News 4 Investigates: FBI taking fresh look at cold case of decapitated girl

A little girl was found decapitated with a yellow sweater in a vacant St. Louis home in the 1980s (Credit: KMOV).

It was a case that terrified the St. Louis area community, a little girl found decapitated in a vacant St. Louis home in the 1980s.

After 33 years, neither the girl nor her killer have been identified.

But in 2016, a cold case detective is asking the FBI to take a fresh look.

There is hardly a day that goes by that Joe Burgoon does not think of Hope. He is one of the few detectives left alive who first worked on her murder in 1983.

The details are disturbing.

In a vacant house on Clemens Avenue, two men stumbled on a decapitated body in the basement.

“That was a post-mortem injury, removing her head,” said Burgoon.

She was an African American girl, between the ages of 8-11 but tall for her age, Burgoon says.

“She had two coats of red finger nail polish on her fingers,” said Burgoon.

Burgoon says the tag was cut out of her yellow sweater and her hands were tied with red and white rope. She was strangled, killed somewhere else four to five days earlier.

“You could see where there was trails of blood on the stone, where she was brought in there,” said Burgoon.

Detectives relentlessly followed up on missing children cases. They tracked down every lead, even the most bizarre.

“There were a lot of things that came in, but they never panned out. It was like a roller coaster,” said Burgoon.

Her head was never recovered and no one has ever claimed her.

There was a glimmer of hope, though, when her body was exhumed from Washington Park Cemetery in 2013.

Experts tested her bones hoping to pinpoint where she came from, but they discovered only that she was from somewhere in the southeastern United States.

She was reburied in Calvary Cemetery, the case cold.

"Do you think her case is connected to any serial killer?” asked News 4 Investigative Reporter Lauren Trager.

“Not that we are aware, not that we are aware, could be, but you just don't know,” said Burgoon.

Still, Burgoon has never stopped looking, prompted on by breaks in other cases.

There is a reignited search for leads in the case of Scott Kleeshulte who has been missing from St. Charles County for nearly 30 years.

Burgoon says someone knows something about the decapitated little girl.

"People solve crimes, that's who solves the crimes. They point us in the right direction and then that's the way we know how to go," said Burgoon.

Her nickname is the very thing that keeps Burgoon going.

“You got to have hope you can't give up hope,” said Burgoon.

Burgoon has already asked the FBI to rerun this case through their databases to see if any new hits come back on similar cases or missing children.

Again, Burgoon says the key is that someone probably knows something.

He asks that anyone with any information contact CrimeStoppers or St. Louis police.

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

News 4 Investigates

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