It was one of the hottest summers on Staten Island. My mother had just placed a fan inside the living room window of our two bedroom home. As she fixed breakfast, the telephone rang. It was our neighbor. "A little girl around the corner was kidnapped last night," he said, "did you hear about it?" No. She hadn't heard about it. As she listened to the details, the tiny hairs on her arms stood up. How could a seven-year-old girl vanish into thin air?
Later that evening, as my mother watched the news, she heard the little girl's name for the first time - Holly Ann Hughes.
Kidnappings were a rare occurance on Staten Island and there hadn't been one since 1972. Parents in the neighborhood forbid their children to leave the yard. Neighbors began talking about a suspicious, dark green, Volkswagen beetle. Our little Staten Island community was in a serious panic. Where was Holly Ann Hughes? She had walked to the store to buy soap for her mother and she never came back.
Two years later, another hot summer brought feelings of déjà vu to Staten Islanders.
We had just moved to a different Staten Island neighborhood when the news reported that a 10-year-old Staten Island girl was abducted. Again, the kidnapping took place a few blocks away from our home.
Tiahease Tiawanna Jackson went to the supermarket at 1:30 on August 14, 1983 - in a busy neighborhood, in pure daylight - never to be seen or heard from again.
It was the first summer I was allowed to ride my bike more than 2 houses away from my home. I was seven years old. I'll never forget that Thursday: My parents told me to put my bike away and come in the house. Hurry! Get in the house! The news just broke: Another little girl was abducted on Staten Island.
On July 9, 1987, Jennifer Schweiger, a 12-year-old with Down's syndrome, went out for a walk and never returned home. She was a student at the Staten Island elementary school I attended.
A massive search was conducted on Staten Island. In addition to law enforcement, Jennifer Schweiger's parents searched high and low for their daughter. The community pulled together to search different areas of Staten Island. Thirty-five days were spent searching for Jennifer Schweiger. Her body was found buried in a shallow grave on the grounds behind the former Willowbrook State School, which is now the College of Staten Island.
Jennifer Schweiger was last seen walking alongside a homeless man with a bicycle. The man was identified as Andre Rand, a sex offender with a criminal record. Rand, who was born with the name Frank Rashan, was arrested several days later.
Andre Rand was suspected in the disappearances of several Staten Island children prior to Jennifer's disappearance. These children include: Alice Pereia (missing since 1972), Holly Ann Hughes (missing since 1981), whom he was convicted of kidnapping in October 2004, and Tiahease Jackson (missing since 1983).
There is speculation that Andre Rand may be responsible for the disappearance of Audrey Lyn Nerenberg, an 18-year-old from Brooklyn (missing since 1977).
Where Are the Children?
It's been more than 20 years since Andre Rand terrorized Staten Island and his victims' parents have never received closure - their babies are out there somewhere.
I do not know - and I hope I never have to know - the pain of losing a child. The children kidnapped by Rand have always been close to my heart because any one of them could have been me.
Over the years many searches have been organized for the children who disappeared on a summer day in Staten Island. Every year, "Friends of Jennifer," a team that searched for Jennifer Schweiger, searches Willowbrook's 385 acres looking for the other girls. Sadly, the other girls still haven't been found.
As of May 2011, Andre Rand continues to make headlines in the Staten Island Advance.
Help Find Missing Children
Don't let missing children become forgotten children. Educate yourself on prevention, stastics and most importantly - learn how you can help find missing kids. Take a moment of your time, learn about missing children in your community. Raise awareness. All it takes is one person to recognize and identify an abducted child. You can help give a sad story a happy ending.
Robert V. on December 22, 2016:
Just watch a movie ( Freedomland ) in credits mention "Friends of Jennifer for missing children " a tear jerker , so sad - To the parents we care - an feel the pain as one of our owne . Im in Calif. ,an shed a tear of hope for the missing - the lost . Pray the Lord has them in his house in Heaven . May the petifiles on earth BURN IN HELL for
ETERNITY . ! ! ! !
Mike on July 14, 2014:
WOW! I was growing up right across the Kill van Kull at the other end of the Bayonne Bridge & this is the first I'm hearing of this!
Ashley Courtien on March 15, 2014:
You know what's eerie? If you watch video footage from news presses on holly, there is one particular of the reporter talking with a group of teens behind him. One of the teens is actually hank.
lucy on February 28, 2014:
Good job futonfraggle
Karen Shiley from Washington on November 24, 2013:
I just watched the Cropsy documentary. I would like to know who George is? Was he an investigator or volunteer?
cactus319 on May 29, 2013:
This man is severely ill!! Rand has been connected to a few adult victims! i Just feel for Hank because he seems to swept under the rug! Rand is the prime suspect in Hanks disappearance as he was seen with rand by several witnesses! Hank has never been found!!! its profoundly upsetting because there isn't any resolution to hanks disapearance nor any of the other children and victims of rand!!
