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5 Roses, 2 women: Witnesses come out of the woodwork

After Mary Shotwell Little goes missing potential witnesses begin to emerge.

EDITOR’S NOTE: 5 Roses, 2 women is a digital series—along with the 5 Roses podcast—detailing the timeline account of events, based from the case files received from the Atlanta Police, East Point Police and the FBI via the APD, that included interviews with witnesses and those closest to Mary Shotwell Little and Diane Shields. 

>>>PREVIOUS STORY IN THE SERIES: 5 Roses, 2 women: Mystery of the missing bride

ATLANTA -- There are pages upon pages of witness statements and possible suspects, all of whom were cleared or considered not linked to Mary Shotwell Little’s disappearance. 

The accusations and stories flew into the Atlanta Police Department as headlines splashed the front page for weeks, making her story known as, “The case of the missing bride.” Unconfirmed sightings of Mary are rumored throughout the city. And multiple reports of a suspicious men at or near Lenox Square during the time frame that Mary disappeared saturate the investigation. 

Investigators look at suspects in Tennessee, Georgia, Texas and North Carolina with the same M.O., in attacks against women, however, none of those persons of interest lead to an arrest.

These are some of those witnesses’ stories as told to police. 

>>>Listen and subscribe to the 5 Roses podcast

Download past episodes or subscribe to future episodes of 5 Roses by Jessica Noll for free.

On Oct. 1, a man stops an unnamed woman her on her way home on Glenwood Avenue just as her car approaches a bridge under repair. He forces her to leave with him and keeps her all night, raping her several times and forcing her to “commit unnatural sex acts” with him.

While he holds her captive, he tells her that he has watched her and her friends and is going to go after them as well.

One of her friends is Mary. 


Peggy Fritz goes to C&S Bank’s Mitchell Street branch to apply for a job and Mary hands her an application to fill out on Oct. 11.

Two days later, she returns her application around 8:30 a.m. While waiting for an interview, she overhears Mary on the phone saying, “Please, leave me alone. I’m a married woman now.”

After talking to the caller a few more minutes, Mary hangs up the phone in a huff.


On Oct. 13, Janie Thorton overhears Mary on the phone at C&S Bank’s Mitchell Street branch around 3 p.m.

Thorton, a former employee, is re-applying for a job on the second floor when she hears Mary say on the phone, “Roy is out of town… You know I’m not coming over there… You know I don’t hold anything against you. You can come over to my house anytime you like, but I can’t go over there.”


The following day, Terry Thrasher, of Decatur, Ga., sees a man standing in front Pet Village, just a few hundred feet from the parking spot where Mary’s car was last seen. 

The man, approximately 35 years old, 5’11”, 165 lbs., is dressed in a white shirt and gray pants, wearing a dress hat. The man watches a woman, who appears to be waiting on a ride, and begins playing with himself.

While Thrasher knows that woman isn’t Mary, the man is still hanging around when he leaves around 7:30 p.m.


Also, on Oct. 14, a man approaches Carol Taylor Smitherman after she leaves Rich’s Department Store at Lenox Square—around the same time Mary was shopping. As she leaves the store, she notices a man walking in the same direction as her. He is wearing a short-sleeved sport shirt and slacks, with a brown, crew cut.

As she gets to her car, the young, white, very thin man, approximately 5’10” tall, is standing a few spots from her car. She unlocks her door and quickly jumps inside, as he approaches the other side of her car, with his hand on the passenger-side door handle.

She punches her keys into the ignition and starts her car. Before dropping it into drive, she looks over at him and blurts, “If you think you’re going to get in my car, you’re crazy.”

He knocks on her window and replies, “Your back tire is low.”

She nods in his direction and drives away.

After leaving Lenox Square, she stops by a nearby service station, where the attendant reassures her that she does not have a low tire.

Police show her photos, but she is unable to identify the mystery man. 


As Ann McCullough leaves Rich’s Department Store’s back entrance around 6:30 p.m., and walks toward Lenox Road, a car approaches her on Oct. 14.

