Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Girl on the Eight of Spades


Murderer of Sylvia Mangos Still Walks Free
by Robert A. Waters

It’s been twenty-two years since eight-year-old Sylvia Elaine Mangos was kidnapped, raped, and murdered. Her killer, like smoke in the wind, vanished and was never caught. The San Bernardino County, California Sheriff’s Department recently issued a set of playing cards listing 52 of their 600 unsolved cases. Sylvia's photo is shown on the eight of spades. Investigators have also turned the girl’s clothing over to the state lab in hopes of obtaining DNA evidence.

The crime happened on March 27, 1988. Her family was attending the Yucca Valley Swap Meet when Sylvia disappeared. Eight days later her fully clothed remains were found in nearby Johnson Valley. She’d been sexually assaulted and died of what is clinically called “blunt force trauma,” meaning she’d been beaten to death. According to the coroner, the girl had been in the desert for only two-to-five days.

Where was she the rest of the time?

At a news conference, Sheriff Floyd Tidwell said, “It appears that the motive for this tragic case is sexual...Sylvia was apparently a random victim of opportunity.” She died from multiple blows to the head, he said.

Clifton Eugene Mitchell, a 33-year-old truck driver, was named a suspect. The ex-con had just been released from prison after serving time for lewd and lascivious conduct with a child under 14. News accounts of the day stated that Mitchell lived in the desert not far from where Sylvia’s body was found. His car, which was allegedly spotted near the swap meet on the day of the abduction, was impounded by investigators. Despite their suspicions, Mitchell was never charged with the crime.

Other convicted sex offenders in the area were questioned, as well as everyone detectives could locate who'd been at the swap meet, but no one was ever arrested.

The murder stunned the small community. Sylvia attended Oasis Elementary School in Twentynine Palms. One of her teachers said that she was “very outgoing, loving, happy, friendly, and full of life. She was well-liked by everyone [and] she had a sense of humor.” She was an A-student with a talent for writing.

Unless he's dead or in prison, the killer has walked free for more than two decades. Here’s hoping Sylvia’s clothing will yield a DNA profile that can be matched to the murderer. Or maybe an inmate will look into the eyes of this innocent girl on the eight of spades and remember something that will bring her killer to justice.

No comments: