Date of Disappearance: Thursday, October 14, 1965
Location of Disappearance: Lenox Square Shopping Center, Atlanta, Georgia
Mary Shotwell Little was a 25 year old secretary with then C&S (Citizens & Southern) Bank (now NationsBank) in downtown Atlanta. She was a newlywed, married to Roy Little only six weeks at the time of her disappearance. Roy was out of town on October 14; after work Mary purchased groceries and then met a female co-worker for dinner at the S&S/Piccadilly Cafeteria at the Lenox Square Shopping Center in the tony Buckhead area of Atlanta. According to her co-worker later, Mary was in good spirits and seemed happy with her married life. At around 8:00 p.m., she bid goodnight to her co-worker with a "See you!" to return to her car, carrying a brown leather purse. She has not been seen since.
Her disappearance was noted the next morning when she failed to show up for work and did not call in sick. Her boss spoke with the co-worker she had dined with; the co-worker provided the location of Mary's car at the Lenox lot. Security guards sent to look for the car failed to locate it; Mary's boss, upon arriving at Lenox, found the car in the spot the co-worker gave. More on that later.
More disturbing was that blood was found on the undergarments and smeared on the steering wheel, the driver's side door near the handle, the inside passenger side window and both front bucket seats. An unidentified bloody fingerprint was found on the steering wheel. The blood was not in great quantity, only that amount you might get from a nosebleed and the blood was tested to be Mary's. Due to the relatively small amount being found in a wide range of places within the car, and the nature of it being smeared, some police officers believed the car was staged.
On October 15, Mary's credit card was used at an Esso gasoline station in Charlotte; twelve hours later, the card was used again at another Esso station, this time in Raleigh. The credit card slips were signed "Mrs. Roy H. Little, Jr." and appeared to be in Mary's handwriting. Attendants at both stations recalled a woman with a minor head injury, with bloodstains on both her head and legs, and who was accompanied by one or two unshaven middle aged men who appeared to be commanding her. The woman tried to hide her face from the attendants and did not ask for help. The North Carolina plate number noted on the charge slips turned out to have been stolen in the days before Mary's disappearance.
Being that Charlotte and Raleigh were only two to three hours apart by car, the twelve hour difference seemed odd. Also odd was the fact that Charlotte was Mary's hometown.
|Lenox, as it would have appeared in 1965|
In May of 1967, eighteen months after Mary Little walked into oblivion, Diane Shields, a former C&S employee who was hired after Mary's disappearance and who not only worked at Mary's former desk but also roomed with Mary's former roommates, was found dead in the trunk of her car, suffocated/strangled by a scarf and paper found in her throat. Her diamond engagement ring was still on her finger and she had not been sexually assaulted. Was Diane the victim of the same killer that could have grabbed Mary? Was it merely coincidence? Or were there darker forces at play? Diane had quit her C&S job by the time of her death but it was reported by a family member that she was working as an informant in an undercover capacity when she was hired on at C&S in order to help the police catch the person who took Mary. If this was true, it indicates that the police believed that Mary's employer had something to do with her death. Law enforcement, it must be said, has always denied that Diane Shields had any such role.
Diane Shields' murder has never been solved.
After the Diane Shields homicide and two years after Mary's disappearance, her mother requested that authorities cease their investigation.
In the years after Mary disappeared in 1965, her case file also vanished.
My Thoughts and Theories. I began researching this case thinking it was a relatively straightforward missing persons case that my mother had mentioned to me at one time, as she vividly remembered when Mary disappeared. Was I surprised to find this case anything but straightforward. There are so many possibilities, potential suspects, theories . . . I'll get right into it.
Mary's husband Roy Little is the obvious first suspect as her spouse. He certainly did himself no favors with his actions and behavior following his wife's disappearance. Some reports say he was aloof and indifferent with regard to Mary's whereabouts and safety, seeming more concerned about his car. He also reportedly had an abrasive relationship with the detective in charge of the case.
I briefly gave thought to Roy Little as a suspect. Refusing to take a polygraph . . . twice. Wanting to know when he could get his car back, after the crime lab had marked his wife's blood from the interior. Just . . . gah. But despite the fact that on paper Roy Little comes off somewhere in the range of being indifferent to emotionally withdrawn to just a dick, I don't think he had anything to do with Mary's disappearance. It's not because he has an alibi because let's face it, he could have had someone help him out. It's based on all the known facts taken together, as I will outline below.
