spotlight on a case” posts of yours. x

    • Meaghan September 15, 2009 / 2:38 pm

      The Handa case sounds very Jon Benet Ramsey-ish to me. I wish it had gotten more attention at the time, then perhaps we’d know what really happened to the poor kid.

      Cecilia Zhang was a beauty, all right.

  2. tania March 7, 2012 / 12:10 am

    Is so sad how this case had little attention in the media, just looking at that poor baby’s face makes me want to cry, I think that police did a really poor job in searching for evidence, and I don’t think this case will ever be solved. I do think it was an inside job, one of the family members or parents. I read an article that said that his parents don’t talk about him anymore, and to me that sounds really weird, because any parent who loved their child and wanted to find out what happened to their child would continue to search for him until they die, but they haven’t done anything at all for their own son, and is just not right. I wonder why the media didn’t follow this case so close as they usually do.
    here is an excerpt from the article I mentioned above and the link:
    http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/1998/12/04/MN79938.DTL&ao=2

    Clark Handa’s parents do not really talk about their son’s disappearance anymore. The pain cuts too deep, said his uncle, Earl Handa, — especially with the boy’s birthday coming up tomorrow.

    Clark was kidnapped Aug. 22, 1984, in the same way that Polly Klaas was: Some thug broke into his bedroom and took him. Clark’s abductor left a ransom note but never followed up to collect.

    “He’s 18 now, if he’s still alive,” Earl Handa said with a sigh. “We all miss him just as much as we ever did, but we don’t talk about it. All we can do is mark his birthday in our hearts. We won’t gather around and light candles.”

    Clark disappeared before there was the concern there is today — it was nearly a week before posters and wide notice spread throughout the area. A few news articles bubbled up and faded fast.

    “The search just kind of fizzled out, and then years went by, and they were never able to solve it,” said Handa. “This was all before the Polly Klaas case made everyone so aware, and my brother and his wife were shy, the last people in the world to talk in public. That all probably made a difference.

    “But that’s in the past. We try not to blame anyone. It’s hard.”

    • Meaghan March 7, 2012 / 1:05 am

      All families handle grief differently. I don’t know who caused this little boy’s disappearance but I don’t think the parents’ silence should be seen as incriminating. I know of a couple of cases where the families of missing children asked for them to be removed from the NCMEC site and other sites, just because seeing their faces everywhere online was so painful.

  3. Denise June 3, 2012 / 9:06 pm

    I was living in Fairfield at the time of this little one’s abduction with three young children of my own. Locals found it hard to believe that this was happening in our sleepy little town. The house that Handa lived in was definitely not one that you would expect to be hit for extortion, kidnapping with ransom notes or any other get rich quick crimes. Many speculated as you all have about family involvement but with one added twist… that he was in Japan with family there.I pray that he still is alive and has been raised with love if that is true.

  4. Lee January 31, 2013 / 4:16 pm

    Tosho’s family all handle it differently and HAVE actively searched for any information on him for over 28 yrs now, no one has EVER just wanted to forget him!
    It has always been thought an inside job (by some)…but one person of interest died yrs ago and another just stories told by ppl seeking a reward, no evidence or proof.
    It’s always been felt that FBI & police chased wrong leads and ignored ones they should have followed!
    Tosho is remembered every yr on his birthday in Dec by his family members all lighting a candle & collecting a Christmas ornament for him.

  5. julia October 30, 2014 / 12:57 pm

    My son was friends with his older brother and I was acquainted with both of his parents. His mother was a real ” Mama June ” type of character His father was a quiet man, an engineer at a refinery. In a million years I would never believe he had anything to do with it. He and his family were grief stricken but the mother ….she was another story entirely. I’m pretty sure there were some substance abuse issues there. There was a rumor that circulated for years that Clark was taken in exchange for a drug debt and possibly sold by a man with a muscle car. I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some truth in that. that poor little boy. ❤

  6. Aja March 15, 2016 / 2:19 pm

    I don’t believe anyone broke in and stole this little boy. Someone in that house knows a lot more than they’re saying. It’s been said that the family was poor as one can imagine a family with 9 children would be making it highly unlikely anyone thought they were going to make a penny off a ransom. The child was supposedly taken from a bedroom where 5 other children also slept. Besides the question of how the person got in unnoticed and picked Clark, there is also the thought that if this was a pedophile or someone who wanted a child to raise,it is highly unlikely the person would have taken just one child from this smorgasbord of 6 vulnerable children. Somebody in that house knows something.

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