Unsolved Mysteries Wiki
Sharon elliott

Real Name: Unknown
Case: Lost Family
Location: Phoenix, Arizona
Date: December 24, 1931


Details: Around 8pm on Christmas Eve 1931, a seven-day-old baby named Sharon Stieg Elliott was found concealed in a lady's hatbox and abandoned on a desert near Florence, Arizona. Ed and Julia Stewart's car had broken down 150 feet from where Sharon, wrapped in a blue blanket, lay in the hatbox, her little legs drawn up to her chest and whimpering from the cold and hunger. As Ed repaired a broken fuel line and Julia's 15-year-old twin cousins, John and Betty Mansfield, huddled in the back seat, Julia strolled out into the desert and came upon the hatbox. She heard a tiny sound from it and thinking it might be an abandoned kitten or puppy, she called for Rd to come and open it. They were horrified to find tiny Sharon in it. As soon as Ed got the car running again, they rushed her to the Mesa, Arizona police station where Chief of Police Joe Maier received and transported her to a local maternity home in Florence run by a woman named "Ma Dana". A doctor determined that Sharon was healthy.
Sharon's discovery soon became national news. It was a symbol of hope for those suffering through the Great Depression. She was put up for adoption. On February 16, 1932, a hearing was held at the Pinal County Courthouse in Florence, Arizona. Seventeen couples had expressed interests in adopting her. By that day, the search had been narrowed down to two. She was subsequently adopted by Faith Morrow and her husband.

Sharon and Ma dana

Ma Dana and Sharon

It wasn't until 1986 that Sharon learned the truth: that she had been adopted and was the "Hatbox Baby". She began a search for her birth parents. Soon, an organization called "Orphan Voyage" became involved in this case. Investigator Alice Syman helped Sharon get the court records released about it. Reading through the records, they became skeptical of the Stewarts' story.
According to the records, the Stewarts and Mansfields left at dawn on December 24, 1931, to drive to the mountains. They only stopped once, in Roosevelt, Arizona. Alice believes that in either there or another city they picked up Sharon.
Alice, who now lives in St. Augustine, Florida, and John D'anna of the Arizona Republic Newspaper in Phoenix, Arizona, continue to investigate this case, hoping that someone is still living who might help them solve it, and Sharon will finally know whether it was a Christmas miracle that she was found or whether she was placed there someone knew that she would be found.
Extra Notes: This case first aired on the December 20, 1989 episode. If you have any information that may help solve it please contact Alice Syman, (asyman@att.net) or John D'anna at his address in the link below.
The book, The Hatbox Baby by Carrie Brown, is not about Sharon.
Results: Solved. Alice was able to locate the Stewarts and Betty Mansfield. All of them remembered the incident very well but refused to appear on Unsolved Mysteries because they were offended by the skepticism surrounding this case. Ed passed away in 1992 and Julia in 2002. Betty has also since passed away; her brother, John, was discovered to have died in 1945.
Sharon's adopted mother, Faith, had told her that she had given all of her adoption documents to a friend. In 2011, they turned up; among them was a handwritten note from Faith. It stated that her "friend" was actually Sharon's biological cousin. It also stated that Sharon's biological mother was apparently Edna Sherman Roe, who had her out of wedlock at age fifteen. Reports state that Edna died in a plane crash in 1951. However, it was discovered that she had a niece living in Tucson. Sharon attempted to contact her so that DNA testing can be done, however, the woman later stated that she did not want to be involved. It was later determined that Edna was not Sharon's mother.
In 2017, a forensic genealogist named Bonnie Belza began investigating this case. Through DNA testing and genealogy websites, she was able to identify Sharon's biological parents. Sadly, her biological mother, Freda Strackbein Roth, died in 1991 and her biological father, Walter Roth, died in 2005. Her biological brother, James, died in 2017. However, she was able to get in contact with her grandniece. Interestingly, it was discovered that Freda and Walter had married a few months before her birth. It is believed that they abandoned her or gave her away because she was conceived out of wedlock. A journalist who investigated this case believes that Faith had connections to the Roth family and helped to arrange the "abandonment" and adoption.
On December 1, 2018, Sharon passed away at age eighty-six.