catus319 on March 26, 2013:
Hank is usually overlooked because the majority of rands victims are under 10 years of age but there are a few that are much older. altohough hank was 21 chronlogicaly, his mental capacity was that of a 15 year old. He also looked much younger than 21 which made him very vullernable. Hank was included in the documentary Cropsey because he was abducted in the same time frame as the other children and literally lived around the corner from Holly Ann. Hank was last seen with rand at a diner around 4am! His body has never been found! Rand was never charged with hanks disappearance just like the children with exception of Jeniffer and Holly Ann. To me his story is so sad because hes a young man with a learning disability who was just trying to be independent like his older brothers and this deviant comes and desimates hanks life and the lives of hanks family! Thank you for acknowleging him and responding to me. I usually dont comment on these forums but i just didn't want the world to forget about hank or his family.
futonfraggle (author) on March 23, 2013:
Wow! I wasn't aware of Hank. I didn't realize Rand had any male victims, let alone a 21-year-old. Was Rand charged with Hank's abduction? Did they ever find Hank? Thank you for keeping Hank's memory alive.
cactus319 on March 11, 2013:
I just wanted to say that nothing causes me more pain and sadness than missing children! Especially the victims of andre rand. I hope that all of his victims are found and that their families have some sort of closure after all these years! However there is one victim in particular that has not had as much coverage as the others and is usually over looked! Hank Gafforio was also a victim of rands and to my knowledge the only male victim! Gafforio lived right around the corner from Holly Ann and also fell prey to rand. Even though he was 21 at the time, he had the I.Q of a 15 year old and was just as vulnerable as the other children. Hank is gone! He will never have children, never have a career and we will never know what a wonder person he was or could have been! May you rest in peace hank and may your family have peace and one day bring you home!
pamela bruno on May 31, 2012:
I remember trying to help find Jennifer. My heart goes out to all their families. Whoever can harm an innocent child or animal is sick.
keke on May 22, 2012:
monic on February 10, 2012:
I am sorry for the parents who lost there little girls.
l dog on February 01, 2012:
omfg hwywould anyone do such a thing i mean really does it give anyone joy to kidnap kids and hurt them in anyway i mean if you have ever kidnaped or thought about kidnapping someone you are jacked up in the head i mean god!
wildrosebush from Kissimmee, Florida on January 27, 2012:
Very sad, I read about this. My moms from Brooklyn and she would always talk about Staten Island. Great hub.
stacy on November 07, 2011:
What is happening in this world of our of our's?. It breaks my heart to hear such things happening to such young girls,
I am so sorry for the parents who have lost there daughter's to these kind of tragedy's. I don't have any children but I really sympathize with all the parents. From Cyprus God Bless you all
Jamie Brock from Texas on September 20, 2011:
I saw a show about this a few nights ago. So sad and so scary to think of... I can't imagine the horror the families have gone through. I hope they have been able to be at peace somehow.
Claire Swazey on May 17, 2011:
Has it ever occurred to anyone that Andre Rand is bugf*ck crazy? That's probably why he doesn't defend himself. He's a nut. A total looney tune. Maybe he's a murderer, maybe he's not. He is a loon and a nut and a pedophile. And being off his rocker- as he is- he probably doesn't remember jack s**t. I'm not convinced that he killed those kids. There never was any physical evidence. I wouldn't be surprised if he did it, but there's no telling. And you'll never find out from him. He probably barely knows his name. Give me a break.
gogetter4u from Texas on April 11, 2011:
If U need something 2 get upset over, how about Missing Children. R U upset NOW? Buy the book “Saved by a Whistle” Help save a child's LIFE
Mailey Smith on March 15, 2011:
My heart goes to the victim. Parents should take action regarding the child abduction. I would highly recommend Safekidzone personal mobile application that design to prevent danger. One of the useful features of this application is the panic-button that your child can press if they are in danger and automatically parents will be notified, family members and 911 authorities for an immediate assistance. The life saving protection for kids http://safekidzone.com/
mandy on February 20, 2011:
I lived in Toms River, NJ from 1982-1984, and I remember that neighbors of ours were telling my mom, to keep us kids inside,to always make sure to remember the clothes we were wearing and to have a secret word in case some one said to come with them because they knew our parents. Their logic was, If this happened in Staten Island, it could happen in NJ.
Our neighborhood Cropsey was called The Candyman. He had a van with candy in it to lure kids.
even our apartment complex had a cropsey-ish guy! He was known as Jack the Pervert. He drew attention to himself because he wore pink shirts. Turns out he was just gay. But all the kids would say he exposed himself to them. No one could prove it though.
Gitara78 on February 10, 2011:
Hey Lauren, Jennifer went to p.s. 22 briefly
Lauren on February 08, 2011:
Hi- I was just wondering what elementary school you attended because Jennifer looked a lot like a girl who went to my school, the SI Montessori School. Thanks.
ashley on February 03, 2011:
@Matt .. it is not an eye sore. The people who did this movie used this to add some lure to the story, as Willowbrook has sine been knocked down and CSI now sits on the old site. This building is one of the many Sea View houses. Sea View was a TB hospital where the cure to TB was discovered and in its time was a top notch hospital.
