It was a cold March day in 1964. The ground on Combs Hill in Chemung County was covered with light snow when a passerby found the unthinkable: the body of a 12-year-old Elmira girl reported missing just a few days earlier. She was covered with rocks and debris. That girl was Mary Theresa Simpson.
As police descended on the crime scene, their number one question was, who would do such a thing? Who would kill this shy girl who was loved by many?
Now, almost 55 years later, the answer to that question remains unanswered. Possible suspects have come up through the years, but they were cleared, leaving this case open until this day.
“We haven’t been able to close this case yet. It’s very much a part of this department,” Joseph Kane, Chief of The Elmira Police Department said. “It’s very much part of the police officers who work here, several of which who have knowledge of the case and still follow up on leads. It’s not going away.”
Police continue to get new information through the years. They are up against time. Many of the people connected to this case are long gone.
“Still just recently a couple weeks ago, we had someone call and offer some things that may be of importance,” Kane said. “It’s very difficult to pick those apart at this point. Many people are deceased that were part of this. The names that came up, many of them are deceased at this point.”
But what about the recent advancements of DNA? Could that provide the answers needed to find Mary’s killer?
“Around 2000, we actually obtained DNA from a blouse that was worn by Mary Theresa Simpson,” Kane said. “So we are trying to find who that might belong to. Once we find out who that might belong to, then we still have to show, that they may have been involved in her death.”
But DNA may not hold all the answers. “So we have to consider what could be the source of that DNA, Kane said. “If we find it on a blouse, it could be the person who washed off folded the blouse.” DNA is not the cure-all, Chief Kane said. It’s just another tool in the toolbox.
Kane said he’s very committed to closing this case. “Again, I would encourage anybody to call who thinks they might have something relevant for the case,” he said. You can call EPD’s anonymous Tipline at 271-HALT or 271-4258.
We may never know who killed Mary Theresa Simpson back in March of 1964. Yet, the memory of this shy, happy little girl, who loved to dance is alive in the hearts of her family and friends this day.
Learn more about DNA here from Chief Kane.