By Ann Rubin
KSDK -- New mystery surrounds one of the biggest unsolved murders in St. Louis history. The young victim is missing. After an attempt to exhume the child's body, police realized she was not where she was supposed to be.
In 1983, the little girl was buried at the Washington Park Cemetery. The cemetery has since fallen into disrepair and authorities thought exhuming the child was the right thing to do. But they cannot move her if they cannot find her.
The task seemed simple enough: exhume a child's casket in an abandoned cemetery and move it to a better one. But when authorities dug at the base of the headstone, the girl's remains were not to be found.
"They checked the coffin and it was not our victim," said retired Detective Joe Burgoon of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department.
The victim was a little girl no younger than seven and no older than 11. She had been bound, sexually assaulted and beheaded. Her body was discovered 26 years ago in a vacant building on Clemens Avenue. And though St. Louis Police searched extensively, she was never identified and her killer never found.
"We keep running into roadblocks. This whole thing has just been one huge roadblock after another," said Detective Tom Carroll. "We're just trying to tear them down and fight. Go forward with it."
And now they cannot find her. Part of the problem is that her headstone was added later and might not match the plot.
"Things changed over the years," Burgoon said. "At one time you could see Highway 70 when she was first buried there, but now it's all pretty wild over there."
Video from 1983 shows the girl's burial and possibly clues that may lead to her actual resting place in the Washington Park Cemetery. NewsChannel 5 crews tried looking for landmarks ourselves. Police believe the video may be useful.
Authorities have not given up hope yet. If they try again, they'd like some help narrowing their search. They would like to talk with anyone who used to work at the cemetery who might remember something useful.
The plan had been to move the child's remains to the Garden of Innocents, a special section of Calvary Cemetery. There would have been a new service. Now that's on hold. But police said it will happen, eventually. Authorities will pinpoint her plot, making sure this girl who was abandoned in life is not abandoned in death.
"They want to find her. They want to do what's right. So we'll keep trying," Carroll said.
Detectives want to talk to anyone who worked at the Washington Park Cemetery or anyone who might have attended the victim's funeral in late 1983. If you have any information, please call CrimeStoppers at 866-371-TIPS.