Kym L. Pasqualini is the founder and former CEO of Nation's Missing Children Organization and National Center for Missing Adults.
February 26, 2021, Valentine Sally was identified as 17-year-old Carolyn Eaton, 40 years after her death in 1982.
Her homicide remains unsolved.
Carolyn was from Bellefontaine Neighbors, Missouri, and had run away around Christmas 1981. Bellefontaine is a suburb of St. Louis.
"Now that the victim has been identified, detectives are working leads that have been developed to identify any possible suspects, said Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll in a statement.
Coconino County Sheriff's Office
Identification of "Valentine Sally" Confirmed After Almost 40 Years
Date: February 22, 2021
Contact: Lt. Brian Tozer Phone: 928-226-5087
Flagstaff, AZ – Coconino County Sheriff Jim Driscoll confirmed identification of a female found deceased on February 14, 1982 on Interstate 40 west of Williams. This case has generated a great deal of local and statewide interest and has become commonly referred to as the “Valentine Sally Case”.
Detectives with the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office have positively identified the female as 17-year-old Carolyn Eaton, of St. Louis, Missouri. Her body was found nearly 40 years ago on the north side of Interstate 40 west of Williams, Arizona. Detectives have been working with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), National Missing and Unidentified Person System (NamUs), and the Arizona Department of Public Safety to identify “Valentine Sally” through familial DNA. This process utilized a private company that specializes in DNA processing for submission into online databases for genetic comparison. Information obtained from this database search identified a relative of “Valentine Sally”. Through this process, detectives were able to locate potential family members of Carolyn, obtain DNA samples from them, and confirm the identity of the body as Carolyn. Identification of unidentified victims is a difficult and lengthy process and can be costly to agencies looking to identify victims of crimes. Recent breakthroughs in DNA technology have allowed Law Enforcement Agencies to identify victims as well as suspects in cold cases such as these.
This case began on February 14th in 1982 (Valentine’s Day), when the body of a deceased female was located on the north side of Interstate 40 at milepost 151.8 by an Arizona DPS Officer assisting a motorist along the highway. Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Detective Sgt. Jack Judd, now retired, began this investigation as the responding detective working on this case. Detective Sgt. Judd continued working on this case throughout the remainder of his career following up on numerous leads. The investigation passed through many detectives over the years since the initial report and transitioned to cold case detectives when all other leads were exhausted.
Recently, with the assistance of grant funding through NCMEC the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office was able to utilize DNA samples from “Valentine Sally” to complete the familial DNA search for relatives of “Valentine Sally.” This funding from NCMEC allowed for testing through a private vendor that led to the identification of family members. Detectives traveled to the St. Louis area to interview family members. It was found that the family members had a sibling who ran away from home around Christmas time in 1981. Detectives were able to retrieve DNA samples from relatives, which matched the DNA profile from “Valentine Sally.” This ultimately led to confirmation and the positive identification of “Valentine Sally” as Carolyn Eaton.
During the investigation, detectives worked with the St. Louis County Police Department Missing Persons detectives when contacting the family, who lives around the greater St Louis area. Detectives also worked with the Bellefontaine Neighbors Police Department, Missouri where Carolyn lived before running away around Christmas 1981/New Years of 1982.
Now that the victim has been identified, Detectives are working on leads that have been developed to identify any possible suspects. Detectives, along with the Cold Case Squad of the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office continue to vigorously work this case. At this time, there are no suspects identified but the case remains under investigation as a homicide. Sheriff Driscoll wants to thank community members, assisting law enforcement agencies, Sheriff’s staff, and the victim’s family who have worked for so long to identify Carolyn and put some level of closure to this tragic case.
It has been nearly four decades that a young woman was found dead along westbound I-40 in northern Arizona. Found on Valentine’s Day 1982, the young woman’s death has become one of the oldest, and one of the coldest, unidentified body cases in the state’s history.
The young woman was found on the side of the road about 25 feet from the Interstate under a cedar tree, approximately 11 miles from Williams.
Williams is a smaller town in Coconino County, with only a population of 2,842, as of the 2000 census. Also known as the “Gateway to the Grand Canyon, Williams was the last city on Historic Route 66 to be bypassed by Interstate 40.
There, in the small town of Williams, amidst the pine trees, is the Mountain View Cemetery where the unidentified female is buried waiting to be identified and given a name.
The young woman’s body was found by an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer who had been looking for a blown-out tire from a vehicle accident on Interstate 40, west of the old Monte Carlo Truck Stop. It was a bitterly cold winter’s day and snow on the ground. The officer found her lying face down under a cedar tree.
Along that stretch of highway is a pull-off where 18-wheelers would commonly stop to cool their brakes. If she had been in a truck and dumped no one would have been the wiser.
The Coconino Medical Examiner said it is estimated she died approximately two weeks before she was found. At the time of discovery, due to extensive animal and insect activity, most of her facial flesh was gone, along with her right ear.
It was determined her death was a homicide, possibly by suffocation as the Hyoid bone in the neck was still intact. The medical examiner also concluded one of the young woman’s lower molars had been drilled for a root canal, one week before her death.
