Real Name: Lisa Marie Kimmell
Nicknames: Lil Miss
Location: Denver, Colorado to Billings, Montana
Date: March 25, 1988
Details: Eighteen-year-old Lisa Marie Kimmell worked as a manager at a fast food restaurant in Denver, Colorado. Sometime after 4:30pm on Friday, March 25, 1988, she left to go visit her boyfriend, Ed Jaroch, in Cody, Wyoming. After that, she planned to go to Billings, Montana, to visit her parents. When she left, she was driving her black 1988 Honda CRX with the personalized "Lil Miss" license plate. She planned to travel to Casper, Wyoming on Interstate 25. From there, she planned to take a two-lane road to Cody.
Weather conditions were good, so Lisa should have made it to Ed's house in about eight hours, arriving late Friday night. However, she never did, so the next morning, he called several highway patrols. Two days later, the Wyoming Highway Patrol told him that she was stopped briefly for speeding sixty miles south of Casper, at around 9pm on Friday night. The stop occurred about four hours after she left home; she appeared to be right on schedule. A signature on the police citation and a voice recording proved that the woman stopped was her. However, no one is sure just what happened to her afterward.
One week later on April 2, mechanic Greg Bradford was walking along the North Platte River in Casper when he found Lisa's partially nude body floating in the water. Because it was so cold, her body did not show any signs of decomposition. An autopsy revealed that she had been beaten, bound, and raped before she was murdered. She had been stabbed six times in a "unique" fashion.
On a bridge a quarter mile away, authorities found Lisa's blood. Because the bridge was somewhat inaccessible and seldom used, it was believed that her killer was a local. Eyewitnesses who lived near the bridge reported seeing a car there early on the morning of Saturday, March 26. This, along with other evidence, led investigators to believe that she was killed earlier that morning, about five hours after she was stopped for speeding.
Strangely, during the next several days, hundreds of sightings were reported of Lisa and her car throughout the Northwestern United States and Canada. Several of the witnesses reported seeing her with an unidentified man. Composites were made of at least seventeen men. However, none of them seemed to resemble one another closely enough to justify issuing a wanted poster. These sightings occurred after the time she was believed to have been murdered; the most reliable sightings came on March 26 and 27.
One sighting was in Casper, just a twenty minute drive from where her body was found, and the other two were in Buffalo, about two hours away. Strangely, she did not appear to be signaling for help during any of these sightings. The Casper sighting occurred at around 1:45pm on March 27. Diana Houston was driving downtown when she noticed the Montana "Lil Miss" license plate on a car. She remembered this because her roommate owned a puppy with the same name. She saw that the driver had blonde hair and was wearing a yellow sweater.
Twenty-two hours earlier, Donna Kirkpatrick, the county sheriff's wife in Buffalo, reported that she had seen Lisa wearing a pink sweater. She recalled that at around 12pm on March 26, Lisa pulled in front of her, driving her car. She noticed that the car had a Montana license plate with "Lil Miss" on it. Curiously, her parents do not believe that she owned either a pink or yellow sweater. Furthermore, the patrolman who stopped her for speeding recalled that she was wearing a black-and-white sweater.
Two hours after Donna saw Lisa, another eyewitness also saw her in Buffalo. This time, a mysterious man was with her. The witness, a cashier at a service station, saw her pull up in her car. He noticed the Montana "Lil Miss" license plate on the front. He saw two people inside: Lisa and the unidentified man. When he looked again a few minutes later, it was gone.
If the sightings of Lisa are accurate, they raise several disturbing questions. Was she really killed on the morning of March 26, as police theorize? If she was, then who was the woman that was seen driving her car in Casper and Buffalo? If she was not killed on the 26th, why was she in Buffalo, more than two hours off course? And if she was in danger, why did she not signal for help? Finally, what happened to her car? These questions will continue to haunt her case until it is solved.
Suspects: Authorities suspected that the man seen in the car matching the description of Lisa's may have been involved in her case. However, because the eyewitness descriptions were so different, no official composite was released. One witness described the man as smaller, between 135 and 140 pounds, with dark hair, large dark eyes, fine features, and a pockmarked complexion.
The authorities cleared the officer who had stopped Lisa as well as a former investigator who had committed suicide. DNA cleared the latter post-mortem. The only other piece of evidence was an envelope with a short letter inside left at her grave on October 13, 1988. It was signed "Stringfellow Hawke", a character from the TV series, Airwolf.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the March 15, 1989 episode. It was also featured on Cold Case Files, Nightmare Next Door, and later On the Case with Paula Zahn on Investigation Discovery. Lisa's mother, Sheila, published the book The Murder of Lil Miss on her murder.
Results: Solved. In 2002, DNA from Lisa's body was tested and placed into Wyoming's DNA database. It was then linked to fifty-eight-year-old Dale Wayne Eaton, who was serving a sentence in prison on an unrelated weapons charge. He had previously been convicted of kidnapping a family at gunpoint in 1997. He was also charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of his cellmate, Clay Palmer, but was acquitted. When questioned, his neighbors noted that around the time of Lisa's murder, he was digging a large hole on his property in Moneta, about seventy-five miles west of Casper. When the property was searched in July 2002, her car was found buried there. It was determined that she was held there for six days before she was murdered.
In April 2003, Eaton was charged with Lisa's rape, kidnapping, and murder. In March 2004, he was convicted on all charges and given the death penalty. However, his death sentence was overturned in 2014 after a judge found that he received inadequate defense at his trial. He is currently awaiting another sentencing hearing; the state plans to again seek the death penalty. Lisa's parents were awarded his property in a civil suit and burned the buildings to the ground on what would have been her thirty-sixth birthday.
Authorities were never able to explain the sightings of Lisa or her car, other than that the witnesses were mistaken. Eaton is now considered a possible suspect in the "Great Basin Murders" a series of unsolved murders throughout the Pacific Northwest which took place between 1983 and 1996. He is also a possible suspect in the disappearance of Amy Wroe Bechtel. A subsequent investigation determined that he was in the area around the time of it. However, he has not been charged in her case or any other.
- Lisa Marie Kimmell on Unsolved.com
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- Lisa Marie Kimmell on Find a Grave