February 19, 1971
Lake Panasoffkee, Florida
The decomposing body of an unidentified woman is found

On February 19, two hitchhikers making their way to Mardi Gras crossed the Lake Panasoffkee Bridge and looked down to see a human body in the shallow water. They immediately notified a passing state trooper.

The woman had no identification on her and was too badly decomposed to fingerprint. She eventually received the nickname Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee, sometimes shortened to Miss Panasoffkee. She was estimated to be between 17 and 24 years old with a petite build, no taller than 5’5” (165 cm), approximately 115 lbs (52 kg), with dark hair. Based on other indicators, it was presumed she had brown eyes. Miss Panasofkee had extensive dental work — including silver fillings and a porcelain crown — and the work was compared to a national database of dental records but no matches were found.

A composite of Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee

Due to the level of decomposition, it was estimated Miss Panasoffkee had been killed 30 days or more before her body was discovered. A man’s belt had been left wrapped around the neck and she had two perimortem rib fractures, leading investigators to believe she had been strangled while her killer knelt on her chest. Because Miss Panasoffkee was fully dressed and was wearing several pieces of jewelry, robbery and sexual assault were dismissed as potential motives. It was also suspected Miss Panasoffkee was killed elsewhere and dumped into the lake from the highway.

Miss Panasoffkee was interred in 1971, 6 months after her body was found, buried under the name of Jane Doe. She was exhumed in 1986 to allow for artists to create facial reconstruction illustrations in hopes of someone recognizing her. Illustrations were made to show how Miss Panasoffkee would have looked in life shortly before her murder, and age regression was used to demonstrate how she would have appeared at ages 12 and 6. During this time, Miss Panasoffkee was also subjected to a second autopsy. The second autopsy revealed the victim had received a Watson-Jones surgery (a reconstruction of ankle ligaments) which was probably performed between 1967 and 1970, and noted she had given birth to at least one child.

Another exhumation in 2012 showed Miss Panasoffkee was of European descent, with analysis of her hair indicating she likely arrived in the United States between 2 to 12 months before her death. Testing of her teeth led experts to pinpoint Miss Panasoffkee’s home in Lavrion, Greece. Florida has a large Greek community stretching from Clearwater north through Tarpon Springs to New Port Richey, roughly a 2 hour drive from Lake Panasoffkee. It has been theorized Miss Panasoffkee was visiting one of these locations at the time of her murder.

Miss Panasoffkee’s case and identity remain unsolved. Any information should be directed to Detective Darren Norris of the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, at 352-569-1617 or dnorris@sumtercountysheriff.org.

Sources:
470UFFL – Unidentified Female. The Doe Network. Accessed: February 19, 2021. http://www.doenetwork.org/cases/470uffl.html
Unidentified Person / NamUs #UP6040. National Missing and Unidentified Persons System. Accessed: February 19, 2021. https://www.namus.gov/UnidentifiedPersons/Case#/6040?language=en&legacyRedirect=true
“Tampa Bay Cold Case Project | CASE 13.” University of South Florida. Accessed: February 19, 2021. http://forensics.usf.edu/projects/coldcase/13/
Lee, ArLuther. “Little Miss Lake Panasoffkee — an enduring murder mystery after 50 years.” Atlanta Journal-Constitution. February 19, 2021. Accessed: February 19, 2021. https://www.ajc.com/news/the-strange-case-little-miss-lake-panasoffkee-enduring-mystery-after-years/25izmOK0f3eo9ztekLHL9M/
“Clues emerge in cold case murder that may be tied to Tarpon Springs.” Tampa Bay Times. June 30, 2012. Accessed: February 19, 2021. https://www.tampabay.com/news/publicsafety/crime/clues-emerge-in-cold-case-murder-that-may-be-tied-to-tarpon-springs/1238126/
“Who killed Little Miss Panasoffkee?” The Tampa Tribune. August 28, 1988

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