MIDDLE TOWNSHIP — This week marks 25 years since a Cape May County boy left his home to check out a nearby marsh fire. He was never seen again and authorities are still searching for answers.

After several days of unsuccessful searches — by foot, boat and plane — in the days following Nov. 25, 1991, investigators came to the realization they were dealing with an abduction. It was the first ever in this township, according to Rich McHale, a former detective on the case.

Mark Himebaugh (The One Percent via Vimeo)
Mark Himebaugh (The One Percent via Vimeo)

Mark Himebaugh, 11, was reportedly last seen at Cape May County Park-South. His mother was driving a neighbor to pick up their car, and in that half-hour trip, Mark vanished. The only trace of evidence that was found was the boy's left shoe, not far from his home.

"Someone convinced Mark to get into a vehicle, either in the park or right outside the park, without any type of struggle that drew attention to him," said McHale, who describes the case as dumbfounding because many residents of the Del Haven neighborhood were outdoors to watch firefighters take on the marsh fire.

Getting colder by the year, the case was given new life over the past 18 months. In June 2015, local and federal investigators announced a partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children's Project ALERT program to assist in the investigation.

The case was also the focus of a 15-minute documentary that was screened during the Cape May Film Festival on Nov. 12. Filmmakers Rip Saling and Ed Claypoole spent two years interviewing Mark's mother, other relatives and former detectives in order to create "The One Percent," which refers to the approximate percentage of children who are never recovered after being reported missing by a caregiver.

"There was a lot of footage that we found from the past that we put into the film — home movies, news footage," Claypoole said. "We want to continue to get the word out."

According to McHale, the strongest lead in 25 years pointed police to Pennsylvania resident Thomas Butcavage, who's currently serving a lengthy prison sentence for child molestation. He's considered a "person of interest" and has not been charged.

To boost the reward money in the case and hopefully coax the right information out of someone, McHale launched a GoFundMe page with a goal of $50,000.

"My goal is to generate the amount of reward money needed to entice those who possess the answer to that missing link, to come forward, anonymously, and claim the reward for the return of Mark and capture of the scumbag(s) responsible," the page says.

McHale and the extended Himebaugh family are hosting a candlelight vigil Friday evening at the park where Mark was last seen.

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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at dino.flammia@townsquaremedia.com.

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