Above: Cynthia circa, 1976
Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance
Missing Since: December 2, 1976
Missing From: Russellville, Pope County, Arkansas
Classification: Endangered Missing
Date Of Birth: circa, 1963
Age: 13 years old
Height and Weight: 5’0″ and 95 pounds
Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Brown hair, Brown eyes, Cynthia might use the nickname “Cindy”
Clothing/Jewelry Description: A beige three quarter length hooded coat with a fur trim and a pair of blue jeans
NCMEC Number: 1235597
Details of Disappearance
Cynthia was last seen in Russellville, Arkansas on December 2nd 1976. She was last seen at her residence in the Fairview Estates Neighborhood at approximately 5:30 pm. She was never seen or heard from again after her disappearance. Cynthia wasn’t the only girl to disappear that day.
Two other girls, 13 year old Teresa Williams and 14 year old Crystal Donita Parton, were both reported missing from their residences which were in the same neighborhood as Cynthia. None of the three girls were ever seen again. Investigators initially considered them as runaways but later revised their theory on the cases.
On Thanksgiving day of 1986, a couple who were deer hunting found what appeared to be human bones in a remote area located near the Pope/Newton County line. On December 2nd 1986, investigators located three leg bones and an arm bone while searching the area. Two days later, investigators found a matted mass which had bones, clothing, and roots in it.
They eventually found a near complete human skeleton which was wearing a decomposing coat and underwear. The bones were scattered over a 200 to 300 foot area. It was speculated that the bodies were originally buried in a shallow grave and were scattered as the result of a flood in 1982 or due to animal activity.
Investigators also found an old No. 10 shotgun shell casing with nine buckshot near the bodies. There was no evidence it was involved in the crimes. Investigators felt that the remains belonged to the three girls who were missing for 10 years by then. A state medical examiner initially concluded the remains belonged to three females in between the ages of 12 and 14.
This was later disproven as there were only two bodies in the area. Dental records confirmed that the two sets of remains belonged to Teresa Williams and Crystal Parton. Both girls had been fatally stabbed in the necks. Investigators didn’t find Cynthia’s remains and the cases remained unsolved for 12 years after that.
In October of 1998, investigators stated they knew who killed the three Russellville girls. A woodcutter named James B. Grinder was named as their probable killer. At the time, he was already in prison serving a sentence for burglary in Missouri. Earlier that year, he was charged with the murder of Julie Helton who was 25 when she was slain in 1984.
James admitted he knew Cynthia, Teresa, and Crystal in 1976. He initially told police he gave them a ride from Russellville to Pottsville, Arkansas on the day they went missing. He claimed that he gave them $20 and left them on an interstate. He later confessed to killing the three girls.
James stated he picked the three girls up on the outskirts of Russellville and drove them to Morrilton, Arkansas. He purchased alcohol for them and then brought them to the Brock Cemetery. He raped Crystal and Teresa before stabbing them to death. He covered their bodies up with brush.
He claimed that he drove Cynthia to a location in the Ozark National Forest. He said he raped Cynthia and beat her to death using a tire iron. He said he left her body there without attempting to conceal it. Grinder was charged with capital murder in the murders. He was only charged with one count since the crime was said to be a premeditated homicide of two or more people.
James plead guilty to the crimes and was sentenced to life in prison. He later requested that his sentence be reduced and claimed he was forced by police to confess to the murders. He claimed that others were involved in killing the three girls but he is believed to be lying and his request was denied. He died in prison from natural causes.
Cynthia’s body was never found. Her mother, Clara, passed away in 2014 and she listed Cynthia as pre-deceasing her. Foul play is suspected in her case.
If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:
Russellville Police Department 479-968-3232