Little Miss Nobody is the name posthumously given to a young girl whose body was found in Congress, Yavapai County, Arizona on July 31, 1960. Her body is estimated to have been discovered within one to two weeks of the date of her death.
Due to the advanced state of decomposition of the child's remains, the specific cause of her death has never been established, although it has always been considered to be a homicide. Furthermore, despite extensive local and national efforts to discover the identity of this child, her identity remains unknown, and the case remains unsolved.
This unidentified decedent became known as "Little Miss Nobody" after no family or friends came forward to either report her missing, or to claim her body. Following recent advances in technology, a forensic facial reconstruction of Little Miss Nobody was released to the media in 2018 in renewed efforts to identify this unidentified child murder victim's remains.
Discovery and examination
The partially buried body of a female child was found in Sand Wash Creek Bed on Old Alamo Road in Congress, Arizona on July 31, 1960. Her body was discovered by a Las Vegas schoolteacher named Russell Allen, who had been searching for rocks to decorate his garden.
Investigators at the scene observed that the individual or individuals responsible for the child's burial had possibly made two separate attempts to dig an alternate grave for her body. This was determined by two evident disturbances in the sand close to the actual burial site.
The body was clothed in white shorts and a checkered blouse with a distinctive chain pattern, along with a pair of adult rubber thong sandals that had been cut to fit the child's feet and fastened with leather straps. The child's toes and fingernails had reportedly been painted a bright red color. Investigators also found an apparently bloodstained pocket knife near the body, but were unable to definitively determine whether this utensil held any relation to the crime scene.
The forensic pathologist who performed the autopsy determined that the body was that of a white girl most likely between the ages of five and seven years old, 3 feet–6 inches to 4 feet–5 inches in height, and likely weighing 50 to 60 pounds (later examinations of the child's remains indicated she may have been as old as 9 or as young as 2 at the time of her death). The child had been dead for between one and two weeks prior to the discovery of her remains. Her hair color was brown, possibly having been tinted or dyed auburn, and she had a full set of intact milk teeth described as being in a markedly good condition. (Although the actual race of the decedent has since been described as being indeterminable, the highest likelihood of her age at the time of her death has since been determined as being 3 to 6 years.)
The actual cause of death of the child was never determined by medical examiners, although her death was officially declared to be a homicide. Furthermore, the contemporary report of the child's autopsy states that her remains were charred, presumably from her body having been set alight around the time of her death. Although unable to determine the actual cause of death, the forensic pathologist was able to definitively state the decedent had not suffered any bone fractures either at the time of her death, or in her lifetime.
Because the child had been in an advanced state of decomposition at the time of her discovery, creating an actual composite drawing of the child's facial features was not possible.
With active assistance from the local media, private citizens, and (later) assistance from officials as eminent as individuals within the FBI, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office worked tirelessly in their efforts to discover the decedent's identity. An all-points bulletin was initially broadcast across all sheriff radio and teletype networks following the discovery of the child's body, and Yavapai County Sheriff Jim Cramer, Deputy County Attorney George Ireland and other local law enforcement personnel later travelled hundreds of miles in radius via both air and land in their efforts to discover her identity. People previously convicted of various offenses involving young children were be subjected to prolonged interrogations, and the sheriff's office also received dozens of letters, telephone calls, and telegrams in response to their public appeals for information in their efforts to discover the child's identity. Any possibility the decedent had been any known missing young girl was investigated, and discounted.
By August 1960, investigators began to suspect the remains may have been those of a four-year-old girl named Sharon Lee Gallegos, who had been abducted in New Mexico ten days before the discovery of the child's body. Despite the fact that the clothing the victim wore was inconsistent to that Gallegos was last seen wearing, they could not eliminate Gallegos as being the decedent due to this fact, as the clothing could have easily been changed in the intervening week. Gallegos currently remains a missing person. However, police later released a statement that they believed the unidentified child was older than Gallegos.
Initial speculation that the child may have been a member of a family of transients, also from New Mexico. Police also subjected Lester Davidson and two of his four children to over an hour of questioning. Davidson and his children had been known to have been hitchhiking near Prescott in late July 1960. This questioning concluded that the family likely had no connection to either the unidentified child or Sharon Gallegos.
Following the verification of the Davidsons' alibis, police sent the clothing, knife, and footprints found with or near the child's body to an FBI laboratory to undergo further examination.
In March 1961, a possibility arose that the decedent may have been one Debbie Dudley; a four-year-old girl missing from Virginia. Investigators had failed to find the bodies of Dudley and her remaining siblings after the body of her seven-year-old sister, Carol Ann, was found wrapped in a blanket on February 9, 1961, she having died due to a combination of the malnutrition, exposure, and neglect she had endured from her parents. Debbie's remains were later found in Southern Virginia. She was interred alongside her sister. The parents were later charged with both murders.
