The Coldest Trail

In these days of instantly-accessible information, I am still occasionally frustrated when I am unable to find something out via Google. How soon I have forgotten the days when Google was just a silly kids’ word! How long ago were the days when if I wanted to look something up, I had to use an actual dictionary or encyclopedia, and if I couldn’t find it out in a book, I likely never would!
This is on my mind today because I have been trying to find out more about a brief item in an old Guinness Book of World Records. Vickie Davis was listed as the person who sustained the lowest body temperature ever recorded and survived. The Guinness write-up was very scant so I naturally turned to Google, where the info I found was what I will henceforth call scantalizing: scant and tantalizing. (You may use this word in your own writings and speaking, if you remember to attribute it to me. You’re welcome.)
Vickie Davis was two years old in January of 1956 when she and her grandmother were found unconscious and nearly frozen to death on the floor of their unheated house in Marshalltown, Iowa. The house had been ransacked, the oil stove had either gone out or been deliberately extinguished, and Vickie had been “criminally assaulted.” I thought at first this was a euphemism for sexual assault, but who knows? This info comes directly from a few badly-scanned newspaper articles of the period. Would they have released Vickie’s name if she had been molested in some way? No matter.
Vickie’s body temperature was between 59 and 60 degrees when she arrived at the hospital; her grandmother, identified as Mrs. Fred Davis, had a temperature of 74. Neither was expected to survive. But they did. Vickie, according to the newspaper accounts (which charmingly refer to her as “the little Negro girl”) apparently made a rapid and miraculous recovery, and is last heard from eating a good breakfast and singing the Davy Crockett song for her parents. Doctors did not even think they would need to amputate her frostbitten toes.
Mrs. Davis recovered more slowly, but she did pull through.
And there their story seems to end. I could not find any information as to what happened to them afterwards. If Vickie is alive today she’s in her late fifties, and probably doesn’t use the last name Davis anymore.
Nor could I find any information about whether anybody was caught for this crime. Mrs. Davis evidently was able to give the police and FBI some helpful information, and one newspaper story makes mention that the crime might be related to an earlier attack on “a Sioux girl.” The scanned article is such a mess I can’t tell whether they mean an actual Sioux girl or a girl who happened to live in, say, Sioux City, Iowa.
I certainly do hope whoever was responsible for this was caught and made to pay. Not bad enough they attacked a baby and her grandmother; they also had to leave them to freeze to death overnight when the temperature outside was near twenty below?
Goes to show that the “innocent” 1950’s, which of course were no more or less innocent than any other time period in history, were not immune to violent crime or generally crummy behavior. Innocence in this sense is all about selective memory and selective reporting.
Assuming this crime was never solved (and maybe it was; just because Google doesn’t have it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, right? I keep telling myself that) it is unlikely ever to be solved. But I bet it would have been solved fairly quickly if they’d had Google back in 1956.

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2 Responses to “The Coldest Trail”

  1. judylaq Says:

    What a tragic story! I, too, would like to believe that this terrible crime was solved and someone made to pay. I have no doubt that many horrible crimes were committed back then. I wonder what the percentage of crimes back then to now would be. Guess I’ll have to Google it! June

    • ghostscribe Says:

      Murderpedia is a good resource for that. It’s too bad it isn’t yet searchable chronologically, but I bet it will be eventually. Her name is so common it’s impossible to find anything about her.

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