A Half-Century Later, Authorities Still Need Help Identifying 'Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee'

Some might say there are many odd mysteries in the state of Florida, but none may be stranger or older than the identity of Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee. First discovered over 50 years ago, Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee - or Little Miss P - is the name given to the female remains found near the body of water in February 1971. Authorities had few clues to go on when first investigating the victim - but they did know someone strangled her with a belt. 

As time went on, leads never emerged, and the trail to Little Miss P's identity went ice cold. Despite several sheriffs in Sumter County bringing in experts to shine a light on her real name, Little Miss P's body providing clues about her origin throughout the decades, and even a segment on Unsolved Mysteries, the case remains unsolved. All of Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee's information, background, and police theories are laid out here in hopes of finding one person who can break the case wide open.

Photo: HBO Distribution / Wikimedia Commons

  • Two Teenagers Discovered 'Little Miss P' While Hitchhiking

    On February 9, 1971, two hitchhikers traveling Interstate 75 in Florida came upon a grisly find. In the shallow waters of Lake Panasoffkee laid the body of a long-dead woman, her hand resting upon a root that allowed the men to see her. The hitchhikers called the police to the scene immediately.

    Someone apparently strangled the woman with a men's size 36 belt, wrapped her in a blanket, and then dumped her from a bridge into the lake. Experts determined she had been in the water for at least a month at the time of her discovery.

  • Authorities Determined The Woman Was In Her Late Teens Or Early 20s

    Authorities Determined The Woman Was In Her Late Teens Or Early 20s
    Photo: Judy Reimer / The Doe Network

    The woman, nicknamed Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee after the lake she was discovered in, did not have any identification on her person. Authorities examining her badly decomposed body made some initial determinations concerning how she could have looked when she was alive.

    She was likely up to 5 feet 5 inches and around 115 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes. Her age was estimated to be between 17 and 24 years old.

  • A Ring On Her Left Hand Led Authorities To Believe She May Have Been Engaged

    Although her body was badly decomposed, several promising clues were left intact enough on Little Miss P's body. Experts concluded that she wore a matching outfit of a green plaid shirt and pants, along with a floral pattern poncho of green and yellow.

    Her intact jewelry included a gold ring with a clear gem on her left ring finger. From this piece of evidence, authorities deduced Little Miss P was either engaged or married. The other jewelry left on her body told them that the murder wasn't done in connection with a robbery.

  • She Had Received Extensive Dental Work

    There were more clues to be found in Little Miss P's mouth, as she had lots of dental work prior to her untimely demise. The caps, crowns, and silver fillings in her teeth allowed investigators to search for her identity via dental records since fingerprints were impossible to collect from her decomposed body.

    Unfortunately, no matching dental records for Little Miss P ever emerged to help solve the mystery.

  • Her Body Was Exhumed 15 Years Later After The New Sheriff Took An Interest In The Case

    Her Body Was Exhumed 15 Years Later After The New Sheriff Took An Interest In The Case
    Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / HBO Distribution

    After 15 years of dead ends and no promising leads, Jamie Adams became the sheriff of Sumter County and decided to reopen Little Miss P's case. On February 18, 1986, authorities exhumed her body from Oak Grove Cemetery in Wildwood, FL. The cemetery held her remains under a small placard marker that simply read "Jane Doe - 1971" since no family members came forward to claim her body. 

    With the exhumation, several experts in varying forensic disciplines waited to meet Little Miss P in order to shed some light on her identity and finally solve the mystery of who she was and who killed her.

  • A Leading Forensic Anthropologist Studied Little Miss P And Made An Interesting Discovery

    A Leading Forensic Anthropologist Studied Little Miss P And Made An Interesting Discovery
    Photo: Unsolved Mysteries / HBO Distribution

    Sheriff Adams brought in forensic anthropologist William Maples to examine Little Miss P after her exhumation. In stark contrast to the original autopsy in 1971, Maples found several interesting facts about Little Miss P to aid in her identification. Her right ankle underwent a surgical procedure using the Watson Jones technique, where the surgeon drills holes in the bone and pulls tendons through them. This uncommon procedure was likely memorable to the orthopedic surgeon performing it.

    Another discovery involved the likelihood that Little Miss P gave birth to one or two children before her death. Finally, Maples believed she was of Indian descent.