Christine Collins

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Christine Collins
Born Christine Ida Dunne
(1888-12-14)December 14, 1888
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Died December 8, 1964(1964-12-08) (aged 75)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Spouse(s) Walter Anson
Children Walter Collins

Christine Ida Collins (December 14, 1888 - December 8, 1964)[1] was an American woman who made national headlines during the late 1920s and 1930s, after her 9-year-old son, Walter Collins, went missing in 1928.

It was revealed that her son was murdered in the Wineville Chicken Coop Murders led by a man named Gordon Northcott, who was executed at San Quentin in 1930.

Her search for the whereabouts of her son were chronicled in the 2008 Clint Eastwood film Changeling, in which she was portrayed by Angelina Jolie. Jolie was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance as Collins.

Early life[edit]

She was the daughter of Clara (née Horn 1851-1923) and Francis "Frank" Dunne (1839-1912). Her mother was an immigrant from England, and her father was from Ireland. Her father was a shipman, and the family had lived in Hawaii and California before settling in Seattle. She had several sisters and a brother.[2]

Her family chose to stay in Seattle, but Christine chose to live in California, where she was born. She worked as a manager for the telephone company. She met a conman and robber named Walter Anson, who used a pseudonym of Walter Collins or Conrad Collins. He worked for the streetcar system. They married and had a son in 1918, living in the Lincoln Heights area of Los Angeles. Her husband was sentenced to Folsom State Prison, where he died in 1932. She was heartbroken at the news of his death, and he was buried in the prison cemetery.

Disappearance of Walter Collins[edit]

Walter Collins went missing on March 10, 1928,[3] after having been given money by his mother to go to the cinema. His disappearance received nationwide attention, and the Los Angeles Police Department followed up on hundreds of leads without success.[4] The police faced negative publicity and increasing public pressure to solve the case,[5] until five months after Walter's disappearance,[4] when a boy claiming to be Walter was found in DeKalb, Illinois. Letters and photographs were exchanged before Christine Collins paid for the boy to be brought to Los Angeles.

A public reunion was organized by the police, who hoped to negate the bad publicity they received for their inability to solve this case and others. They also hoped the uplifting human-interest story would deflect attention from a series of corruption scandals that had sullied the department's reputation. At the reunion, Christine Collins claimed that the boy was not Walter. She was told by the officer in charge of the case, police Captain J.J Jones, to take the boy home to "try him out for a couple of weeks," and Collins agreed.[5]

Christine Collins persisted in her claim that the boy was not Walter. Even though she was armed with dental records proving her case, Jones had Collins committed to the psychiatric ward at Los Angeles County Hospital under a "Code 12" internment—a term used to jail or commit someone who was deemed difficult or an inconvenience.[citation needed]

During Collins' incarceration, Jones questioned the boy,[4] who admitted to being 12-year-old Arthur Hutchins Jr., a runaway from Iowa.[6][7] Hutchens was picked up by police in Illinois and when asked if he was Walter Collins, he first said no, but then said yes. His motive for posing as Collins was to get to Hollywood so he could meet his favorite actor, Tom Mix.[5] Collins was released ten days after Hutchins admitted that he was not her son[8] and filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles Police Department.[4]

Collins went on to win a lawsuit against Jones and was awarded $10,800, which Jones never paid.[4] Five years after Northcott's execution, one of the boys that Northcott allegedly killed was found alive and well. As Walter Collins' body had not been found, Christine Collins still hoped that Walter had survived. She continued to search for him for the rest of her life, but unsuccessfully - eventually she faded into obscurity without ever knowing her son's fate.[9] The last public record of Christine Collins is from 1941, when she attempted to collect a $15,562 judgment against Captain Jones, by then a retired police officer, in the Superior Court.[10]

Later life[edit]

She used aliases to stay out of the media, and lived alone through the 1950s. She died in Los Angeles on December 8, 1964, at the age of 75.

Angelina Jolie as Christine Collins

Further reading[edit]

Portrayal in media[edit]

  • Changeling, a 2008 film directed by Clint Eastwood, chronicles the story about her life and her son's kidnapping and murder. Collins was portrayed by actress Angelina Jolie, who was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.[11] Eastwood stated Jolie was cast because she was a mother and had the physical look that would fit the time period, and Jolie said of her role, "The character reminded me a lot of my mom, so it was nice to play somebody who had the nuances of somebody I loved."[11]


  1. ^ Christine Collins death record accessed 7-15-2015
  2. ^ Census record for Dunne Family accessed 7-15-2015
  3. ^ "New Kidnapping Clew Furnished in Hunt for Missing Collins Boy: Glendale Man Helps Police". Los Angeles Times. Times-Mirror Company. 1928-04-04. Retrieved 2008-06-12. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Sacha Howells (2008-11-07). "Spoilers: Changeling - The Real Story Behind Eastwood's Movie". RealNetworks. Retrieved 2008-11-10. 
  5. ^ a b c "'Changeling' production notes". Universal Pictures. Retrieved October 18, 2008.  (Microsoft Word document)
  6. ^ "Hoax Discussed in Collins Suit: Hutchens Boy's Deception Subject of Argument Witnesses Tell of Seeming Truth of His Story Capt. Jones Lays Damage Action to Politics". Los Angeles Times. 1929-07-13. Retrieved 2008-01-26. 
  7. ^ "Hutchens' confession". photograph: b&w. Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection. 1928. Retrieved 2008-09-14.  External link in |publisher= (help) "The written confession of the boy who finally revealed he was Arthur Hutchens, Jr., not Walter Collins, then later told juvenile authorities he was not Billy Fields. He was later identified as Arthur Hutchens."
  8. ^ "Enigma Boy Identified:Youth Impersonating Walter Collins Now Declared to be Arthur Hutchens, Jr., of lowa". Los Angeles Times. 1928-09-21. Retrieved 2008-01-28. 
  9. ^ Rasmussen, Cecilia (1999-02-07). "The Boy Who Vanished–and His Impostor". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2008-10-06. 
  10. ^ "Suit to Renew Old Judgment Recalls Northcott Murders: Mother of Supposed Victim Who Was Imprisoned as Insane in Imposter Mixup Tries to Collect Damages". Los Angeles Times. 1941-01-29. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  11. ^ a b Dave Karger, "Best Actress," Entertainment Weekly 1032/1033 (Jan. 30/Feb. 6, 2009): 45.