Sunday, March 27, 2022
Sharon Lee Gallegos was a formerly unidentified American murder victim known as Little Miss Nobody whose body was found in Congress, Yavapai County, Arizona on July 31, 1960. Her remains were estimated to have been discovered within one to two weeks of the date of her murder. Due to the advanced state of decomposition of the child's remains, the specific cause of death of Gallegos has never been established, although her death has always been considered to be a homicide. On March 15, 2022, investigators in Arizona announced the identification of Gallegos's remains, almost 62 years after the discovery of her body. The child had been kidnapped from outside her grandmother's home in Alamogordo, New Mexico by two unknown individuals ten days prior to the discovery of her body. Gallegos became known as "Little Miss Nobody" after contemporary efforts to identify her proved unsuccessful and no family or friends came forward to identify or claim her body. Her 2022 identification is the oldest cold case solved in Yavapai County; efforts to identify her abductors are ongoing. Early lifeGallegos lived in Alamogordo with her mother, Lupe Gallegos, along with her two older siblings, grandmother, and six other relatives, including four other children aged between five and fifteen. Her biological father, a soldier, had left the family when Gallegos was a baby, and the child had no contact with him. Her family was not wealthy, and Gallegos's mother supported the family by working as a maid at a local motel. Despite general financial limitations, the Gallegos family was close-knit. Sharon herself has been described as a "feisty" and "happy-go-lucky" child who enjoyed performing simple errands for her mother and playing close to the family home with her siblings and other neighborhood children. Due to her fair complexion by comparison to her siblings, the child was affectionately known to relatives as "La Güera." Prior stalking concerns: Authorities believe the couple who kidnapped Gallegos had been actively stalking the child for days, if not weeks, before her actual kidnapping. On Sunday, July 17, this couple were seen after the child and her mother had attended a church with two children (one a freckle-faced male; one a "small" female) in this same dark-green car. Following the church service, the female abductor had asked several attendees probing questions pertaining to Sharon and her mother, Lupe. Shortly thereafter, on or about July 19, this female abductor is known to have knocked on a neighbor's door, inquiring as to Gallegos's mother, her actual address, and her children, specifically whether she had a little girl. Other questions asked included whether Gallegos's mother had numerous children and her current financial situation. This woman then claimed to this neighbor her reason for inquiring as to Gallegos's mother's current social and financial situation was that she intended to offer Gallegos's mother a job. Gallegos's mother later stated that her daughter's behavior had markedly changed in the days immediately prior to her disappearance: the child became markedly nervous and wary, and suddenly ceased wishing to retrieve groceries for the family from a local grocery store (an errand she particularly enjoyed). She also became visibly upset whenever she observed a dark-green car near her home or places she visited, asking relatives to pick her up and carry her past the vehicle. At the time of her disappearance, Gallegos was approximately 3 ft 6 in (110 cm) in height and had light brown hair. She was last seen wearing pink shorts and white shoes. Abduction: At approximately 3 p.m. on July 21, 1960, Gallegos was kidnapped by a man and woman while playing with two cousins (aged five and eleven) in an alley at the rear of her Virginia Avenue home. The couple offered to buy Gallegos some candy and new clothing if she would get in the car with them; Gallegos refused and was then dragged by the arm into the "dirty, old green car" (believed to be a dark-green 1951 or 1952 model Dodge or Plymouth sedan) by the female abductor, who had exited the vehicle. This woman was described by the witnesses as a short, bespectacled and heavy-set individual in her 30s, with dirty blonde hair; the man was described as fair, thin Caucasian with a long nose and straight, sandy-colored hair. Immediately upon dragging the child into the car, the vehicle sped away, and was last seen turning west onto Fifth Street at high speed. The child witnesses to Gallegos's abduction immediately reported the incident to her mother, who in turn immediately notified authorities. Within one hour, police had set up roadblocks at the Texas-New Mexico state border, ultimately searching numerous vehicles of the description described by the eyewitnesses. This tactic failed to apprehend the abductors. Motive: Although investigators remained open-minded as to the actual motive for the child's abduction, the prospect of kidnapping for ransom was quickly discounted both due to the family's modest means and the fact no demands for money were received. Moreover, the circumstances surrounding the abduction and evident previous stalking indicated the child had been specifically targeted. One of the child witnesses to Gallegos's abduction, 11-year-old Dolores Badial, was adamant she had observed the same vehicle into which the child had been dragged parked outside the Gallegos household shortly before the actual abduction as she and Gallegos had walked toward the vehicle en route to a local grocery store. According to Badial, the female occupant had been staring intently at the Gallegos household and the actual sight of the car had greatly distressed the child, who asked to be carried as the two passed the vehicle. A friend and neighbor of the Gallegos family, Helen González, also informed investigators she had observed a dark-green vehicle matching the description provided by the eyewitnesses parked at the site of the abduction the previous Sunday. However, by July 28, investigators had announced their investigation into the possibility "a relative or possible acquaintance" of the Gallegos family being the abductor(s) had failed to bear any fruition. Discovery of remains: On July 31, 1960, the partially buried body of a female child was found in Sand Wash Creek Bed on Old Alamo Road in Congress, Arizona, approximately 48 kilometers from the town of Wickenburg and roughly half a mile west of Highway 93. Her body was discovered by a Las Vegas