Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee is an unidentified woman who was murdered more than decades ago. Her body was found under a bridge in Sumter County, Florida, just north of Bushnell. And despite the efforts of law enforcement officers, her identity, as well as that of the person responsible for her death, is still unknown.
On Feb. 19, 1971, two teenage hitchhikers were walking on the Lake Panasoffkee Bridge on Interstate 75 when they spotted parts of a body protruding from the water below, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
After informing a police officer who was passing through the area, investigators were at the scene within an hour and discovered the badly decomposed body of a female floating in the water.
She was fully dressed, wearing a solid green shirt, green plaid pants, and a shawl embellished with green and yellow print.
Her body was removed from the water, and it became evident that she was the victim of a homicide, as a man’s belt, size 36, was wrapped around her neck.
Police searched for an ID but could not find one on her person, or at the scene.
The body was transported to the medical examiner’s office for an autopsy and identification.
Since the body was in an advanced state of decomposition, the medical examiner was unable to collect fingerprints.
Her teeth, which were said to have had extensive dental work, including caps, crowns, and silver fillings, were “compared against the national database of dental records,” but no matches were found, according to a report.
A positive identification could not be determined; therefore, the name “Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee” was given to her.
An autopsy revealed that Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee’s cause of death was strangulation.
Sumter County police officials stated that although a belt was used in the killing, they do not believe it was a sexual crime.
They concluded that robbery wasn’t a motive either, because she was wearing jewelry, a Baylor watch on her left wrist, and a thin, yellow gold necklace.
A yellow gold ring with a clear stone was also found on her ring finger, which indicated to police that Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee may have been married or engaged at the time of her murder.
Evidence suggests that she was killed somewhere else before being dumped into the murky water beneath the Lake Panasoffkee Bridge, where she remained for at least 30 days.
Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee was believed to be between 17 and 24 years of age with dark-colored hair and brown eyes. She was small in stature, weighing approximately 110-120 pounds and standing between 5 feet, 2 inches, and 5 feet, 5 inches tall.
After examining her teeth, the Geological Sciences Department at the University of Florida determined that she could have been of Greek descent, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office reported.
It was also determined that she may have arrived in the United States ten to twelve months before her body was found.
Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee was buried in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Wildwood, Florida, with the marker “Jane Doe 1971.”
In 1986, her body was exhumed for further examination in hopes of finding new clues and evidence that may have been overlooked during the initial examination.
William Maples, a forensic anthropologist at the University of Florida, discovered that Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee showed signs of Watson Jones orthopedic ligament reconstruction surgery on her right ankle.
Maples also noticed that she may have given birth to at least two children, according to a 1996 report from the Orlando Sentinel.
Betty Pat Gatliff, a foremost medical illustrator and consultant for the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation, generated a new composite sketch of what she may have looked like in current times.
The following year, Linda Galeener, a forensic artist with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement in Tallahassee, also generated a new sketch of Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee, but it was an image of what she looked like at the time of her death.
Copies of the sketches were sent to every sheriff in the country, as well as the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Jamie Adams, the former Sumter County Sheriff, stated that “this is the first for something like this, but we’ll try anything to get this little girl identified.”
“I know this little girl perhaps has a mother, aunt, or Sunday school teacher somewhere who can identify her and say, ‘That’s my little girl’ or ‘Yes, she was in my Sunday school class.’”
Investigators were hoping that new sketches of the victim and evidence would lead them closer to finding out who she was, who killed her, and why.
In a 1989 interview with the Ocala Star-Banner, former Sheriff Adams said: “I firmly believe this case is going to be solved in the media… I’m a father and it would bother me if I had a child who was missing. Somewhere, somebody knows this kid.”
Anyone with information regarding the unsolved murder of Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee is encouraged to contact the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office at (352) 569-1600 or by email at email@example.com.