Missing Since: September 5, 1944 from Paynesville, Minnesota
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date of Birth: February 15, 1938
Age: 6 years old
Height and Weight: 3'0, 45 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian male. Blond hair, blue eyes. Theel's nickname is Jackie and most accounts refer to him by that name.
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A blue and white sailor suit.

Details of Disappearance

Theel attended his first day of school in Paynesville, Minnesota on September 5, 1944. It was a half-day; he was supposed to come home for lunch and stay there. At 11:30 p.m., Theel's teacher sent him on his way home, asking first if he knew the way. His home was on the corner of Lake Avenue and Railroad Street in Paynesville; it is now a vacant lot. He never arrived there and has never been heard from again.


Bloodhounds traced Theel's scent down Augusta Avenue, a block west of Washburne Street. His home was a block east of Washburne Street. The trail continued to the Crow River, just west of the North American Creamery. The tracks of a child were found leading west along the river. They went as far as Highway 23 and both the tracks and the scent vanished.


Witnesses reported seeing a small boy matching Theel's description standing along Highway 23 at 1:00 p.m. that day. Other witnesses claim they saw a small boy getting into a gray car on Highway 23 at 4:45 p.m. It has not been confirmed that either child was Theel.


Theel's surviving family members say Theel was a "slow" child who, unlike his siblings, was never allowed to run errands in town or go far from home without his parents. He is not believed to have been seriously mentally disabled, however, as he was permitted to attend school. His loved ones believe that he became lost and was picked up by a stranger along Highway 23. Soldiers stationed in the Army at the time could get discharged if they had dependents; Theel may have been taken by a soldier for that reason. In the 1960s, one of Theel's old teachers claims to have seen a young man matching his description and calling himself Jackie Theel, getting off a Navy ship in California. The man told the teacher he had been adopted. It has not been confirmed that he was the same Jackie Theel who disappeared in 1944, however.


Theel is one of fifteen children. One of his sisters and one of his brothers still live in the Paynesville area and are still searching for him. He has never been declared legally dead and his case remains unsolved.

Investigating Agency

If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension