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The Strange Vanishing of Connie Smith

In the summer of 1952, 10-year-old Constance Christine “Connie” Smith, of Sundance, Wyoming, was excited about staying at the summer camp called Camp Sloane, in Salisbury, Connecticut. It was her first time away from home on her own, and by all accounts she could not stop talking about it in the days leading up to the camp. Things started out great, and the typically shy Connie came out of her shell a bit to make new friends and try new things. She seemed to have been enjoying herself, which is why it is rather odd that on July 16, she suddenly walked off on her own away from camp and seems to have kept walking right off the face of the earth.

On that morning, Connie told her tentmates that she was going to skip breakfast and go return an ice pack to the camp infirmary. She had apparently used the pack to nurse a bloody nose and cut lip she had allegedly gotten by roughhousing with some other campers, and she told everyone that she was just going to return the pack and be right back to join them. She made no mention of going off anywhere, and seemed to be in good spirits despite her injured nose. She then got dressed in a bright red windbreaker and blue shorts and headed off towards the infirmary, but she would never arrive there. The next time anyone saw her was a camp counselor who saw her walking towards Indian Mountain Road, and others saw her picking daisies in the area. One daughter of a private homeowner would later claim that the girl had knocked on their door and asked how to get to Lakeville, Connecticut with tears in her eyes, and this seems to be the last confirmed sighting of Connie Smith.

Connie Smith

When it was clear that Connie had wandered off and gone missing, camp counselors were quick to find that the girl had never arrived at the infirmary, and indeed she had left the ice pack behind in her tent, along with her money and most of her belongings. The only thing missing was a black zippered purse in which she had kept photos of her friends. The area was searched but no sign of the girl could be found, and calls out to her were answered with silence, after which she was officially reported missing to police. The area was searched more extensively, but again no trace of the girl could be found, and in the meantime, police began questioning other campers, camp counselors, and motorists who had been passing by the road she had been on.

Questioning people at the camp immediately turned up some sinister clues, as there were some campers who claimed that, although Connie had told counselors she had bloodied her hose just roughhousing, it had actually been from bullying and getting in a fistfight. Other campers also claimed that Connie had been miserable there and had expressed wanting to go home, so this led to the idea that she had perhaps run away, but why do that without her money and belongings? Also, when Connie’s mother was questioned, she claimed that she had visited her daughter just two days before the vanishing and that Connie had been in good spirits and told her she was having so much fun she wanted to stay longer, so it seems strange that she should want to run away when she was so dead-set on staying. Another ominous clue that police were able to dig up was a trucker who claimed that he had seen a girl matching Connie’s description get into a vehicle on Rt. 44 near Belgo Road at about 8:45 a.m. on the day of her disappearance, leading police to think she might have been kidnapped. As all of this going on there was a massive search for the girl taking place, with fliers distributed all over the country. This managed to bring in sightings of Connie from all over the place, but none of these led anywhere and indeed it would not be until April of 1953 that they would get their first real lead.

It started with a travelling jewelry salesman by the name of Frederick Pope, who came to police in Ohio claiming he knew what had happened to Connie Smith. He told them that he and his partner, Jack Walker, along with a woman named Wilma Sames, had picked up Connie hitchhiking up on Rt. 44, and they had promised to take her as far as Wyoming. He then told a shocking story of Walker attacking them in Arizona and killing Connie, after which Pope had attacked him and killed him with a tire iron in self-defense. However, no bodies could be found, and no woman named Sames, nor a Jack Walker, could be proven to have ever even existed at all. Pope would later admit it was all a demented hoax.

Rather eerily, the investigation into this false lead managed to turn up the skeletal remains of girl in 1958 at a place called Skinner Ridge, in the Grand Canyon National Park, which have never been identified but were eventually found to have not belonged to Connie Smith. These remains have been nicknamed “Little Miss X,” have never been identified, and are just as mysterious as Connie’s vanishing. In later years there would be some other leads and even suspects in connection with Connie’s disappearance. One of these was a man named George Davies, who in 1957 was doing time and awaiting execution for the brutal murders of two girls named Gaetane Boivin and Brenda Doucette in Connecticut. While languishing in prison, he came forward to admit that he had also killed Connie Smith and had buried her body on the bank of the Naugatuck River. However, police could not find the body, and Davies would toy with them by claiming he had made the whole story up. Considering that he was executed shortly after, any secrets he may have had he took to the grave with him.

Another promising suspect was a man named William Henry Redmond, who was charged in 1988 with strangling a Pennsylvania girl a year before Connie’s disappearance and was thought to have been in the Lakeville area at the time, but police could never prove this or find any hard evidence to pin him to the vanishing. Considering he died in prison in 1992, we will never know. There would be no further suspects found, but over the years sightings of Connie Smith alive came in from all over the country, and there was even a woman who claimed that she was Connie Smith, but a DNA test refuted this. Connie’s family would continue to doggedly search for clues, but tragically her mother and father would die without ever finding the answers they sought, leaving it up to Connie’s brother Nels J. Smith to carry on, but the case has gone very cold. However, it is still open, and current investigator Detective Michael Downs has said of it all:

There were some leads that were dead ends. My thoughts are that it’s a good case. It all happened so long ago. In 1952 things were done differently, and technology was very old-school. If you think back to childhood, one could walk anywhere. Times change. A 10-year-old walking down an old dirt road crying would be remarkable today. Back then, it was nothing. No one knows what actually occurred. It’s been 66 years, and no one has found her. With the Internet and technology, you would think something would have come up, but no. If a child were missing today, it would be found. With this case, there is hope for the family’s sake. I tend to be hopelessly optimistic that something will come.

What happened to Connie Smith? How did she just wander off with so many other people around, only to vanish off the face of the earth? Did she run away, was it foul play or what? It is frustrating to know that all of these decades later there have been few clues and no answers, and her ultimate fate remains unknown. All we know is that she walked away from that camp and has never been seen again, leaving us to merely wonder and speculate.