If you’ve seen the documentary on Netflix titled The Imposter, then you are familiar with the case of missing thirteen-year-old Nicholas Patrick Barclay. While The Imposter was a fascinating documentary, it left me with too many questions. As I did some research into Nicholas’s background as well as his family, I was disappointed to discover that most of what you find online focuses more on the con artist, Frédéric Bourdin, who deceived Nicholas’s family into believing he was the missing boy found three years after vanishing.
Nicholas Barclay was born on December 31, 1980 and was last seen playing basketball in June of 1994. There is some speculation as to the exact date in June. His mother, Beverly Dollarhide, reported him missing on the 13th however, it is believed by some that he hadn’t been seen since the 10th and was not reported missing until three days later since it wasn’t unusual for Nicholas to leave home for a day or so.
Nicholas was being raised by a single mother that battled a drug addiction and worked the graveyard shift at a local convenience store. Beverly had two older children from a previous marriage, daughter Carey and son Jason. Both siblings were significantly older than Nicholas.
Nicholas was a problemed little boy and had several run-ins with the law, accruing a juvenile criminal record for breaking and entering, stealing, truancy, and threatening his teachers. Nicholas was also known for being verbally and physically abusive toward his mother. Evenually, Beverly asked her older son Jason, who was in his twenties at the time, to live with her and help her try to take control of Nicholas. This could very well have caused further problems as Jason battled a cocaine addiction and had a violent temper. Police were repeatedly called to the family home due to domestic disturbances. Needless to say, Nicholas was well-known among law enforcement in his hometown in San Antonio. He was scheduled for a court appearance on June 14th leading to the possibility of being sent to live in a group home. Obviously, the idea of being sent to a group home and losing the freedom he currently enjoyed did not sit well with him.
On the last day that Nicholas was seen, he was playing basketball at a park approximately a mile or two from his home. He called home to see if his mother would pick him up when he was done, but Jason answered and informed Nicholas that their mother was still asleep and he didn’t want to wake her. (Since Beverly worked the graveyard shift she slept during the day.) Jason told him to walk home and this was the last anyone heard from Nicholas. On June 13th Beverly Dollarhide reported her son missing. Given Nicholas’s reputation with law enforcement and the scheduled court appearance, authorities were slow to respond, assuming he was simply running away from the inevitable and that he would show up in a day or so. As he was a small boy for his age, only four-foot, eight-inches, and weighing only eighty pounds and had been wearing a white shirt, purple pants and was carrying a pink backpack, police might have thought he’d be hard to miss and would be brought home before long. They were mistaken.
In September of that same year, Jason called the police to inform them that Nicholas had just attempted to break into their garage. When the cops arrived there was no sign of anyone attempting to break in, much less any sign of Nicholas.
If you are unfamiliar with this case, I’ll provide you with the most basic of information regarding Frédéric Bourdin but would rather not go in depth as I believe this part of the case eclipses what is most important: Nicholas Barclay’s disappearance.
Three years after disappearing, his family received word that Nicholas had been discovered in Linares, Spain. Supposedly he was kidnapped by some high-ranking government officials that ran a child sex ring. These government operatives not only sexually abused him and many other children, but ran experiments on him, causing his blue eyes to turn brown as well as darken his hair in order to make him unrecognizable. Nicholas’s sister Carey, with the help of her employer, flew out to Spain (her very first trip out of the country), believed this was her baby brother and brought him back to San Antonio, having him live in her home and sharing a bedroom with her son. Months later, the fake Nicholas would be exposed for who he truly was; Frédéric Pierre Bourdin, a 23-year-old French citizen and notorious con artist. (If you would like to learn more about this part of the story I would recommend watching The Imposter or reading The New Yorker article linked below.)
Partly because of Bourdin’s claims after being arrested, many people have come to the conclusion that Nicholas’s family is responsible for what happened to him. Some speculate that Jason may have murdered him and Beverly, in an effort to protect her older son, helped cover it up. A short time after Bourdin’s arrest, Jason died of a cocaine overdose. It is unknown as to whether or not his death was accidental or a suicide. For many, it does seem suspicious. Was Jason feeling some sort of guilt? This is conceivable regardless of whether or not he hurt Nicholas. Remember, he told his little brother to walk home by himself that day, resulting in his vanishing. Jason had been questioned multiple times both by authorities and a private investigator, but no conclusion had ever been made as to his involvement. His supposed sighting of Nicholas that night in September seems very suspicious to some, as well. Could he have been under the influence of drugs on that night and not thinking clearly?
Some believe Beverly Dollarhide knows more than she ever let on as she showed significant resistance when it came to DNA testing. In my opinion, this does not necessarily prove any guilt on her part. Beverly battled a heroin addiction. It is possible she mistakenly believed that she would be drug tested. There’s also a chance that she was in denial; she may have known the individual posing as her son was not actually her son, but had been in so much grief for the past three years that she subconsciously chose to believe this was Nicholas. Beverly was also given three polygraph tests, all on the same day; the first two she passed and the third she failed. First of all, polygraphs are not infallible; second, having already taken multiple tests and being interrogated by police, I would imagine you’re going to be a nervous and exhausted wreck so how could this not negatively affect the outcome?
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, Jason and Beverly did harm Nicholas and hid or disposed of his body in some way, this would mean they were fully aware that the young man claiming to be Nicholas was a fraud. Why bring that type of attention to themselves? By the time they received word that fake Nicholas was in Spain, the case had gone cold and they were under no suspicion. Knowingly embracing a complete stranger falsely claiming to be a family member could only work against them, bringing about unwanted attention. The mere fact that Carey brought fake Nicholas into her home and had her own son share a room with him speaks volumes.
Heartbreak and denial are powerful. This is a simple family from a small town who were already battling so many demons and now they were facing the worst ordeal no family should have to endure, a missing child.
To this day, Nicholas Barclay’s whereabouts are still unknown. It is highly doubtful he’s still alive. Beverly Dollarhide has mentioned that it wouldn’t have been unusual for Nicholas to have accepted a ride from a stranger. Could this be what happened? Did he accept a ride from the wrong person and met with foul play? With his upcoming court case looming did he run away, hoping to avoid the repercussions of his past behavior only to find himself at the wrong place at the wrong time? As law enforcement initially treated this as just another problematic kid causing trouble yet again and there is a chance that his mother waited a couple of days before reporting his absence, a lot of precious time was lost and so much could have happened to this little boy that could have been prevented.
According to what I’ve read about this case, the basketball court was located in Fort Sam Houston (Fort Sam). Someone had to have seen him. He was supposedly playing with friends that day; were they questioned? One would assume so, but given Nicholas’s history with law enforcement, it does seem as if his case wasn’t taken very seriously within the first few days. If anyone was questioned, how long after he went missing were they questioned and could they have forgotten some details?
Yes, Nicholas and his family were very troubled, but this doesn’t mean that his disappearance should be brushed off. So much of what I’ve read online about this family is very negative and the fact of the matter is that a young boy vanished and could very well be dead and there are people that love and miss him and were sadly deceived and taken advantage of by a cruel con man.
Who was Nicholas with that day? Did anyone see him leave the basketball court and did he leave by himself? Wearing purple pants and carrying a pink backpack, you’d think he’d be difficult to miss. Did he tell anyone that he wanted to run away and confided in the wrong person?
Despite this family’s background, they deserve to know what happened to Nicholas and Nicholas deserves some sort of justice.
The Charley Project: http://charleyproject.org/case/nicholas-patrick-barclay
***Brenda Thornlow is a published author from Brooklyn, NY. Her work can be found at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.***