Unspeakable Times
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The True Story Behind The Lil' Miss Murder

Updated February 19, 2021 65.4k views11 items

On March 25, 1988, Lisa Marie Kimmell vanished seemingly without a trace. The 18-year-old, known by her family as Lil' Miss, was driving through Wyoming to visit her boyfriend when she went missing. Despite frantic search efforts, investigators found her body eight days later.

This case, later known as the Lil' Miss murder, became infamous as it sat unsolved for 14 years. However, new DNA identification technology eventually led to the discovery of Kimmell's killer, a man who had provided a DNA sample when entering the prison system.

The facts and evidence surrounding Kimmell's murder eventually came together, leading police right to the man responsible and bringing her family justice well over a decade later.

Photo:
  • Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / HBO Distribution/FilmRise

    Kimmell Was Driving Through Wyoming To Visit Her Boyfriend When She Went Missing

    Originally from Billings, MT, Lisa Marie Kimmell was living and working in Denver, CO, in 1988 when she decided to drive back to her hometown on March 25 and make a quick stop in Cody, WY, to pick up her boyfriend. She was planning to introduce him to her family for the first time and was eager for her parents to meet him.

    Her route was an eight-hour drive almost directly north, passing through the entire state of Wyoming. Unfortunately, she never made it to Cody. The last credible witness to see her alive was a highway patrol officer who pulled Kimmell over for speeding in Douglas, WY, barely halfway through her trip.

  • Two Fishermen Found Kimmell In The North Platte River

    The search for Lisa Marie Kimmell was a frantic one, with family members anxiously joining police efforts in hopes of locating the 18-year-old. Sadly, on April 2, 1988, two men who were fishing in the North Platte River found Kimmell's body floating facedown in a clump of weeds.

    Kimmell's mother, Sheila, described in her book The Murder of Lil' Miss what it was like to receive the news Lisa Marie had been found:

    Eight days after her disappearance, our worst nightmare materialized. Two fisherman found Lisa's body early Saturday afternoon, April 2nd, 1988. She hadn't had a wreck. [...] Her body had been dropped from the Old Government Bridge near Casper, Wyoming, into the cold North Platte River. Our beautiful daughter was gone.

  • Authorities Determined Kimmell Died On Or Near A Remote Bridge 

    Coroner James Thorpen, who examined Kimmell's body, determined that the young woman had been hit over the head and repeatedly stabbed. Based on the condition of Kimmell's body when it was found, Thorpen estimated the kidnapper had held her for around six days. She had been repeatedly sexually assaulted.

    Blood matching Kimmell's found at the Old Government Bridge led police to believe she had either been killed there, or close to the location, before being dumped into the river.

  • Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / HBO Distribution/FilmRise

    Witnesses Claimed To Have Seen Kimmell Driving Her Car After Her Disappearance

    Not long after Kimmell's remains were found, the true crime series Unsolved Mysteries aired a segment on the case. The program featured two prominent individuals that claimed they saw Kimmell's car on the streets in the hours and days following her death, muddling the investigation. One was Donna Kirkpatrick, who was married to a local county sherriff. She stated:

    It was Saturday at noon, and I noticed a little black sports car had pulled out right in front of me. Then I noticed the license plate. It was a Montana license plate with ‘little miss’ on it… And, at that point I decided that I needed to see if the car went with whoever was driving it. I am absolutely positive there was a young gal driving it… there’s not a doubt in my mind.

    The other eyewitness reported seeing Kimmell's Honda - and her distinct vanity license plate - in Casper, Wyoming, more than 100 miles from the spot where her remains were found. This person claimed they "saw somebody with blonde hair driving, and had on a yellow sweater.”

    Officers received numerous other tips, all alleging they had seen Kimmell, or at least someone who looked like her, driving her vehicle post-mortem. The sightings even extended into Canada.

    Ultimately, none of these reports amounted to much, and while they would ultimately prove to be impossible, they have never been fully explained.