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Carolyn Celeste Eaton (October 1, 1964 - c. February 3, 1982), previously known as "Valentine Sally", was a female discovered murdered in 1982 west of Williams, Arizona. Her cause of death is believed to be asphyxia, although it was never conclusively determined.[1] Investigators have affirmed their belief she was murdered and are investigating her case as a homicide. She was identified in February 2021.

Case

Possible sightings

A Northern Arizona University student said that he picked up a hitchhiker fitting Valentine Sally's description near Cordes Junction on February 2 while traveling north. She told the driver that she was coming from Phoenix, where she was living with friends and working as a dishwasher. Because of some family problems, she had to get to New Jersey, and was planning to go to the Little America truck stop when she got to Flagstaff to try and get a ride from a truck driver to the East Coast. It is possible she went to a dentist in the Phoenix area before February 2, 1982. 15 girls were ruled out as being the decedent.

She is believed to have seen alive at the Monte Carlo Truck Stop in Ash Fork, Arizona during the early morning hours of February 3, 1982. The girl was seen with an older male who, at the time, was though to be her father or uncle. The man expressed concern over the girl's teeth.

Patty Wilkins, a waitress and part owner of the truck stop, described a teenage girl asking for aspirin due to a toothache, declining the offer of food. The girl had a root canal or had been prepared for one. Wilkins believed the girl was 16 or 17 years old.

Wilkins claimed that normally if a young girl came into the truck stop and appeared to be a runaway, she would call the sheriff's office. She believed this particular girl was with a male relative.

The pair entered the truck stop at approximately 3:00 AM and left an hour later.[2]

There are witnesses that put Valentine Sally with a man (possibly two men) at the Monte Carlo truck stop in Ash Fork, Arizona during the early morning hours of February 3, 1982. One of her companions is described as a white male, 60 to 65 years of age, 5’8" to 5’10" tall, medium weight, wearing a two-tone, brown, checked leather vest and a felt cowboy hat adorned with a large peacock feather on the front of the hat. It is possible that this man was Royal Russell Long considering he was a truck driver and he had no documented kidnappings during this time frame.

Discovery

Her body was located by an Arizona Department of Public Safety officer near westbound Interstate 40 about 11 miles west of Williams on February 14.[3] The officer had been looking for a blown out tire from an automobile wreck or incident. This was also to the west of the Monte Carlo Truck Stop. She was found lying face down under a cedar tree about 25 feet from the interstate. It appeared that she had been dragged to the location by the belt loops of her jeans.

The stretch of Interstate where she was found was a long incline where trucks would frequently pull over and stop to cool their brakes. If her body was transported there in the cab of a semi, no one would have been suspicious of a truck driver being pulled over in the area.

By the time of her discovery, animals had eaten most or all of the flesh from her face, along with her right ear. A lower molar had been prepared for a root canal approximately one week before her death. Because of the activity of animals, along with decomposition, her fingerprints couldn't be taken although her DNA and dental charts were.

Valentine Sally was buried in a cemetery in Williams, Arizona.

Misidentification as Melody Cutlip

She was misidentified in 1984 as a Melody Cutlip, a Florida girl who ran away in 1980. Lieutenant Jack Judd of the Cococino County Sheriff's Office suspected that she may have been Cutlip after finding her missing person's report. In 1984, he contacted forensic odontologist Homer Campbell to see if he could match the two.

Campbell matched the bite marks of Valentine Sally to enlarged pictures of Cutlip's teeth. His methods were unorthodox, never scientifically proven to be reliable and outside accepted dental identification practices. He would use these methods to make at least one more false identification in the future.[4]

Cutlip's mother declined an offer to have the body sent to Florida for burial, as she did not believe it was Melody. Patty Wilkins, a witness who likely saw Valentine Sally at a truckstop, paid to give her a proper burial. Her headstone was engraved Melody Cutlip, with Sally Valentine underneath.[5]

Cutlip returned home in 1986. She died in a car accident in Louisiana in 1998. Valentine Sally's tombstone still bears Cutlip's name, despite the requests from the family to remove it.

Identification

Valentine Sally was identified as Carolyn Celeste Eaton who was 17 years old at the time and lived in Missouri. In collaboration of the NCMEC and a DNA vendor, potential family members were contacted and their DNA matched Valentine Sally's DNA profile.

Investigators learned that the family members had a sibling who ran away in either Christmas 1981 or New Year's Eve of 1982, it was determined that it was Carolyn Eaton.

Characteristics

  • Blond hair.
  • Scars on her left foot and a scar on her thigh (which thigh was not specified).
  • Left earlobe was pierced. Both ears may have been pierced, but her right ear was not recovered.
  • The subject seen alive had blue eyes.

Clothing

  • A red and white striped sweater.
  • Seasons brand designer jeans (size 9).
    • At least one belt loop had been damaged from the initial attempt to pick up and move the body.
  • A bra (size 36C) (located nearby).
  • A handkerchief.

Gallery

Sources

  1. CCSO Cold Cases
  2. Hunt For Body’s ID Must Begin Again. Saratoga Herald-Tribune/AP November 4, 1986
  3. Arizona Daily Sun
  4. Mississippi Innocence Project
  5. Hunt For Body’s ID Must Begin Again. Saratoga Herald-Tribune/AP November 4, 1986
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