Let’s talk about it: Ricky Jean Bryant

This week’s “Let’s Talk About It” case is Ricky Jean “Jeannie” Bryant, a child who disappeared from Mauston, Wisconsin on December 19, 1949, five and a half weeks after her fourth birthday.

Jeannie was one of four children. The day she disappeared, the two oldest kids were in school and Jeannie’s grandma was watching her and her brother. That day a fire broke out at the Bryant home and I think the house was a total loss. One of the things that got lost was Jeannie.

Although what happens appears to be no mystery at all, Jeannie’s family thinks she did not die in the fire and was abducted by a strange well-dressed woman whom her five-year-old brother claims he saw that day.  The theory is that Jeannie’s biological father was not the same father as her siblings’, and she was taken to be raised by her father and his family.

I don’t know that much about the case — why her family thinks that, whether there’s any evidence that she was illegitimate, any of that. As far as I can tell, it’s been years since there’s been any press coverage about the case.

What do y’all think? Was this a tragic accidental death, or is Jeannie alive and well and a grandmother, even a great-grandmother, not knowing who she is? If she’s alive she would be 71 today.

Let’s talk about it.

11 thoughts on “Let’s talk about it: Ricky Jean Bryant

  1. becky December 1, 2016 / 11:54 pm

    Occam’s razor says she died in the fire. I guess It’s possible she was kidnapped by a VERY lucky kidnapper who happened by while everyone was distracted and took her and raised her and she is still alive today. But it’s more likely that if she was kidnapped, it was by a less than benevolent kidnapper who set the house on fire as a distraction. If that happened, I doubt she is still alive. This nonsense about her secret biological dad whisking her to safety seems like something her siblings would want to believe but doesn’t make much sense.

    • Shari Kizziar December 2, 2016 / 7:06 am

      I have to agree…mostly, Unless the fire was set by the kidnapper or the grandmother who may have been in on it or something else equally “out there”. But the bone fragments they found…are they still around? Did the fire ruin any chance of a DNA comparison? It would be nice to have more details…like, how did the fire start? The bones were not identified as hers, but does that mean they were not hers conclusively? And were they definitely human bone fragments? And that 5-year-old brother…what does he say now? The bit about the expensive car does not sound very much like a five-year old’s observation, but the story about being sent to a house is pretty intriguing.

    • Lauren December 4, 2016 / 12:58 am

      I totally agree Becky.

  2. Amy December 2, 2016 / 8:59 am

    The first thing that bothers me the most is the extremely different accounts between the sibling and the grandmother. The 5-year old stated they were ALL in the yard watching the fire. Did that include the grandmother. If yes, why would a complete stranger come up and direct the boy to go get help. Why not direct the grandmother? Why would the grandmother let this woman dictate what needed to be done. If she wasn’t present, were was she? Maybe, she though Jeannie was still inside, so she ran back to search. This is the only scenario I can think of that at least wouldn’t contradict each other. The 2nd thing that strikes me odd, is that when I read about this on reddit, there was an account of a neighbor also going in to search for Jeannie and found the grandmother inside…collecting canned goods! Really?!? Finally, (also on reddit) the grandmother told her (the neighbor) to stop worrying about Jeannie because she was with relatives. If you piece the stories together, although circumstantial, could the grandmother been paid by someone to allow this to “happen”……she seems the most suspicious to me. I think Jeannie is alive and probably has no idea who she is.

    • becky December 8, 2016 / 9:12 pm

      Interesting! That extra info, if true, does make the grandma look pretty guilty.

    • Gail McNall February 2, 2021 / 2:30 pm

      I agree! Gramma’s guilty! If I remember right (reading the articles) she had at one point climbed a ladder to get her invalid husband out through a second story window. I believe this was the time that the little girl disappeared.

  3. michael w. December 3, 2016 / 7:50 am

    I agree with Amy. I tend to believe the boy because children are horrible liars and their lies are usually found out. Adults are much better at it, for obvious reasons. Plus, what motive would he had to lie? Unless he’s a 5 year old with an extremely overactive imagination, but that’s stretching quite a bit.

    I’ve never much cared for Occam or his stupid razor. Highly improbable things happen all the time. I think most places had the odds of Trump winning the White House somewhere in the one percentile. Of course, we all know how that turned out. The outcomes of the Wisconsin and Pennsylvania senate races also shocked the political pundits.

    I’ve said on here numerous times that criminals will go to ABSURD lengths to get what they want. And yes, that involves doing things that normal humans would never dream of. They don’t think like normal people. I think that tends to get forgotten much of the time.

  4. Lori December 6, 2016 / 12:00 pm

    Most likely the child died in the fire. It wouldn’t be unusual to not find bones or even fragments as children’s bones are quite small when compared to adults. Plus, with the high heat, the bones would calcine and then be destroyed by the water hoses. The skull would be the largest bit, and even it would shatter under the build up of pressure from the brain boiling.

  5. Gail McNall February 2, 2021 / 2:23 pm

    Just from what I’ve read in different articles, I think she was a planned kidnapping. Ive been trying to research and coming up empty handed. I’d like to see pictures of the females in her family. In particular mom and gramma! I do not belong to ancestry so can’t go that route. mom is Opal Bryant. she also has gone by Opal Naomi Halverson Davis. Her birthdate is 6 dec, 1922. Gramma is Helene Keogh Halverson. Her maiden name is Harstad. She was born 30 July 1888 The only close family member still alive from the last posting, is Elizabeth.

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