On August 8, 1961, Sheriff Cramer led a party of law enforcement officers and a camera crew to film the location where the child's body had been found. Later that afternoon, Sheriff Cramer and Yavapai County Attorney George Ireland presented evidence—including the adult-sized rubber sandals which had been cut to fit the child's feet—to the media, with Sheriff Cramer stating: "Somewhere, there is someone who has the answer that we have been looking for; maybe this will be the thing that will bring that person forward." The footage of this scene and the interview with Sheriff Cramer was later broadcast on television in the hope fresh leads toward establishing the identity of the child would ensue, although the program brought no significant new information.
Despite the numerous and extensive local and national efforts conducted to identify her, all contemporary efforts to either identify the child, or trace any of her relatives, failed.
The funeral of this unidentified child was conducted on August 10, 1960. She was laid to rest in Mountain View Cemetery, with the campaign for funds to provide a dignified burial—as opposed to anonymous interment inside a pauper's grave—being spearheaded by local radio announcer named Dave Palladin. In interviews, Palladin stated his primary motivation was that he found the thought of a "little girl buried in Boot Hill" insufferable, insisting that the child received a decent Christian burial. Prior to her funeral, the child had become colloquially known within and around Yavapai County as "Little Miss Nobody".
The funeral service for Little Miss Nobody was conducted at the Congregational Church in Prescott, Arizona, and was officiated by Dr. Charles Franklin Parker, with over 70 mourners in attendance. At this service, a placard was placed upon Little Miss Nobody's pale blue casket, with the inscription reading: "God's little child, date of birth unknown, date of death unknown." Her headstone is inscribed with a section of a quote from St. Matthew, which reads, "Blessed are the Pure in Heart."
During the eulogy at the funeral of Little Miss Nobody, Dr. Parker recited a poem entitled "For a Little Girl Unknown" before addressing those in attendance with a speech in which he stated: "Here is a little wanderer who has been in our midst. We don't know her name; we can only guess her age. It occurs to me we may not know, but God knows. There are no unknowns, no orphans in God's world. ... She doesn't need a name today. She has the name of an angel somewhere in eternity ... we may never know the why's and wherefores, but, somewhere, someone is going to be watching the paper to learn what happened to a little girl left on the desert. If there has been a misdeed, probably a disquieted conscience will go on and on."
"Any detail, no matter how small [it may seem], is important in the quest to determine this child’s identity."
Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, addressing the media following the release of the composite drawing of how Little Miss Nobody may have looked in life. March 2018.
Due to recent advances in technology and DNA profiling, a decision to exhume the body of Little Miss Nobody to obtain a DNA sample was made in 2018, with The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children offering to pay for the exhumation and required testing. Resultingly, samples of the girl's DNA were successfully obtained from her body, and entered into both the National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children databases for comparison with nationwide unsolved murders and missing person reports. Furthermore, the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification also created a detailed forensic facial reconstruction of the decedent, depicting how she may have appeared in life, before her body was reburied at Mountain View Cemetery.
Cited works and further reading
- Evans, Colin (1996). The Casebook of Forensic Detection: How Science Solved 100 of the World's Most Baffling Crimes. New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc. ISBN 0-471-07650-3.
- Halber, Deborah (2015). The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America's Coldest Cases. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1-451-65758-6.
- Innes, Brian (2000). Bodies of Evidence: The Fascinating World of Forensic Science and How it Helped Solve More than 100 True Crimes. Leicester: Amber Books Ltd. ISBN 1-856-05623-6.
- Latham, Krista E.; Bartelink, Eric J.; Finnegan, Michael (2017). New Perspectives in Forensic Human Skeletal Identification. San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 978-0-128-05429-1.
- Murray, Elizabeth A. (2012). Forensic Identification: Putting a Name and Face on Death. Minneapolis: Twenty-First Century Books. ISBN 978-1-467-70139-6.
- Newton, Michael (2004). The Encyclopedia of Unsolved Crimes. New York: Facts on File. ISBN 978-0-816-07818-9.
- Pettem, Silvia (2009). Someone's Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe. Plymouth: Taylor Trade Publishing. ISBN 978-1-589-79420-7.
- Pettem, Silvia (2017). The Long Term Missing: Hope and Help for Families. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-442-25680-4.
- Ubelaker, Douglas H.; Scamell, Henry (1992). Bones: A Forensic Detective's Casebook. New York: M. Evans and Company Inc. ISBN 978-1-283-61515-0.