ALMA, Ark. — Morgan Nick was gone in the blink of an eye, or in the flash of a firefly.
The Arkansas 6-year-old vanished the evening of June 9, 1995, as she and friends caught fireflies in the parking area of a baseball field in Alma, about 30 miles from her family’s home in Ozark. More than 26 years later, the girl remains missing.
The FBI on Tuesday went public with a plea for information about a deceased pedophile in connection with the case. Billy Jack Lincks died in 2000 in prison, where he was serving a sentence for sexual indecency with a child.
“Approximately two months after Morgan’s 1995 disappearance, Lincks attempted to abduct a young girl in Van Buren, at a location 8 miles from the Wofford baseball field where Morgan was last seen,” an FBI statement read.
Arkansas court records indicate Lincks had previously been convicted of sexual abuse of a young girl. He was on probation in that 1992 case at the time of Morgan’s disappearance and the crime for which he was convicted.
“Today, law enforcement may be closer than ever to identifying this person,” the FBI statement said. “Based on their ongoing investigation, FBI agents are seeking any information about Billy Jack Lincks.”
Lincks, who was 75 when he died, was a World War II Army veteran and a retired upholsterer with Braniff Airlines in Dallas, the FBI reported. He worked for the Texas airline from 1962 to 1974.
He returned to his native Van Buren sometime in the late 1970s, federal officials said.
This week is the first time anyone has been named publicly as a person of interest in Morgan’s abduction. The girl’s mother told Fox 24 in Fayetteville, however, that Lincks’ name had been on investigators’ radar for about three years.
“This lead is something which has been on the table for a really long time,” Colleen Nick said.
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, Morgan was attending a Little League game with her mother when she went off to play with friends catching fireflies in the parking lot. Nick told “Dateline” in 2018 that the family had been invited to the game by a family friend.
Morgan sat with her mother through nearly the entire game, until two older children asked her to play.
“I originally told her no, but she really wanted to go,” Nick told the show. “The other parents told me that it was a really safe area and the kids play in the parking lot all the time. I had been told I was always too overprotective, and that was one of the things that played in my decision-making that night.”
As the game ended and people began to leave, Nick glanced over and could see the other children. Morgan was nowhere to be found.
“They didn’t seem alarmed at all, and they said that Morgan was emptying sand out of her shoes at their car,” Nick said. “Already, when I couldn’t see Morgan, my heart started to beat really fast. We were somewhere we hadn’t been before. She wouldn’t go anywhere by herself. And there wasn’t even anywhere to go. There was no concessions stand, no bathrooms.”
Morgan was not inside the family Nissan, either.
“Major panic set in at that point,” her mother told “Dateline.”
A coach called 911, launching a decades-long search for Morgan. Witnesses described the possible abductor as a white man believed to be between the ages of 23 and 38.
They also said Morgan’s abductor may have been driving a red Ford pickup truck with a white camper shell on the back. The shell’s windows were covered by curtains, according to the Charley Project, a missing persons website.
“The vehicle left the field’s parking lot at approximately the same time Morgan disappeared. The truck had a dull paint job due to age, and a short wheelbase,” the site said. “The camper was possibly damaged on its right rear end. Witnesses stated that the camper appeared to be four to five inches shorter than the truck.”
Court records show that Lincks drove a red 1986 Chevy pickup truck at the time Morgan vanished.
The crime that put Lincks behind bars until his death involved an 11-year-old girl who had walked to a Sonic restaurant with her brothers and a friend the night of Aug. 29, 1995. As they sat on a nearby wall eating fries and drinking Cokes, Lincks pulled up in his truck and began talking to the girl.
The talk was about “sexual matters,” court records state. He offered her money to get into his truck and go home with him.
The frightened girl ran away, screaming and crying. Lincks also fled, striking a pole as he sped away.
A witness who saw the truck’s license plate helped tie Lincks to the attempted kidnapping. Officers found his damaged truck parked at his home.
Crime lab reports obtained by ABC 40/29 in Rogers indicate that blood was found on part of a seat in the truck. Hair was also recovered, but the report said no testing of the evidence was done at the time.
FBI officials declined to say if any testing has been done recently.
“This is still an ongoing investigation so we’re not releasing everything right now, but we have taken a pretty substantial step in labeling this person as a major person of interest,” said Connor Hagan, an FBI public affairs officer.
The station reported that Lincks was sentenced to six years in prison after trying to kidnap the 11-year-old. He died four years into his sentence.
“The FBI is requesting help from anyone who knew Billy Jack Lincks,” according to the agency’s statement. “Whether it was through school, work, church, or any social activity, we need information about Lincks and details about his entire life.”
Anyone with information on Lincks or Morgan Nick’s abduction should contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI. Tips can be submitted at fbi.gov/tips.
©2021 Cox Media Group