“Little Miss Nobody” is still without her name
by Silvia Pettem©
Several years ago, while working with my local sheriff’s office on the case of “Boulder Jane Doe” (a then-unidentified murder victim from 1954), my research led me to Prescott, Arizona. There, I came across the case of an unidentified little girl whose likely murdered body was found in the desert in July 1960. What struck me was that both communities shared a similar compassion and concern for their victims.
In Prescott, even though there was extensive local newspaper coverage at the time, no one came forward to claim the child. No one claimed the Jane Doe, either, in Boulder, Colorado, but the townspeople insisted on a Christian burial. So, too, did the residents of Prescott when they buried their girl in Mountain View Cemetery and engraved “Little Miss Nobody” on her gravestone. Now, nearly 58 years later, she still is without her name.
The Prescott Evening News reported that the Reverend Charles Franklin Parker had tears in his eyes when he presided at the unknown child’s service. “Here is a little wanderer who has been in our midst,” stated Parker. “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.”
A rock-hunting schoolteacher had found the partially decomposed body of the young girl half-buried a short distance from the intersection of Alamo Road and State Highway 93, near the town of Congress, in Yavapai County, Arizona. Highway 93, at the time, was the main route between Phoenix, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada.
According to original newspaper reports, she was dressed in white shorts and a checkered blouse and had nail polish on her fingernails and toenails. She was wearing adult-sized sandals (flip-flop style) that had been cut down to fit her little feet. The medical examiner wrote in his autopsy report that her body was so badly decomposed that he “could not determine cause of death.”
Plans for the young girl’s funeral and burial were initiated by a local radio announcer. Before long, Prescott residents inundated him with cash and in-kind donations including her gravestone and flowers. More than 70 people turned out for the service.
The child’s pale blue casket was adorned with a large spray of pink and white carnations, while four baskets of flowers and several additional floral arrangements were set on the ground nearby. An anonymous writer left these words: “Forgive us, child, for the weakness of men; and, in turn, when in your final home, pray for us.”
For decades, cemetery visitors have stopped by to leave a toy or some other memento on “Little Miss Nobody’s” grave. Meanwhile, as the days of teletype machines gave way to the Internet, forensics and investigative procedures vastly changed. In 2012, local authorities entered the child’s case into the NamUs.gov database. She’s online, as “UP-10741” for anyone, including members of the public, to compare to children reported missing during the same era.
More recently, the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office (YCSO) oversaw the exhumation of the young girl’s remains. I was in attendance at the opening of “Little Miss Nobody’s” grave and witnessed her small bones and intact skull. There still was a pale blue cast to parts of her child-size casket, making it easy to imagine it once covered with flowers.
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) funded the exhumation and –– based on an examination of her skull –– was able to create an image (or “likeness”) of how the child likely looked. Meanwhile, her dental and skeletal remains were sent to the University of North Texas Center for Human Identification where forensic scientists were able to generate her DNA profile, since entered into national databases.
Today the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office is seeking the public’s help in determining the identity of “Little Miss Nobody.” According to findings from the recent forensic examination of her remains, she is best described “as a child with an age range of 2-to-7 years, with the highest likelihood being 3-to-6 years, an estimated weight of 55 pounds, and a height of 3 feet 6 inches. Her race is undetermined.
Boulder Jane Doe was identified in 2009 as Dorothy Gay Howard, giving hope that the cases of “Little Miss Nobody” and others from years ago remain solvable.
Anyone with information regarding the Little Miss Nobody case is urged to call Cold Case Investigator John Shannon at 928-777-7293 or leave a tip anonymously with Yavapai Silent Witness at 800-932-3232. As stated by Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher, “Any detail, no matter how small, is important in the quest to determine the child’s identity.”
Silvia is a Colorado-based self-employed researcher, writer, and author with a passion for cold cases, unidentified remains, and long-term missing persons.
She contributed to the identification of “Boulder Jane Doe” (a murder victim), is an associate member of the Vidocq Society, and is one of the organization’s Medal of Honor recipients. She’s a volunteer in the Detectives Section of the Boulder Police Department, a NamUs instructor in classes sponsored by the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and a member of AISOCC.
Silvia is the author of more than a dozen books including The Long Term Missing: Hope and Help for Families; Someone’s Daughter: In Search of Justice for Jane Doe, and Cold Case Research: Resources for Unidentified, Missing, and Cold Homicide Cases.