Matt on February 01, 2011:
I just watched the documentary “Cropsey” and a few things came to mind after I viewed the film. First off, I see the hospital as an eye sore. Does anyone on Staten Island agree with me? Not only is it a terrible building, the history behind it is sickening. It seems as it grows older, the disrepair of the building now only leaves the community with a dangerous threat. From my understanding of the documentary, the building continues to house homeless people, and teenagers find a great thrill in walking amongst it in the middle of the night. I feel it is very dangerous for a number of reasons. The tunnel system is sketchy in itself. Have the residents of Staten Island ever considered tearing the building down and filling in the tunnels? I see this as being helpful to prevent injury and to lower crime rates. Most importantly, does anyone feel that it is possible that Anthony Rand could have buried the missing children behind one of the walls or beneath the building in the tunnel system? Just something to think about/look into. Especially if he worked there it is entirely possible he knew of a “hidden” place to hide the bodies.
MICKE-D on January 31, 2011:
Really the most important evidence and ONE incriminating FACT I heard in this entire movie called CROPSY was that GEORGE found the burial site which was completely covered up and that he kept insisting they go dig her up so .... duh? Why did they not explore that big time?
And "Louis Cifer, Lucifer" .. not helpful
Louis Cifer on January 27, 2011:
be still, listen and you will hear the voices.
Amanda on December 26, 2010:
Have they found any more of the missing children?
Killy on December 24, 2010:
Rand did it, as a child I lived in that area during the time. He would come from the Willowbrook park over to New Springville little league and watch kids. He was the boogey man. I think someone moved the body to someplace he would be connected and caught. He and his 'story' should be buried and forgotten so he never becomes an Ed Gene.
Christina on November 23, 2010:
If he did NOT do it why didn't he ever say that he didn't???????? He wants to be famous.
Mary on November 18, 2010:
Just watched the show. Rand is guilty of something but the evidence he was convicted on is very flimsy. The only remains they ever found were Jennifer's and, I have to say, as soon as I heard "George" discovered the burial site and was insistent they dig there I began to wonder about "George's" alibi. Later in the show they indicate Jennifer's body had been moved. There were a lot of loose ends and unanswered questions. Whatever the truth is I hope the families are able to find some measure of peace.
tee on November 15, 2010:
To the person that said that they might have the wrong on because sex offender have big mouths!!!!! That is not ture in a lot of cases. Sex offenders are one of the most smart, secretive, cunning humans ever. That is why most do not get caught. I recently watched the moive crospey. Which talks about this case. After watching it he diffently has a conection to these missing kids. My heart goes out to these parnets. I can not even imagine the pain they have experenced.
Lisa L. on August 14, 2010:
There's never much talk about Alice Perara. I remember her very well for I use to play with her.
Tom Kas on August 13, 2010:
This is disgusting and scary... I live in Staten Island, And to think that this is going on... That man deserves to suffer for the rest of his days on earth.
SHANK on December 11, 2009:
It's a shame for the parents. I would love to have 5 minutes in a room with that scumbag.
Ruth Foster- Cortes on November 09, 2009:
I still remember as it was yesterday when I was young and my friend holly ann hughes was missing I live right down the block from her and I remember the bridge too.I feel her parent really deserve a great brural for her. May she rest in peace.I miss you Holly and your friendship.you are a great person.
Ronald on September 01, 2009:
It is a very important hub page. I think the most important one I saw so far.
One of the best safety tips I can give that can prevent these horrible stories is to buy the Amber Alert GPS. I have a 4 year old and a 2 year old. I lost my older son in the mall last spring and words cannot explain how I felt…
After that, I got both of them the Amber Alert GPS and my wife and I are both connected so that this will never ever happen again.
Not to mention the protection it provides in case of kidnapping… hope we will never ever need that :)
You can read about it here: http://traveling-with-kids.com/amber-alert-gps
Kaitlyn on August 03, 2009:
Holly Ann Hughes was my cousin who I was never able to see, because of this terrible man.
Adam B on July 07, 2009:
Every year, "Friends of Jennifer," a team that searched for Jennifer Schweiger, searches Willowbrook's 385 acres looking for the other girls.
I think they need to start looking somewhere else...seriously. I hate reading about children being ubducted and probabaly killed since I two little ones of my own.
MellasViews from Earth on July 07, 2009:
This is so horrible. That disgusting man does not even deserve rest in death. I vouch for bringing back mideval torture for people like him.
futonfraggle on March 22, 2009:
Thanks, Wednesday. Every now and then an article will appear in the Staten Island Advance or the Daily News - I see their names and cross my fingers. I really feel for those families after all these years.
Wednesday Morning on March 22, 2009:
Futon, I remember when Holly Hughes was abducted as well. I'm a former NY'er myself.
Excellent read. Thanks for putting the spotlight on this topic.
futonfraggle (author) on March 22, 2009:
Thank you, Tom. You're absolutely right - missing children should be a top priority.
Tom Cornett from Ohio on March 22, 2009:
Good Hub....missing children should be the top priority in this country but sadly it isn't.