Lisa Marie Kimmell (18) was on a road trip from Colorado to Montana to visit her boyfriend and parents. She left on March 25, 1988, but never made it to her destiny. The last confirmed sighting of her was at 9:08 pm of the same day she left, when a state tropper issued her a ticket for speeding in Wyoming.
On April 2, a fisherman found Lisa’s body in a river. She’d been raped, stabbed multiple times and had been dealt a fatal blow on the head. At the time, police said that there was something distinctive about the stab wounds that led them to believe Lisa had been tortured; it was later revealed that they formed a circle around her chest.
Because the body had been in cold water, it was hard to determine how long she’d been dead. Police thought she had been killed shortly after going missing. Later they would learn they had been wrong about that.
Lisa drove a Honda with the very distinctive plate LIL MISS, and that’s why her case eventually got named Lil’ Miss Murder. Several witness claimed to have seen that car driving around after Lisa went missing, but authorities could never corroborate the sightings.
The case went unsolved for over a decade, until in 2002 the DNA that had been collected at the crime scene produced a match. The suspect was Dale Wayne Eaton, who at the time was in prison for kidnapping and possession of a gun. Police found Lisa’s car buried in Eaton’s property, and with such clear evidence he was charged for her rape, kidnapping and murder.
Eaton ended up admitting to the murder and revealed he had kept Lisa alive for six days before killing her. During his trial, a handwriting expert testified that a note that had been left at Lisa’s grave six months after her death was written by Eaton. The note read: Lisa –There are'nt (sic) words to say how much you’re missed the pain never leaves it’s so hard without you you’ll always be alive in me. Your death is my painful loss but Heaven’s sweet gain. Love always, Stringfellow Hawke. Eaton denied writing it.
He was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was the only man in death row in Wyoming, but in 2014 it was overturned because a judge considered that his defenders hadn’t done an adequate job during his sentencing phase. Prosecution could still file to have the death penalty reinstated, but with pending claims in court it doesn’t seem like they will, and Eaton might just stay with life without parole.
Eaton has been described by the FBI as someone with a personality consistent with the one of a serial killer, and is a person of interest in the unsolved Great Basin murders, that happened between 1983 and 1997 and left nine victims.