Investigators say she had first been dragged by her belt loops as the rear belt loop had been ripped. The sweater she was wearing was pulled over her head, indicating she had also been pulled by her arms to the location she was found.
Early on, investigators gave Jane Doe the name Valentine Sally and the name stuck for decades to come.
After her discovery, a student at the North Arizona University came forward and told investigators he believed he had given Valentine Sally a ride. She had been hitchhiking near Cordes Junction approximately 2 hours south when he picked her up and they spent the next two hours talking.
During the ride, the woman claimed to be from Phoenix where she was working as a dishwasher and lived with friends. Due to family issues, she was on her way to New Jersey and planning on traveling to the Little America Truck Stop in Flagstaff to hitch a ride with a truck driver to the East Coast.
Several witnesses placed the young woman at the Monte Carlo Truck Stop in Ashfork, Arizona, early in the morning on February 4, 1982. According to Patty Wilkins who owned the restaurant at the truck stop, she was in the company of an older man about 5’ 8” to 5’ 10” tall, medium weight, wearing a brown, two-tone, checked leather vest and a felt cowboy hat festooned with a peacock feather on the front.
Some believe the man’s description is very similar to Royal Russell Long, a truck driver suspected in the abduction and murders of several young girls in Oklahoma, but a connection has never been established by investigators.
Wilkins believes the girl was about 16 to 18 years old. Normally, when young girls came into the truck stop and Wilkins suspected they were runaways, she called the sheriff’s office, but that time she assumed the young girl was with a male relative as she seemed comfortable.
The man and the young girl entered the truck stop at approximately 3:00 a.m. The man had a coffee and the girl ordered water and an aspirin for her tooth. They left an hour later.
What we do know
Medical examiners believe Valentine Sally to be between 16 and 24 years old. She was approximately 5’ 4” to 5’ 5” and 120 to 125 pounds, with straight, strawberry blonde hair and believed to have had blue eyes.
She was wearing a white knit sweater with thin, red stripes and bra size 36C. The sweater had been pulled up over her head when she was found and the bra found nearby too.
She was also wearing size 8 or 9 “Seasons” brand blue jeans. A white handkerchief was also found with her body.
Stan Kephart, a retired police chief, and law enforcement professional sat down with Briana Whitney from KPHO News 5 and discussed the case.
“What’s the likelihood that the man she was with is involved in this?” asked Whitney.
“I would say that more often than not, it is highly likely. Victims of homicides more often than not are victims of known persons, relatives, or significant others,” Kephart said.
In 1984, two years after Valentine Sally was found, police thought they had finally solved the case. The girl was identified as Melody Cutlip, who had disappeared from Florida in 1980. A forensic expert matched bite marks from Valentine Sally to dental records of Melody. However, Melody finally returned home to her family alive in 1986. This was a huge misstep in the case Kephart told Whitney.
“It is the fault of the expert presenting something that is flawed, and the agency not vetting that person to conclude that it should be followed up on,” Kephart told Whitney.
When asked if Kephart thought a detective was currently working the case, he said, “No.”
Coconino County Sheriff’s Office declined to sit down for an interview about Valentine Sally. A sad moment when the only investigating agency refuses to help gain media and public attention for its own cold case.
“With the passage of time, memories and forensics and these kinds of things are taken from us, Kephart said.
Patty Wilkins from the truck stop sat down for the first time with CBS News 5 reporter Briana Whitney on February 21, 2021. From her home in rural Seligman, Arizona, Wilkins spoke at length to try to shed some light on the last night Valentine Sally was last seen alive.
“She seemed very comfortable. Very comfortable with this gentleman. Because I asked her, ‘Are you okay? Do you want to stay or leave with him?’ She said ‘No, I’ll go with him. Like it was her grandfather, uncle, some relative,” Wilkins told Whitney.
Wilkins had never seen the truck they pulled up in and that has haunted her all these years.
“The next thing I heard about was that they found a young girl, on February 14, a mile from my restaurant,” Wilkins said.
Wilkins remembers the evening like it was yesterday.
“She was a pretty girl. She really was, and she smiled a lot,” said Wilkins. “But it’s been a long time, and it would be nice if someone could find a name.”
When asked how she made a connection that the girl that was found was the same girl she had seen at the truck stop, Wilkins said the police had shown her the clothes and she immediately remembered the clothes were the same as what the young girl had been wearing.
Wilkins also mentioned that the girl had a toothache and described how they had crushed up an aspirin and put it on her tooth. When the investigators asked which tooth, Wilkins said it was a molar on the left side. In response, one investigator said, “That’s our girl.”
Wilkins did not want Valentine Sally buried in an unmarked grave as just a number, so she spent $168 to buy her a headstone with the name “Valentine Sally” engraved.
“We took up a benefit for her so we could get her a headstone,” Wilkins told Whitney. “I would be willing to get another headstone and put it up there if we could find out who she was.”
With deep emotion in her eyes, Wilkins said she can only hope that within her lifetime the mystery of Valentine Sally will be solved.
If you have any information about the murder or identity of Valentine Sally, please call the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Cold Case Squad at 928-226-5033.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2021 Kym L Pasqualini