By M.P. Pellicer | Stranger Than Fiction Stories
It was Halloween, 1958, when off a dirt road on Skinner Ridge south of Grand Canyon National Park, the skeletal remains of a young girl were found. Her body was nude and it was estimated she had been there nine to fourteen months.
Like all cases investigated decades ago, sometimes files get lost. The coroner's inquest is one of them. The name on the girl's file was "Little Miss X".
There was a nip in the air the autumn of 1958, when deer hunters came across a skeleton in the Moqui district of the Kaibab National Forest, Arizona. It was on top of a thick mat of pine needles near the Skinner Ridge Road. The hands, feet and part of an arm and leg bones were missing.
Sheriff Cecil Richardson first believed the bones belong to a young man, but the anthropologists at the Museum of Northern Arizona concluded they belonged to a female in her teens. Doctors who later examined the remains said she must have been dead at least a year. Her clothes were found across a road from the body. A saddle was found, and also a second skeleton was reported by the hunters, however nothing further was reported as to what became of these findings.
In 1962, the girl's skull was exhumed and Dr. John Stilley, a Flagstaff dentist went over the dental structure of the skeleton. He was convinced the remains belonged to Connie Smith of Sundance, Wyoming who had been his patient. She was the granddaughter of former Wyoming governor Nels H. Smith who had disappeared from Camp Sloane in the summer of 1952.
On the morning of July 16, 1952, Constance "Connie" Christine Smith was in a fight with some female campers. She got a bloody nose from the altercation. The next morning she skipped breakfast, and told the other girls in her tent she was walking to the dispensary to drop off an ice pack she had used. The ice pack was left in the tent, and she never went to the dispensary. She was seen walking away from camp and down Indian Mountain Road.
Several people saw Connie picking daisies along the roadside, and she asked people who slowed down how to get to Lakeville, Connecticut which was about half a mile away. Later in the day she was seen walking on U.S. Route 44 in Salisbury, thumbing a ride. Without money or extra clothes it appeared she hoped to hitchhike to Lakeville. She was never heard from again.
Counselors realized she had left that same afternoon, when the ice pack was found in her tent. A search did not produce any clues. There's been many suspects in her disappearance, but no one has ever been charged with a crime. Her parents were divorced, and it was theorized she got homesick and was running away to one of their homes. She was set to leave the camp in one week. Neither of them heard from her after the day of her disappearance.
Her mother had last seen her two days before, when she visited the camp. She was in good spirits and asked her mother to stay longer at the camp, but she was told no.
Samples of Connie Smith's hair were compared to strands still clinging to the skull of Little Miss X, and eventually medical experts were unable to match the remains with Connie.
A man that was suspected in the disappearance of Connie Smith was William Henry Redmond, a one-time carnival worker who strangled an 8-year-old girl in 1951 named Jane Marie Althoff. She was found dead April 26, 1951, in a truck on the grounds of a Penn-Premier Show carnival in Trainer. Redmond’s fingerprints were found in the cab of the truck, and a warrant was issued for his arrest in January, 1952. He disappeared and the warrant couldn't be served. He never went back to pick up his paycheck, which indicated he probably feared police would be looking for him.
Redmond had been arrested twice in the 1930s for attacking girls, and was sentenced to the Ohio State Reformatory and the Ohio State Mental Hospital. In 1963, he moved to Nebraska and learned to live a quiet life.
Malcolm Murphy, a Pennsylvania state trooper had taken over the Althoff cold case in 1985, and in 1988 arrested Redmond after he had "made a statement to police inculpating himself."
While being held pending his trial, he told another inmate he killed four people during his lifetime. Eventually he was sent back to Nebraska when it was determined he was too ill to stand trial for Jane Althoff's murder. He died in 1992.
However in 1952, when he left Pennsylvania he might have crossed paths with Connie Smith the July afternoon she ran away from camp, however police have never been able to determine if he was in Connecticut. He passed a polygraph test concerning Connie's disappearance.
Because of his history Redmond was looked at for the disappearance of Jillian Dee Cutshall, 9, who disappeared from her Norfolk home in August, 1987. She was last seen on the steps of her babysitter's home. Her clothes were found 3 months later.
However there were other suspects closer to home.
In 1989, Jill's mother gathered enough petition signatures to force a grand jury investigation. David Phelps lived in the same apartment building where Jill's father lived at, and where she disappeared from.
In 1991, Phelps was convicted of kidnapping Jillian Cutshall, and sentenced to life in prison. As of 2022, despite several attempts to overturn his conviction he remains prison.
Eight years after her disappearance Jill's father, Roger Cutshall, was accused having sex with a 14-year-old girl in May 1992. He was sentenced five years and paroled 22 months into his sentence.
Jill has never been found. Her mother Joyce died in 2022.
In 1969, artist and anthropologist Barton Wright drew a likeness from the skull of Little Miss X. According to him she was Mexican, Indian or Mexican-Caucasian, age, 13 to 17, 5'3", about 110 pounds with dark brown hair bleached to light brown. She had seven silver-amalgam fillings in four teeth, and wore a 10-carat gold medal chain. Her clothing was described as Capri pants with a brown, red and green plaid pattern with a label, "World Famous Graff California Wear" and a white, wool cardigan. The clothing found near the body appeared too big to fit her. There was also a nail file case and comb.
Mary M. Begay, 20, who went missing at the South Rim in 1957, was excluded as well for being Little Miss X. Mary worked at the Bright Angel Lodge at Grand Canyon National Park. She was last seen in August, when she and three friends walked from their employee housing dorm to the Grand Canyon Inn to do some drinking. One of her companions said Begay got into a vehicle with two unknown Hopi men. She didn't show up for work, and she was fired. They boxed up her belongings, and when her family came for a visit is when they discovered she had disappeared. They reported her missing to Navajo authorities. The connection to Little Miss X was that the clothing found near the remains matched the clothing Begay had been wearing when she was last seen.
Later authorities interviewed Begay's co-workers. One of them said she believed Begay fled her life, and was living in Los Angeles, and didn't want her family to know where she was. Another said she heard Begay had married, had a child and lived in Oregon. Neither lead panned out.
Begay prior to her disappearance had been in touch with her family on a consistent basis, and she was not estranged from them. Present day Begay would be in her 80s, and many of her family members have passed away. The Grand Canyon Inn was demolished in the 1960s.
There was a theory the nail file case found with Little Miss X could have belonged to Donnis Marie "Pinky" Redman, a South California 15-year-old who went missing, the same year as Little Miss X was found.
Bones found in the old Flagstaff Mortuary dating back to the 1960s, were thought to belong to Michael Griffin her boyfriend, but it turned out they didn't. Pinky Redman was eventually excluded because she did not match the physical characteristics of Little Miss X.
Pinky was last seen in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 1, 1958. She and her boyfriend, Michael Griffin, were in San Pedro, California when they eloped to Las Vegas, a four-and-a-half-hour drive away. Neither of them have ever been heard from again. Griffin's car, a white 1950 or 1951 Dodge Clipper with twin exhaust and loud mufflers, was found in Williams, Arizona several days later. Williams is more than a three-hour drive from Las Vegas.
Years later, another complication developed. Plans were made to re-exhume Little Miss X's bones in order to get DNA evidence, however after it was exhumed in 1962, the new burial place was not recorded. It's believed it's likely back at Citizens Cemetery (also known as Flagstaff Citizens Cemetery, Masonic Cemetery).
COLD CASES IN FLAGSTAFF & COCONINO COUNTY
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