I never seriously considered that Mary might have fallen victim to a random predator hunting in the Lenox area that evening. During the investigation it was discovered that a young woman at the Lenox Square shopping center the same evening as Mary was encountered by a man who approached her as she entered her car. The young woman locked her door and refused to open it, despite the man's assertions that her tire was flat. She drove away in a fright (and would stop at a service station down the road where it was determined all four of her tires were in good condition.) The time was shortly before 8:00 p.m., when Mary would be bidding goodnight to her co-worker and heading for her car in the Yellow Lot.
Was there a "Tire Guy" at Lenox that night? Possibly. If so, I don't think he had anything to do with Mary and here's why. Mary's car was clearly staged to appear as though an assault happened. If there was a Tire Guy, his motive would have been to assault; he would have no reason to stage Mary's car to make it look as though one did. In fact, wouldn't Tire Guy have wiped down Mary's car and discarded her undergarments? That's not all. I don't believe it was coincidence that Mary was in Charlotte, her hometown, the next time either by choice or force. A random attacker would have no idea of Mary's hometown; nor would he want to take the risk of driving her north and making certain she was seen at two separate service stations. In fact, he would likely want to distance himself from Mary as soon as the assault was completed.
Some of the police investigators initially thought that Mary herself staged her car but apparently were not clear on why. I feel that Mary herself is a better suspect than Roy or Tire Guy. And while I initially thought the chances were fairly good that Mary could have staged her disappearance, I don't believe that's what happened. During dinner with her co-worker that night, she appeared to be pleased and happy with her marriage. If there were any marital problems, she didn't express them and in fact, seemed to be in good spirits. Would a woman planning on running away from her life bother shopping for groceries for a dinner party that wasn't going to happen?
More so than that, all reports insinuated that Mary had a close and loving relationship with her family in North Carolina. If she was going to flee, she would either need to involve her family in the deception or cut off all ties to them. Would she subject her parents and sister to the strain of lying to authorities, her husband, her friends? For that matter, would she intentionally subject her family to the pain of believing she was missing and possibly endangered?
There is quite a bit online about alleged scandals and harassment that were going on at C&S Bank in the Sixties, as well as the institution supposedly being under investigation by the FBI, and the possibility that Mary was either the victim of harassment or that she found out something - - something illegal, something to do with unaccounted money, something dirty - - happening at the bank that she wasn't to have known. Either scenario according to some got her killed.
This theory held my interest for more than a quick minute especially when I read that her boss, upon realizing that she had not shown up for work on Friday morning, had called Lenox security rather than first calling her home. More research led me to more solid reports that state that Mary's boss had initially called Mary's landlord at the Belvedere Apartments first, with the landlord stating that Mary's newspaper was still outside before entering the apartment and finding it empty. Only then did her boss contact the Lenox Mall security and ask them to check the parking lot for Mary's car. And this he would have known from Mary's co-worker so nothing untoward there. It's also not significant in my mind that he immediately located Mary's car in the lot around noon because it was not there when Lenox security checked earlier that day, as evidenced by their statements and in checking the citations issued for cars left in the lot overnight. Mary's car was not cited and so was not there.
This does make me also consider the co-worker Mary had dinner with the night she disappeared. Did the APD ever check this woman's story out? She told the police what time she and Mary met, ate and then window shopped. She said that Mary had gone grocery shopping before their date. She said that Mary was headed to her car in the Yellow Lot just before 8:00 p.m. Did the APD check with anyone at the restaurant to verify the story? Or to ask if any of the employees might have noticed anything out of the ordinary (i.e., the two women not talking; anyone watching or paying particular attention to Mary)? Did the APD go to the Colonial market to ask the same questions?
|C&S Bank building on Mitchell Street, 1960s|
So that takes me to what I think happened to Mary Shotwell Little. I think her disappearance was very likely tied to C&S but not in the way outlined above. Co-workers of Mary's stated that in the weeks prior to her disappearance she seemed to be receiving unwanted phone calls. No one knew who made the calls to her but one did overhear a portion of Mary's side of the conversation in which she said something along the lines of "I'm a married woman now," and "I can't go there but you can come to my house." She also received a delivery of five roses the week she disappeared and while the florist was located by Mary's apartment, the flowers were delivered to her office.
What this says to me is that Mary had a stalker. And I believe it was someone she knew based on her comments on one of the phone calls. She was a married woman now. This was someone who knew her prior to her marriage to Roy Little but I don't think it was in a romantic sense. This could have been someone Mary considered a friend, someone she didn't realize was developing an unhealthy interest in her. Someone who was either a C&S employee or customer because it had to be someone who knew where she lived and who knew she was from Charlotte.