Inside the Ford or Mercury, a white man with blonde or gray hair, is sitting inside with his pants unzipped, exposing himself.


While shopping at the Colonial Store, Mrs. Thomas Connelly stops by the coffee counter for a quick pick-me-up on Oct. 14.

While she sips her cup of Joe, she notices a man, approximately 30 years old, 6’tall, very heavy build and black hair, staring intently at her.

At about 5:30 p.m., she picks up her bags of groceries and leaves the counter, the man follows her. But as she is headed toward Rich’s Department Store, the man stops following her.


Royal Castle Restaurant employee, Gordon Frazier, helps a frantic young woman—he identifies as Mary—who enters the restaurant in a flurry at 9:15 p.m., on Oct. 14.

She is very nervous and asks him for a ham sandwich. He tells her that they do not sell ham sandwiches there, and she asks him where she can get one. He inquiries about how she is traveling so he can give her directions.

Dressed in all black, she tells him not to worry about how she is traveling and just tell her where she can get a ham sandwich. He tells her the closest place he knows of to get a ham sandwich is Wheeler Drug Store at the corner of Linden and Peachtree.

She leaves in a hurry, sprinting around the building and leaves in a DeKalb County cab.


Joe McNabe, of Milton Clothing Cupboard, notices a man in his mid-20s, with a Northern accent, come into the store around 3 p.m., on Oct. 15.

He believes the man, donning shaggy, sandy-blonde hair and wearing a light-yellow shirt, a dark-brown sports coat and blue pants, has been drinking all day. On the front of his shirt, he observes three small spots that look like blood.

The man tells McNabe that he slept in his clothes all night and has approximately $70 in his pocket. He spends $53.41 on three shirts, two pairs of shorts, two silk squares, a sweater, a tie pin and a Canterbury Miltons’ belt.

RELATED: 5 Roses | Chapter II: Trail of breadcrumbs

The Diane Shields’ murder case and the Mary Shotwell Little’s missing persons case have gone cold for more than 50 years. Detectives have come and gone—investigated, retired and died, before ever getting to the truth.

>>>NEXT STORY IN THE SERIES: 5 Roses, 2 women: Missing persons investigation heats up


>>>Dig deeper into the investigation at https://www.11alive.com/5-roses.

The Diane Shields’ murder case and the Mary Shotwell Little’s missing persons case have gone cold for more than 50 years. Detectives have come and gone—investigated, retired and died, before ever getting to the truth.

Do you know what happened?

If you have any information on either of these cases, contact the Atlanta Police Department, at (404) 614-6544, East Point Police Department, at (404) 761-2177, or the FBI Atlanta office, at (770) 216-3000.

You can also reach out to Crime Stoppers, at (404) 577-TIPS.

>>>Listen and subscribe to 5 Roses, CLICK HERE<<<

11Alive Investigative Digital Journalist, Jessica Noll, spent the last year digging into Diane Shields’ and Mary Shotwell Little’s 50-year-old cold cases to find out if they're connected in a seven-chapter podcast series: 5 Roses. 

This timeline narrative detailing the last moments of their lives and the investigations that ensued thereafter are taken from the case files and police interviews from the 1960s, as well as interviews with family and investigators from present day. 

5 Roses is part of Gone Coldan ongoing digital series, where Noll investigates some of the most infamous and lesser-known cold cases in Georgia. She's digging for answers for the still-grieving families who long for them, and for the victims who have never found their justice.

Credit: 11Alive


Jessica Noll is a multimedia journalist, who focuses on in-depth, investigative crime/justice reports for 11Alive's digital platforms. 

Follow her on Twitter @JNJournalist and Facebook @JessicaNollJournalist, to keep up with her latest work. If you have a tip, story idea or cold case suggestion, email her at jnoll@11Alive.com or call, text at (404) 664-3634

5 Roses photos provided by: APD, East Point PD, John Fedack and Sheryl McCollum. 

5 Roses graphic by Joshua Coats.