Details of Disappearance
Mary was a secretary at C&S Bank in Atlanta, Georgia in 1965. (The bank is now called Nation's Bank.) She had married Roy Little, a bank examiner, six weeks prior to her disappearance. Roy was out of town on October 14, training to become an auditor, but was going to return the next day. Mary planned a party to welcome his return.
She purchased groceries after work and then met a co-worker for dinner at the Piccadilly Cafeteria in the Lenox Square Shopping Center in the upscale Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. Mary was reportedly in good spirits at the time and spoke happily about her married life. She walked back to her car after dinner, at approximately 8:00 p.m. She has never been heard from again.
Mary did not show up for work the next morning and did not call in sick. Her boss discussed her absence with the co-worker she'd dined with the previous evening. Mary's co-worker knew that Mary's new metallic pearl-gray 1965 Mercury Comet with the Georgia license plate number 2829 was parked in a lot near Lenox Square from the previous evening's dinner.
A photograph of the Comet is posted with this case summary. Initially the car could not be located by security guards, but by the time Mary's bank supervisor arrived at Lenox Square, the car was in plain sight in the Yellow 32 section, where it was supposed to be.
There was a coating of red dust on the car's exterior, as if it had been driven on a dirt road. Four bags of groceries were found inside the vehicle, along with Coke bottles and a package of Kent cigarettes which were Mary's preferred brand.
There was also a slip, panties, a girdle, a bra, and a single stocking. Most of the items had been neatly folded and placed on the console between the front bucket seats, but the brassiere and the stocking were on the floor. The stocking had been cut, probably by a knife. The underwear was Mary's and appeared to have been worn recently. Mary's outer clothes, purse, coat, jewelry, and her car keys were missing and have never been found.
Blood was speckled on the undergarments and smeared on the steering wheel, the driver's side door near the handle, the inside window of the passenger's side, and on the front seats. Testing proved it was probably Mary's blood. There was only a very small amount, about as much as would come from a nosebleed.
Some police officers were of the opinion that the scene had been staged, due to the great smearing of the small quantity of blood. There was an unidentified fingerprint in the blood on the steering wheel.
Investigators learned that Mary's gasoline credit card had been used twice in North Carolina on October 15, the day following her disappearance. The first time was at an Esso station in Mary's hometown of Charlotte; the second time was at another Esso in Raleigh. Attendants at both stations recalled seeing a woman who appeared to have a minor injury to her head and was bloodstained on her head and legs.
Both workers told authorities that the woman was traveling with one or two unshaven middle-aged men who seemed to be commanding her. The woman appeared to be trying to hide her face from the attendants and she did not ask anyone for help.
The credit card had been used in the early morning hours of October 15 in Charlotte and approximately 12 hours later in Raleigh. This puzzled investigators; not only was Charlotte Mary's hometown and the city where her family resided, but Raleigh was only two to three hours away by car. The long span of time between credit card usages seemed strange, considering the short traveling distance between the cities.
Authorities speculate that perhaps whoever had Mary was trying to lead the investigation away from Atlanta. The signatures on the credit slips read "Mrs. Roy H. Little Jr." and appeared to be in Mary's handwriting. Using Roy's mileage logs and Mary's odometer, investigators estimated that the car had been driven only 41 miles that could not be accounted for.
Another odd angle of Mary's case emerged when the license plate on her Mercury Comet turned out to be a Charlotte, North Carolina plate that had been stolen in mid-October. Mary's car was legal in Georgia and had been fitted with the proper tags. Investigators believed that the stolen plate was a clue as to why her vehicle had not been located by Lenox Square security before her bank supervisor drove to the lot and discovered her car himself.
Authorities believed that whoever drove Mary's car to the lot may have kept it hidden on the night of her disappearance, only to return it to its initial parking spot later. This theory has never been proven. If the car was in fact moved, it would have been at about the same time that Mary was seen in North Carolina.
A $20,000 ransom demand was made for Mary after news about the credit card slips came out. An anonymous caller told Roy to go an overpass in the Pisgah National Forest in western North Carolina and find further instructions posted on a sign. An FBI agent went to the location in Roy's place and found a blank piece of paper struck to the sign. The caller did not contact the Little family again and has never been identified. The ransom demand is suspected to be a hoax.
Police investigated Roy for possible involvement in his wife's disappearance. Her former roommates did not like him and some refused to attend their wedding because of it. Roy reportedly did not seem to care much about Mary's disappearance. Several times he refused to take a lie detector test. However, he had a solid alibi for the time of her disappearance, and nothing to gain from her death, and there were no signs of trouble in the marriage. Roy has never been charged with any wrongdoing in connection with Mary's case.
There was some speculation that Mary's disappearance might have been connected to a sex scandal at her place of employment around the time she vanished. The bank had hired a former FBI agent to investigate claims of lesbian sexual harassment and possible prostitution on the property. Mary apparently knew about the scandal but it is not now believed to have anything to do with her disappearance.
Friends told investigators that Mary had been receiving unsettling phone calls at work during the weeks leading up to her disappearance. She apparently gave some indications to the caller that she was married and could no longer visit with the unknown person, but he or she was welcome to visit her. The caller's identity remains a mystery.
Mary also received flowers from a "secret admirer" in the weeks leading up to her disappearance. The bouquets were traced to a florist near Mary's residence, but the purchaser's identity remains unknown. Mary never shared the details of the strange phone calls or discussed the flowers with anyone.
According to some of her friends, she was fearful of being home alone or driving her car unaccompanied in the weeks prior to October 14. She did not explain why she felt unsafe. A few days before she disappeared, Mary insinuated to her co-workers that she had something important to tell them. She never revealed what it was.
In May 1967, eighteen months after Mary vanished, another young woman who worked in the same office was murdered. Diane Shields was last seen leaving work in her blue and white Chevrolet Impala. At 2:30 a.m. the next day, the car was found near a laundry on Sylvan Road in Atlanta with Shields's body inside the trunk. She was fully clothed and had not been sexually assaulted, and she was still wearing her diamond engagement ring. She had died of suffocation; a scarf had been shoved down her throat.
Police speculated that Mary's and Shields's cases might be connected, due the similarities in their disappearances and the fact that the women worked together, but eventually that theory was discarded. Shields's homicide, like Mary's disappearance, remains unsolved.
The police file concerning Mary's case vanished sometime in the years following her 1965 disappearance. Her father died in 1979, but her mother is still alive and has never stopped looking for her. Some police officers who investigated Mary's case do not believe foul play was involved; they think Mary staged her disappearance for unknown reasons.
Other investigators believe Mary was abducted. A woman reported being accosted by a man in the Lenox Square Shopping Center parking lot shortly before Mary would have been walking to her car; some authorities believe the man had something to do with Mary's disappearance. He has never been unidentified.
Mary's case remains active and unsolved.