I think this man had been able to keep himself and his obsession with Mary under relative control until she married Roy Little. The timing is right. Mary and Roy had only been married for six weeks when she disappeared; her friends mentioned that the last few weeks of her life she seemed to be afraid to be at home alone or in her car alone. Her co-workers noted unwanted phone calls in the weeks prior to her disappearance. The marriage and, as a result, Mary's unavailability set him off. I think he began following her and Mary sensed it; hence, her nervousness/fear at being alone. She knew she was being watched. But I don't think she realized how dangerous this person was.
I believe this man had followed Mary on the afternoon and evening of October 14, 1965. Lenox was a busy and crowded shopping center so he could have easily tailed her without her being the wiser. I had asked myself why a woman would buy groceries before meeting a friend for dinner, especially when the grocery store was located in the same shopping center. Even if you purchased only canned goods, it just didn't make sense to me. Until I began hashing the stalker theory in my mind. I think Mary bought the groceries while it was still light outside (she was alone, after all) and so that she wouldn't be getting home a minute later. After dinner she could head back to her car immediately and return home. Only she didn't.
I think either this man approached her or she saw him when she was returning to her car. Knowing him, she wouldn't have hesitated to say hello. I think this man could have asked Mary for a lift; if he did and she obliged, she ultimately would have been at his mercy.
We know that forty miles were unaccounted for on the Mercury Comet. We know that the car was returned to the Lenox lot the next day. So that means it was driven roughly twenty miles from Lenox and then driven back. We know that a red dust was found on the car and that some blades of grass were found in the interior. That suggests to me at some point the car was taken off a paved road, even if just pulled on a shoulder. This is just a possibility but perhaps this man expressed his affection for Mary or told her he had sent her the flowers. Little known fact but five roses means I admire you and love you very much. She would have rebuffed him and that would crush him/anger him/humiliate him. And this could have been where he might have punched her in the nose or mouth, to get a little blood flowing, or even throttled her (some minor bleeding can happen with throttling or strangulation.)
I'm honestly uncertain whether or not he would have sexually assaulted Mary. When I look at someone like Robert John Bardo, who stalked actress Rebecca Schaeffer for two years, he never physically touched her although he did shoot and kill her. Could Mary's stalker have been the same/ I also have to look at the fact that her car was staged.
At some point this person had to realize that things had gone too far; he couldn't go back to obsessing about her. She knew who he was, she could report him. She may have even told him she would. Whoever this man was he almost certainly would have needed help. He could not possibly have driven Mary to North Carolina and made certain she was seen in Charlotte and Raleigh while her car was being returned to Lenox.
And this was a sticking point for me on many theories. Why was her car taken and then returned to Lenox? Taken I could understand but why return it? Why risk discovery?
And it finally hit me. The car was returned because the abductor's car was still in the lot. We know that the Lenox security had cited cars left in the lot overnight because they searched to see if Mary's car was cited. I think if the APD had investigated every car that was cited that night, they may have found who was behind Mary's disappearance.
That said, in order to have the connections necessary to make this "problem" go away, this man had to have been a mover and shaker, a big enough fish, to make it happen. It's apparent that whoever took Mary wanted to be sure it was clear she was taken to North Carolina - - she was seen and her credit card was used to purchase gas. Why would someone do this? Because he wanted to steer the investigation away from Atlanta. Maybe this person knew Mary's boss and was able to make sure that he would be certain that Mary's car was located, which was essential for the cover story of Mary being grabbed and assaulted.
Another mark in favor of the stalker theory is Diane Shields. Diane is the young woman who replaced Mary at C&S; not only did she take over Mary's job but she sat at Mary's desk and even shared some of Mary's former roommates and friends. Was one of these friends or former roommates connected to someone big and powerful in the Atlanta community? Or did Diane, young and pretty like Mary, attract the notice of someone at the bank?
Diane too received five roses the week she was killed. There is no way that was a coincidence. While Mary was newly wed, Diane was two months away from getting married. I don't believe that was a coincidence either. I speculated that Mary could have been throttled and/or strangled; Diane died due to strangulation, which is a very up close and personal way to attack someone. Diane was found in East Point, which is only about five miles from the airport, where I speculated Mary's body could have been hidden. Why wasn't Diane buried? Perhaps her killer was interrupted or afraid of discovery. Or perhaps he had gotten brave after Mary's disappearance. Regardless I have no doubt that Diane's death was connected to Mary's.
Final Word: The disappearance and likely murder of Mary Shotwell Little is a tragedy and an especially horrible one for her family and friends. There has been no closure for them. Mary has been missing for nearly 51 years. It's a good assumption that the case will never be solved unless someone comes forward - - and someone, somewhere knows something. If he or she is still alive.
Diane Shields' family at least had the closure of knowing what happened to her and were able to bury her but they have not gotten justice for her murder.