On July 31, 1960, a schoolteacher from Las Vegas was in the Arizona desert looking for rocks to add to his garden.
Instead, he found the remains of a child, partially buried and decomposing.
The community was rocked by the discovery in Yavapai County, and many showed up at the funeral held for the unknown girl at a church in Prescott, Arizona, on Aug. 10 of that year. They raised money to give the girl a proper burial, and she became known as “Little Miss Nobody.”
Just 10 days before the grisly find, a 4-year-old girl named Sharon Gallegos had been abducted from Alamogordo, New Mexico. Authorities thought the remains found in the desert might belong to the child, but the body did not have the same clothes Gallegos had on and seemed older than Gallegos, according to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children.
For years the mystery continued, and multiple agencies joined forces to try to identify the mystery girl. In 2015 as DNA technology was becoming more useful for solving such crimes, a new door opened.
DNA samples from both the girl’s interred remains and living relatives of Sharon Gallegos were taken and analyzed, but the technology was not sufficient enough to make a match.
More recently, in 2021, funds were raised to send DNA samples to Texas-based Othram Labs, which specializes in solving these kinds of cases using DNA technology.
In February 2022, the remains were positively identified as those of the missing 4-year-old.
Thanks to the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, National Missing and Unidentified Persons System and other groups, Gallegos’ story was shared on Tuesday.
“The unidentified little girl who won the hearts of Yavapai County in 1960 and who occupied the minds and time of YCSO and partners for 62 years, will now rightfully be given her name back and will no longer need to be referred to as Little Miss Nobody,” the Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office shared on Facebook.
“Sharon Lee Gallegos was 4 years old when she was abducted from her grandmother’s front yard in Alamogordo, NM on July 21st, 1960,” an updated post from the sheriff’s office read. “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.
“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 Sharon Gallegos, technology and science was not sophisticated enough at the time to make the identification.
“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.”
While the girl has been identified and no longer is “nobody,” little is known about what transpired between the time of her abduction and when her body was found. One mystery has been solved, but others remain.
“I salute the detectives and the volunteers with the cold case unit who took this case to heart in 2015 and did not let go until the unfortunate moniker of Little Miss Nobody could be removed from the headstone that sits in a cemetery here in Prescott,” Yavapai County Sheriff David Rhodes said on Facebook.
“We are honored to have solved the mystery of the little girl from the desert, and hope through the continued work of our detectives, volunteers and outside partners, to bring the same closure to other families of cold case victims.”
Gallegos’ nephew, Ray Chavez, also submitted a statement on behalf of the family.
“Our family is so grateful to finally have answers,” the statement read. “We want to thank the people of Prescott for taking care of my aunt for 62 years. Thank you for keeping her safe.”