PRESCOTT, Ariz. — Arizona authorities on Tuesday announced that a 4-year-old girl who was abducted in New Mexico in 1960 is "Little Miss Nobody" — a formerly unidentified little girl whose burned remains were found in a remote Arizona desert area nearly 62 years ago.
Yavapai County Sheriff's officials said the remains belong to Sharon Lee Gallegos, who was reported abducted July 21, 1960. Contemporaneous newspaper accounts reported that she was snatched by strangers while playing with her cousins outside her grandmother’s home in Alamogordo, New Mexico.
Witnesses said a woman, a man and possibly one freckle-faced child drove up to the children in a dark green early-1950s sedan, Yavapai officials said. When Sharon refused the woman's offer of clothes and candy, she pulled the 4-year-old girl into the car and drove away.
The remains now known as belonging to Sharon were found 10 days later in Yavapai County, Arizona, 500 miles to the west of Alamogordo.
Rey Chavez, Sharon’s nephew, thanked Yavapai County Sheriff’s officials for pursuing the case for decades.
Chavez said his family described Sharon as a “happy-go-lucky” and “feisty” girl who loved playing with her cousins.
Officials said for months they struggled to find blood relatives in order to conduct a DNA test to confirm their growing suspicions that Gallegos was “Little Miss Nobody."
Gallegos' remains had that name ever since they were found in a wash in Arizona on July 31, 1960.
Investigators at the time believed the girl was between 3 and 6 years old and her remains were buried about a week or two before being discovered.
Authorities say there were no obvious injuries to her decomposed body and the case was ruled a homicide.
The Prescott community raised money to provide a funeral for the unidentified child in 1960, and investigators at the time ruled out suspicions that Gallegos was "Little Miss Nobody" due to rudimentary forensic techniques, Yavapai County Sheriff's officials said.
In 2018, her remains were exhumed so DNA samples could be taken.
Kristen Mittelman, chief business development officer for Othram, a Texas-based forensic laboratory that focuses on unsolved crimes, said its genetic sequencing processes were able to create a workable DNA profile and match from Gallegos' decades-old, burned and decomposed remains.
Mittelman said funders pooled $5,000 on DNASolves to pay for Othram identification process after a 2018 identification effort was inconclusive.
Othram's process looks for many more genetic markers than a standard process, Mittelman said.
Othram obtained the remains from Yavapai County Sheriff in December, and, Mittelman said, after stringent quality control that ensured there was enough DNA to extract, used "the world's most powerful sequencer" to create a genetic profile "almost indistinguishable from a profile you would get from fresh DNA."
In Gallegos' case, investigators were looking for a positive match to her brother Roberto Juan Gallegos, who and provided DNA as part of the effort to prove "Little Miss Nobody" was his sister, Sharon.
The positive identification was made in February, Mittelman said.