schoolteacher named Russell Allen, who had been searching for rocks to decorate his garden. The child's body was initially taken to Widmer Funeral Home.Investigators at the scene later stated at the inquest into the child's death that tire impressions indicated the perpetrator(s) had drove off Highway 93 to the actual disposal location before "turning around" in their vehicle and driving from the actual burial location. In addition, the individuals(s) responsible for the child's death had possibly made two separate attempts to dig an alternate grave for the child's body in the location she was subsequently discovered. This conclusion was determined by two evident disturbances in the sand close to the actual burial site. The body was clothed in red shorts and a buttoned blue blouse with a distinctive, vertical linear pattern. The child wore a pair of adult-sized rubber thong sandals that had been cut to fit her feet and fastened with leather straps. The child's toes and fingernails had evidently been painted bright red. Sections of the child's clothing were also recovered close to the shallow grave. Two sets of footprints were recovered at the crime scene, one of which had evidently been made by an adult; the other possibly by the sandal-footed child, indicating she may have walked to the site of her murder. Investigators also recovered 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 clothing, knife, and footprint impressions found upon and/or near the child's body were sent to an FBI laboratory to undergo further examination. Autopsy: 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. 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. 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. Initial investigation: 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 subjected to prolonged interrogations, and the sheriff's office also received dozens of letters, telephone calls, and telegrams in response to their nationwide 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. Due to initial eyewitness accounts of a family seen walking close to where the child's body was discovered on July 27, and that one of the two young girls within this troupe had been wearing similar clothing and sandals to the decedent, speculation that the child may have been a member of this family of transients was also considered. A known transient family named Davidson were subjected to over an hour of questioning in early August. The family had been seen hitchhiking close to Prescott in late-July, with a confirmed sighting occurring near Alamogordo on the date of Gallegos's abduction. Police questioning concluded that the family likely had no connection to either the unidentified child or Sharon Gallegos, and the family were released following the verification of their alibis. By the first week of August 1960, Sharon Gallegos was considered by investigators to be a potential candidate for the remains discovered in Yavapai County. Although the location of the unidentified child's remains was some 800 kilometers from the location of the Gallegos's abduction, only ten days had elapsed between her abduction and this discovery. Despite the fact that the clothing the victim wore was inconsistent to that Gallegos was last seen wearing, investigators could not eliminate Gallegos as being the decedent due to this material fact, as her clothing and footwear could have easily been changed in the intervening ten days. Shortly thereafter, police released a statement indicating they believed the unidentified child—estimated to be "around seven"—was therefore older than Gallegos, and could not be the abductee. 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. Funeral: The funeral of the 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 talk radio announcer Dave Palladin. In interviews, Palladin stated his primary motivation was that he found the thought of a "little girl buried in Boot Hill" as being "insufferable" to him; adding his insistence 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"—a name which remained affixed until her 2022 identification. 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." Renewed efforts: 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. Samples of the child's DNA were sent to Othram Inc. in January 2022 in the hope advances in forensic genealogy may identify a close relative of the child and thus establish her identity. A renewed forensic examination of Little Miss Nobody's remains following her 2018 exhumation determined the highest likelihood of the child's age as between 3 and 6 years, with her height most likely being 3 ft 6 in. These updated estimates were based upon both the skeletal and dental conclusions from the examination of her remains. 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. Identification: On March 15, 2022, the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office announced that Little Miss Nobody had been identified as Sharon Lee Gallegos. The child's identification was made via the usage of genetic genealogy analysis conducted by Othram Inc.: a corporation specializing in the usage of forensic genealogy to identify unidentified decedents. The child's identity had been established in February, although the official announcement of her identification was withheld pending Gallegos's surviving relatives' notification of developments. At a press conference held to announce the formal identification of Little Miss Nobody, a spokesman for the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office informed all present prior to the actual announcement of Gallegos's identity of his hope nobody would again refer to her by the media moniker by which she had been known since 1960, adding the "unidentified little girl who won the hearts of Yavapai County in 1960, and who occupied the minds and time of our sheriff's office and partners for 62 years will now, rightfully, be given her name back." A nephew of Gallegos then informed the media of the compassion given to his aunt by Prescott residents in the decades she had remained unidentified, stating: "My family were amazed how the people rallied around her. Thank you for keeping my aunt safe and never forgetting her." Ongoing investigation: Investigations into Gallegos's abduction and murder are ongoing, with the primary focuses being upon identifying the child's abductors and determining the precise chain of events to occur in the ten days between the actual abduction and the discovery of Gallegos's body.