'Little Miss Nobody': After 62 years, girl identified in 1960 Arizona cold case
CONGRESS, Ariz. - On July 31, 1960, the remains of a little girl were found in the desert in Congress, Arizona. Investigators said her remains had been burned one to two weeks before she was found.
Read More: Little Miss Nobody: Investigators hope DNA can help identify girl whose body was found over 60 years ago
62 years later, Yavapai County investigators can finally give "Little Miss Nobody" her name back.
Identity announced during news conference
The Yavapai County Sheriff's Office announced during a news conference on March 15 that the remains have been identified as Sharon Lee Gallegos.
Gallegos was first reported missing after being kidnapped from Alamogordo, New Mexico when she was 4 years old. According to a statement that officials with YCSO released following the news conference, Gallegos was abducted from her grandmother's front yard on July 21, 1960.
"The Alamogordo Police Department and the FBI searched for the little girl, but were unable to find her or the suspects, who were said to be in a 1951 or 1952 dark green Plymouth," read a portion of YCSO's statement.
Case went cold for decades
Gallegos' remains, according to officials, were found in an area called Sand Wash Creek in Congress, Ariz. on July 31, 1960. Investigators believe her remains had been burned one to two weeks before she was found. The cause of death was listed as ‘undetermined yet suspicious,’ and it was ruled a homicide.
"Little girl, between three and five years old, found partially buried in the desert back in 1960," said Lt. Tom Boelts with the Yavapai County Sheriff's Office, in an interview with Justin Lum for a story on Gallegos, then still known as ‘Little Miss Nobody,’ in January 2022.
"Though Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office and the Alamogordo Police Department in 1960 initially suspected the remains found in the desert to possibly be that of Gallegos, technology and science was not sophisticated enough at the time to make the identification," read a portion of the statement from UCSO. "Initial thoughts on the age of the remains, the clothing she was found in, and a mismatched footprint, at the time ruled out the abducted child from New Mexico as Little Miss Nobody."
According to a timeline of the case that was released by YCSO, Little Miss Nobody's remains were exhumed in 2015 to extract DNA for analysis. The remains were sent to University of North Texas' Center for Human Identification in 2017, and while a composite drawing of the child was complete, a sufficient DNA profile was unable to be obtained. Since then, YCSO partnered with Othram Inc. for use of their private forensic lab.
In his interview in January 2022, Lt. Boelts hoped that a better sample, as well as better technology, may be the key to solving the mystery that was Little Miss Nobody, As he said Familial DNA could lead investigators to a close relative of the victim.
"Hopefully, we’ll be able to if we get them identified. Through that familial database, they'll be able to call us and be able to tell us the background story on what happened to her, and how she ended up out there," said Lt. Boelts at the time.
Othram, according to officials with YCSO, were able to positively identify the remains as that of Gallegos in February 2022.
Family members speak out
For members of Gallego's family, it was a day of emotion, closure and sadness, as the identity of Little Miss Nobody was finally revealed.
"Of course she was somebody, and now, to be able to put a name on that gravestone, or wherever she is going to rest ultimately is huge," said Monci Hoadrea, who is Gallegos' niece.
"I always hoped I would find her by doing DNA testing, you know, find that she was still alive, but at least we know now," said Reynaldo Chavez, who is Gallegos' nephew. Chavez has never met his aunt, as he was born five years after Gallegos was kidnapped.
Hoadrea said her mother, who is Gallegos' older sister, always thought about her.
"As we got older, my mom told us more about it, and she would say every year 'it’s Sharon's birthday. It's my sister's birthday,'" said Hoadrea. "She was a very fiery little girl, from what I understand, and just loved to play."
Family members, meanwhile, say they are still deciding where Gallegos' final resting place will be.
The Associated Press (AP) contributed to this report.
More Arizona headlines
- 6-year-old Guadalupe girl found safe after family member's boyfriend kidnapped her: MCSO
- 2 arrested, 4 migrants in custody after high-speed Arizona chase