Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Searching for an identity: "Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee"

Two artist sketches of a woman found murdered benath the Lake Panasoffkee Bridge in central Florida

Unquiet Rest
by Robert A. Waters

Sometime in the waning winter of 1971, a young woman was murdered. Her killer placed a leather belt around her neck, pulled it tight, and held on until the girl quit struggling. Then he dumped her off a bridge in central Florida.

She has no name. Or at least not a name that anybody knows. Shortly after she died, the young woman was discovered floating in the black acidic waters just beneath the Lake Panasoffkee Bridge on Interstate 75. For nearly forty years, all efforts to identify her have failed.

The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office has investigated the case with a fierce doggedness. Before the advent of computers, investigators sent out flyers describing the case to thousands of police agencies across the country. They contacted the news media in hopes of generating stories about the case. Investigators even contacted the popular television show “Unsolved Mysteries” and the case was featured in a chilling segment that has been repeated many times. In the beginning, numerous leads came in--all were investigated, including hundreds of calls from parents who thought the remains might be their missing daughter.

In 1986, Sheriff James Adams gave the woman a nickname: “Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee.” He arranged for her body to be exhumed and examined by forensic anthropologist Dr. William Maples. In addition to what was already known, the autopsy uncovered several key facts about the young woman.

She was Caucasian with possibly a touch of Native American ancestry. She was five-feet-two and weighed about 100 pounds. The woman was between 18 and 23 years of age, and had given birth to at least one child, probably two. At some point in her life, the woman had been well-taken care of. She had extensive dental work which included silver fillings and a porcelain cap. An orthopedic surgical procedure known as the Watson-Jones technique had repaired a weakness in her right ankle that caused her to fall and sprain it many times. After learning of the Watson-Jones procedure, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office advertised in medical journals hoping to jog the memory of some doctor who might have performed the surgery.

Several composite sketches have been done over the years. They were shown on “Unsolved Mysteries” and have been publicized over the Internet.

Investigators theorize that Little Miss Panasoffkee was raised in a caring family that provided for her. At some point, possibly in her teens, her life may have gone off track. At the time of her death, four lower and two upper teeth were missing, pointing to a later lack of dental care or violence. The young woman may have become estranged from her family. “We believe it’s a person from a disenfranchised family,” said Captain Gary Brannen. “[She’s] not in the family fold, so to speak.”

Recently, a section of one of the girl’s bones was sent to the FBI for genetic analysis. A DNA profile was extracted, so if her family is ever located, she can be identified and returned home.

A few other pieces of information are available: Little Miss Panasoffkee was probably right-handed; she was wearing a thin gold-colored neck chain; she wore a gold-colored ring with a transparent stone on her right hand; and she had a seventeen-jewel Baylor watch on her left wrist.

Little Miss Panasoffkee’s killer has escaped justice for four decades. It is unlikely that he’ll ever be caught.

While the murderer has gone about his own life, the lost soul of an unknown daughter rests fitfully in a grave far away from home. In the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Jesus tells of a straying child who “came to his senses” and returned home to his father. Little Miss Panasoffkee never had that chance.

If anyone has any information about this case, please contact Captain Gary Brannen at the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office by telephone at (352) 793-0222 or (352) 793-0278.


Adrian Brooks Collins said...


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As a screenwriter I'm fascinated by these cases and Edward has assisted and continues to aid me greatly with my own research.

You really should give him a try; you have nothing to lose.

My blog (not updated recently) is

Love and light,


Chichibcc said...

Update: This case was presented recently on a Greek TV-Show investigating missing persons cases. A woman called and said she identified this Jane Doe as a former classmate and friend. They were attending a prep school for legal migrants, located in Kifisia (suburb in Athens, Greece), teaching home economics and preparing the students to be sent off to the USA and Australia with a 2 year contract for work. This school was funded by the International Organization for Migration. The woman that called said that her classmate was called Konstantina and had a brother serving in the Navy near Lavrio. They lost contact when the caller was sent to Australia and Konstantina was sent to the USA for work.

There's a picture of the girl Konstantina in the link.

Unknown said...

Just wanted to say that I remember a girl that was at my grandmas house in Pierson, Fla. She had called herself Priscilla. I do not ever remember her saying her last name. I think something had happened to her. She was to be taken to the bus station. I believe my Uncle Harry, Tommy Bowens had taken her but she never got there. The reason is because her suit case was still at my grandmas and she was not. My grandmas house has been sold since 2006 and it has been demolished. My uncle Harry and Tommy were drunks. They died in a car accident years ago. I did not realise until now that this might be that girl. I have 4 siblings all girls and we were all thinking the same thing. 535 Emporia road. Pierson, Fla. Was my grandmas address. I did not particularly care for my grandma I do not know what ever became of that suit case. I was only around 7 years old at the time. One of my sisters said she contacted authorities but she does not know if it had ever been investigated.

Unknown said...

Does anyone know where at the cemetery this girl is buried? I would like to donate a headstone for her. I went there to the Oak Grove Cemetery and could not fine where she was buried.

Unknown said...

I had a cousin - Jane Ann McNally - who was born and raised in Kokomo. Indiana. She married a guy named "Barney" (don't remember his last name) and they had two little girls. The family went on a vacation to Florida and Barney returned with his two little girls and said Janie ran off from them. One of the girls later told her grandma that "daddy took mommy into the water". I wish this could be investigated !!! I wrote a letter several years ago but never heard back from anyone.

Robert A. Waters said...

Contact Gary Brannan at Sumter County Sheriff's Office. The phone numbers are listed above. Thanks for reading my blog.