Note: Links to postmortem photos can be found at the end of this blog entry.
On the morning of April 27, 2002, the body of a teenage girl was found behind a strip mall in Tempe, Arizona. She’d been dead for a few hours, maybe a day at the most. Investigators didn’t have much to go on at first , but ended up getting some important information from a source they probably didn’t expect. Let’s talk about the Jane Doe only known as Tempe Girl.
Close to Tempe Girl’s body, investigators found a case of CD’s. Using fingerprints, they managed to trace the CD’s to a woman in the area. When the woman was questioned, she said she didn’t know the girl or anything about her death. However, she did own the CD’s and had last seen them in her car. On the day in question, her boyfriend had been using her car for the day, so police turned their attention to him. When he was questioned, he had a pretty interesting story to tell them.
According to this man, he picked up the girl hitchhiking on April 26th. She spoke to him in Spanish, telling him she’d been kicked out of her house because of her drug use.
Tempe Girl asked the man to drive her to a certain store (one source said she wanted to get concert tickets), but then changed her mind a few minutes later and asked to be driven somewhere else. When she got to this unspecified location, a man got in with her and sold her cocaine. She and the man both used the cocaine in the car and, afterward, the girl had a seizure.
The driver took her out of his car and told the other man — the one who had sold her the drugs — to call the police from a nearby gas station. A call did come in to 911 around from a Circle K in the area, but it couldn’t be determined what the person was saying.
Remember, this entire story comes from the driver and hasn’t been confirmed or debunked. Tempe Girl’s cause of death was ruled as a cocaine overdose. Her manner of death was ruled as neither accident nor homicide; I assume it was listed as ‘undetermined,’ but can’t confirm that. The driver has never been charged with any crime in Tempe Girl’s death, and it couldn’t be determined whether she was actually alive or dead when she was taken out of the car.
But who was Tempe Girl and what was her backstory? We don’t have much to go on, but there has been plenty of speculation.
A lot of people I came across in my research didn’t believe the driver’s story — at least not all of it. Several of them wondered if the driver was actually doing drugs along with the girl, or if he picked her up looking for sex and gave her drugs as well. Then she had a bad reaction to the drugs and the driver dumped her body behind the strip mall. There’s also been speculation that she was being sex trafficked.
But at least one person didn’t agree. A commenter on Reddit said they believed the driver because he did give police a decent amount of information. According to this poster, if the driver was trying to cover up soliciting a prostitute or giving her drugs, he probably would have downplayed his role in the whole thing, maybe even denied ever seeing the girl, let alone picking her up.
Other speculators have wondered about the girl’s heritage. Because the driver reported her speaking Spanish, most people online think she was Hispanic, maybe native of a Spanish speaking country like Mexico or Guatemala, possibly in the United States illegally. A Websleuths poster who claimed to be from Tempe said the area where Tempe Girl was found is known for drug activity and frequented by illegal immigrants. Several other speculators also wondered if she lived nearby. Police seem to believe the girl might be from Mexico as they’ve worked with the Mexican consulate in the case.
But why hasn’t Tempe Girl been identified? Some online speculators wonder if her family even realizes she’s missing if she was kicked out of her house. A few think she lost contact with her family due to her drug use. Others still think her family might not have reported her missing because they’re here illegally, or that her disappearance was reported but isn’t being actively investigated because she was dismissed as a runaway. Whatever happened, it’s been almost 20 years since her body was found dumped behind a strip mall, and the public doesn’t even know her real name.
Tempe Girl is the nickname given to a Jane Doe found in Tempe, Arizona on the morning of April 27, 2002. She’s thought to be Hispanic, Native American or possibly biracial.
Tempe Girl is thought to have been between 15 and 19 years old, with straight black hair and brown eyes. She was about 5 feet tall and 125 pounds. She had a scar on the back of her left hand and another near the top of her left shoulder. She was wearing a red halter top, jeans with a side zipper, blue underwear, a watch and one black slip on dress shoe with wedge heels, size 6 1/2. She had purple nail polish on her fingers and a purple bracelet and ponytail holder on her wrist.
Not a lot of information here, but I did think it was interesting enough to share. This girl would have been just a little bit older than me, and it’s so sad that nobody who knew her has come forward yet. I really hope that changes someday.
If you have any information about the identity of Tempe Girl:
Tempe Police Department
case number 02-067757
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
1-800-THE LOST (843-5678)