DGKN staff report
Travelers along U.S. 30 and other busy roadways in Wayne and Holmes counties may have noticed billboards this winter asking questions: “What really happened to Amish mother Ida Stutzman in 1977?” and “What really happened to Little Boy Blue’s mother?”
One query stands out in yellow against a black background above a photo of a fiery structure, and the other billboard has a photo of a young Danny Stutzman in denim overalls. Both contain a web address, JusticeForIda.com, and the phrase “Tell What You Know.”
Author Gregg Olsen is revisiting an unsolved case dating back to 1977, which was highlighted in his first book, “Abandoned Prayers,” published more than 30 years ago, according to a news release.
Olsen’s book chronicled the story of Eli Stutzman, an Amish man who left the faith and was eventually convicted of the murder of his roommate in Texas, the news release states. Before that, however, the now deceased killer, was linked to the death of his wife Ida, 26, in a Dalton barn fire in 1977, and more infamously, the mysterious death of his son, Danny.
The 9-year old’s body was found in a cornfield on Christmas Eve 1985 in a small Nebraska town, the news release continues. Since he was wearing blue pajamas, the unknown boy was nicknamed Little Boy Blue by residents of Thayer County, Nebraska.
The Little Boy Blue story became the basis for a Reader’s Digest article in 1988 which led to the identification of the boy as Danny Stutzman, the news release states. Since cause of death was undetermined, Eli Stutzman was charged only with abandoning a human body and failing to report a death. After serving his Nebraska sentence he was extradited to Texas, where he was convicted of murdering his roommate, Glenn Pritchett.
Olsen’s book on the case, “Abandoned Prayers,” became a New York Times bestseller – and has remained in print for more than three decades.
Now, on the heels of his 2.5 million copy bestseller, “If You Tell,” the author is writing a new book for Amazon Publishing’s Thomas & Mercer imprint solely focusing on Ida Stutzman’s death.
“Ida’s story has haunted me all these years and I think it’s time to right a wrong that was committed back in 1977,” Olsen said in the news release. “I’m convinced that her death was a homicide. This time around – with the help of those who know the truth – I aim to prove it in my book, ‘The Amish Wife’.”
Five billboards featuring the barn fire were erected in Wayne and Holmes County in late November. In mid-December, three more – this time depicting Danny Stutzman – were added.
“I’ve received scores of leads and messages of support from the Amish and others urging me to get to the truth – and not to let what happened to Ida remain swept under the rug,” Olsen said in the release.
Olsen notes on the website justiceforidea.com, that he was a young man when he wrote “Abandoned Prayers” and many things have haunted him.
“Besides Danny’s death – about which the truth will likely never be known – what floats to the top is the ruling Ida’s death in a barn fire was accidental/natural causes,” the website states. “No one close to the situation thinks that’s true.”
Olsen has a form on his website and asks anyone with information about Ida Stutzman and the incident to contact him and he states he assures anonymity. He also includes a mailing address “PO Box 7, Olalla WA 98359” and message phone: 253-230-4096.
“No detail is too small,” the website states.
Olsen is the No. 1 New York Times, No. 1 Amazon Charts, No. 1 Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and USA Today bestselling author of more than 30 crime books, according to notorioususa.com.
An impassioned voice for victims and their families, Olsen has been a guest on Dateline, 48 Hours, 2020, William Shatner’s Aftermath, Deadly Women, Good Morning America, CBS Morning News, Today, FOX News, CNN, Anderson Cooper, MSNBC, Entertainment Tonight, Snapped, Forensic Files, Inside Edition, Nancy Grace, Extra, Access Hollywood, NPR with Scott Simon and Biography among dozens of other shows. Olsen’s true crime book, “If You Tell,” was Amazon’s bestselling ebook for 2020.