Decades before Facebook and Netflix would occupy them, kids took to the streets, seeking adventures. On lazy afternoons, it was normal for neighborhood kids to spend hours at a time away from home, returning only for dinner. They were free to jump from tree to tree, house to house, running around the neighborhood, crawling through sewer drains, and playing hide and go seek.

On Sunday, May 8 — Mother’s Day — all of this changed. After Sunday school, nine-year-old Steven Johnston went looking for golf balls on the edge of the Kenwood golf course, hoping to maybe find some frogs or snakes along the way. The third-grader at Radnor Elementary never returned to his home on Fairglen Lane...

A fireman found the body on Monday morning, 150 feet from where Little Falls Parkway crosses the Capital Crescent Trail. Steve Johnston had been molested and stabbed. On May 10, the story made the front page of The Washington Post, with the headline “Police Hunt Knife Slayer of 9-year-old Bethesda Boy.”
Stevie's sister remembers:

It may seem lurid and sensational, but there is no subtle or gentle way to state what happened to my brother. I was 15, and had chosen that afternoon to go on a drive with my boyfriend in his convertible, ending the afternoon kissing in the car near the woods. I had no way of knowing that perhaps only a hundred yards away, Stevie was struggling for his life, or had already relinquished it.

By the time I returned home, also late for dinner, a frantic search was underway. Police vehicles and the cars of family members lined the street in front of our house. Concerned neighbours stood silently in their gardens or talked quietly together. Walkie-talkies crackled – an alarming and highly unusual sound in our quiet neighborhood... We searched all night through a hard spring rain, calling his name and looking in places he might be, and in places he wasn’t supposed to be. In the very early, foggy morning the next day Stevie’s body was found, fortunately not by anyone in our family...

It’s been 48 years since we lost Stevie and no one has ever been charged with his murder. However, in 1994, we discovered that there was a suspect the police had known about all along, but neither my family nor the public was told about him. He is currently free, though registered as a sex offender for other crimes against children. I believe Stevie’s case was mishandled in other ways, too. For instance, a good deal of physical evidence was lost, and the loss of the evidence was not reported to us.