Girl in Kidnapping Case That Was Never Solved Dead at 87

June Robles Birt's disappearance transfixed the nation in 1934
By Linda Hervieux,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 1, 2017 6:16 PM CDT

It was a crime that gripped the nation: what happened to June Robles? "Little June" had been snatched on a Tucson street after leaving school on an April day in 1934. The 6-year-old granddaughter of a rich cattle baron would be found alive in a wooden and metal cage in the sun-baked desert 19 days later. How she got there was a mystery that was never solved, despite the efforts of the FBI and local sleuths. The New York Times recently discovered that the girl who captured hearts describing on tape how her kidnappers fed her cookies in her underground tomb had died quietly on Sept. 2, 2014, at age 87, apparently from complications from Parkinson's Disease. No obituary was written. A spare death notice in the Arizona Daily Star said June Birt, who stayed mostly out of the spotlight the rest of her life, was married to Dan Birt for 64 years and had four children.

June's kidnapping changed life forever in the once-peaceful outpost of Tucson. The kidnappers initially demanded a ransom of $15,000, later reduced to $10,000. June's wealthy grandfather, Bernabe Robles, strangely refused to contribute, though he feared he would be the next target, per the Tucson Weekly. No ransom was ever paid. A crude map tucked in an envelope postmarked from Chicago eventually led searchers to the area where June was found in a dirt pile covered in scrub. Below was an underground cage. "I was sure June was dead," her uncle Carlos Robles tells Times. The girl was dirty, covered with ant bites, and chafed from ankle chains. But June remembered her report card was left behind in her prison and asked to go back for it. "I wanted my mama to see it," she said. (Four decades after two sisters vanished, a man pleaded guilty.)

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