What Happened to Mary Shotwell Little?

Atlanta Cold Case

Mary Shotwell Little


Over 52 years ago in the fall of 1965, Mary Shotwell Little disappeared from the Lenox Square parking lot in Atlanta, GA. It remains the most famous missing persons case in Atlanta’s history.

Jim Ponder, the FBI’s liaison with the local law enforcement was puzzled from the beginning. “There were a lot of things about this case that never made sense,” he says.

(Photo & Excerpt from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sunday, March 21, 2004 by Jim Auchmutey, Gerdeen Dyer and Pat Koester)




On October 14, 1965 a young bank secretary Mary Shotwell Little met a girlfriend at Lenox Square for dinner.  The next morning she did not show up for work and her boss was worried.  She had several recent strange phone calls and received flowers from a stranger. Her car was found at the mall.  It was covered with red dust and her panties were found on the floorboard.  Her car had been driven 41 miles. Very quickly the newspapers and TV reporting reached a panic level.  The Atlanta Police and the FBI assigned their best investigators to this case.

No clues were found until several weeks later.  APD was notified that Mary’s gas credit card was used in Raleigh and Charlotte.  The lead detective, Lt. Jack Perry flew to North Carolina.  At both gas stations the attendants remembered a young woman who looked hurt and was bleeding.  There were two men with her and she would not get out of the car.  Lt. Perry could not find any more leads on Mary’s whereabouts.  The case dragged on with no new leads until 18 months later.  A friend of Mary, Diane Shields was found murdered and stuffed in her car trunk in East Point.  Both girls had worked at the bank and had several of the same roomamtes.  The panic and fear started all over again.  No arrests were made in either case.

For just over 50 years both cases are still unsolved.


(Photo & Excerpt from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sunday, March 21, 2004 by Jim Auchmutey, Gerdeen Dyer and Pat Koester)

The Citizens & Southern National Bank Offered a $1,000 Reward

The Citizens & Southern National Bank will pay $1000.00 as a reward to the first person furnishing information leading to knowledge of the whereabouts of Mrs. Mary Shotwell Little, an employee of the bank. Mrs. Little was last seen at approximately 8:00PM, October 14, 1965, at Lenox Square Shopping Center in Atlanta, Georgia. She is 5’6″ tall, weighs 120 pounds, has hazel -green eyes and light brown hair. She was wearing a long sleeved olive green, cotton-dacron print dress with small white figures. She carried a white London Fog raincoat and a brown burlap and leather John Romain brand purse.

Mrs. Little’s bloodstained automobile, a metallic grey 1965 Comet (Georgia License ID2829) was discovered shortly after noon on October 15, 1965, parked in the Yellow 32 section of the Lenox Square parking lot. A decal reading “Association of Citadel Mem. Member 1965-66” is pasted on the right side of the car’s windshield. Several articles of Mrs. Little’s underclothing were in the car, but articles still unaccounted for include her purse, raincoat, shoes, platinum wedding band, solitaire engagement ring, class ring from The Women’s College of the University of North Carolina, a scarab bracelet and the ignition key to the car.

If you have any information that might aid in the search of Mrs. Little, contact the Atlanta Police Department, Homicide Squad, Area Code 404, telephone 522-7363.

This offer is limited to persons furnishing information prior to February 1, 1966. Payment of this reward will be made upon final determination by the Citizens & Southern National Bank of the person or persons entitled to this reward.


Victim: Mary Shotwell Little (Newlywed
Disappeared: October 14, 1965 at Lenox Square parking lot, Atlanta, GA
Worked: Citizens & Southern National Bank
Age: 25

Things 'never made sense'

(Photo & Excerpt from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sunday, March 21, 2004 by Jim Auchmutey, Gerdeen Dyer and Pat Koester)

Jim Ponder, the FBI’s liaison with local law enforcement, was at Atlanta police headquarters downtown when a wrecker hauled in the car. “Jop” as his friends call him (after his initials), was a South Carolinian who had served in the Navy during World War II and been wounded in the D-Day invasion. He had been a special agent since 1947, matching wits with Klansmen, Soviet spies and mob bosses. Given the possibility of an interstate kidnapping, he unofficially joined the investigation and sent a teletype to Washington reporting what was known. He was puzzled from the start. “There were a lot of things about this case that never made sense,” he says. The was full of them. Two members of the Atlanta Police Department’s identification unit inspected the vehicle. They found a fine coat of red dust on the exterior, as if the Comet had been on a dirt road. They also found blood in several places: on the driver’s door near the handle, on the inside window of the passenger’s side, smeared over the vinyl of the front seats. A few grass clippings were stuck in dried blood where the passenger’s head would have rested. Carefully rolled together and placed between the seats was a set of women’s undergarments – girdle, slip, panties – speckled with tiny drops of crimson. On the floorboard lay a black brassiere and a section of stocking that had been cut neatly, as if by a knife. Test indicated the blood probably was Little’s. The undergarments definitely were hers and had been worn recently. There was something about the scene that didn’t add up, the crime technicians thought. Bill Moore of the identification unit wondered if the smearing hadn’t been a ploy to exaggerate the amount of blood. Larry Howard of the state crime lab seemed to agree, telling Moore that despite the gory display, there was no more blood than you’d get from a nosebleed.

The Public Pitches In

(Photo & Excerpt from the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Sunday, March 21, 2004 by Jim Auchmutey, Gerdeen Dyer and Pat Koester)

In the days ahead, thousands of people enlisted in the largest search Atlanta had ever seen. Pilots scanned the area looking for signs of a body. Military reservists scoured the wood around Lenox. Even jail inmates were pressed into the hunt. Reward posters offering $1,000 and then $3000 went up around the state. The city’s top-ranked radio stations, WSB and WQXI (“Quixie in Dixie”), asked residents within a 20 mile radius of Lenox to check their property for the personal items missing from Little’s car. A corner of police headquarters soon resembled a thrift shop, with piles of clothing, purses and other items of female apparel. Ponder spent days exploring the woods and side roads along I85, a relatively new four-land then known as the Northeast Expressway. “We searched old abandoned wells and everything you could think of,” he says. None of the efforts paid off. In fact, publicity became something of a burden as police had to check out all leads, well-intentioned and otherwise. . . . .

Eerie similarities

Over the months, the leads dried up. On the first anniversary of Little’s disappearance in 1966, police admitted they were no closer to finding her than they had been a year before. They’d even resorted to consulting a psychic. Then, in the spring of 1967, the killing of another young woman brought the missing bride back into the news, if only because of the eerie similarities. . . more

ANATOMY | Cold Case Atlanta | Diane Shields