A 4-year-old girl whose burned remains were discovered in a remote Arizona desert more than six decades ago was identified by authorities Tuesday after only being known as “Little Miss Nobody,” despite attempts by investigators to gather a name.
The Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office identified the remains as that of Sharon Lee Gallegos, who was reported kidnaped on July 21, 1960, thanks to advanced DNA technology.
Gallegos was playing with her cousins in an alley behind her grandmother’s Alamogordo, New Mexico home when she was taken, the Sheriff’s Office in Prescott, Arizona said. She was abducted by a couple who had been stalking her, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
Rey Chavez, Gallegos’ nephew, said the disappearance of his aunt left a mark on his family, as they became very protective of their children. The family described her as a “feisty” and “happy-go-lucky” girl, he said.
“Thank you for what you’ve done for us, thank you for keeping my aunt safe and never forgetting her,” he told investigators during a Tuesday news conference. “It’s still sinking in.”
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The girl’s parents have since died, Chavez said.
Witnesses said a man, woman and a freckle-faced child in a dark green early-1950s sedan drove up to Gallegos and the other children as they were playing, the Sheriff’s Office said.
The woman offered Gallegos candy and clothes, authorities said. When Gallegos refused the woman’s offerings of candy and clothes, she was pulled by the arm into the car, officials said.
Ten days later, a Las Vegas school teacher searching for rocks in Sand Wash Creek in the Yavapai desert, more than 500 miles west, discovered the child’s burned and decomposed remains. Authorities determined she had been deceased for 1 to 2 weeks prior to her discovery, the NCMEC said.
At the time, investigators estimated the child’s age to be 7 years old and later between 3 and 6 years old. A cause of death was difficult to determine because there were no signs of trauma, the Sheriff’s Office said, but it was ruled a homicide due to the suspicious nature of the case.
Alamogordo Police Department and the FBI searched for Gallegos but were unable to find her or the suspects.
After the case gained local notoriety, the community in Prescott raised money to provide the child with a proper funeral service in 1960 and dubbed her “Little Miss Nobody.”
The grave marker read: “Little Miss Nobody. Blessed are the Pure in Heart … St. Matthew 5:8.” A new one with Gallegos’ name replaced the old marker.
The case remained cold until 2015, when the remains were exhumed to get DNA samples. At the time, the technology was not advanced enough to definitively link Gallegos to “Little Miss Nobody,” authorities said.
The Sheriff’s Office eventually partnered with Texas-based DNA firm, Othram, which specializes in identifying remains for law enforcement. Both groups raised a total of $4,000 on DNASolves to pay for testing.
DNA samples were obtained from Gallegos’ relatives and an identification was made in February. While Gallegos has been identified, authorities still asking for tips to find out who took her and how she died.
Fox News has reached out to Othram.