Michelle Norris: Murdered in 1988; Case still unsolved

Published: Updated: 13 comments

On May 26, 1988, seven-year-old Michelle Norris left home with her brothers and cousins to walk to a park located behind Capt. G. Harold Hunt Elementary School in Central Falls, Rhode Island, where she attended first grade. The group was going to play a game of hide and seek. At some point during her time at the park, Michelle vanished.

Nobody saw a thing. The children who were with her never heard her scream or saw anything out of the ordinary.

Search teams scoured the area but had little luck finding Michelle or any evidence of her disappearance. Then four days after she disappeared, police found Michelle’s beaten and battered body in a desolate wooded area less than a mile from her school. Her clothes were lying next to her. She had been sexually assaulted and strangled.

Police never released many details of Michelle’s murder, but they did question several people. However, nobody has been charged in Michelle’s murder, and the case remains unsolved.

A few months before Michelle’s murder, Christina Cole, 10, disappeared in January 1988. She was last seen outside a market on Slater Street in Pawtucket, less than two miles from Central Falls. 

Katie Mulvaney of The Providence Journal writes, “Christina’s body washed up on Conimicut Point Beach in Warwick 54 days later, with traces of what investigators suspected to be blood on her pants. The cause of death was asphyxia due to drowning, with the manner undetermined.”

DNA testing in 2018 led to the arrest of Joao Monteiro a year later. However, in 2021, police dropped the charges because the “DNA evidence was found to be too broad, and did not specifically point to Monteiro as the killer,” reported WPRI. Monterio subsequently filed a lawsuit against the police for falsifying evidence and violating his civil rights.

True Crime Diva’s Thoughts

As I was reading about Michelle’s case, it seemed very familiar to me. So much so that I scanned my posts to see if I had already written about her. I didn’t. However, I did write about a VERY similar case from 1986, and that is why I thought I had already written about Michelle.

Kathleen Flynn from Norwalk, CT, was murdered two years before Michelle in September 1986. Like Michelle, she was last seen near her school, walking into nearby woods to head home after classes dismissed at 2:40 p.m. for the day. She was later found dead. She had been raped and strangled as well. And like in Michelle’s case, nobody saw a thing.

Both cases happened in broad daylight, near a public school with people around, and both girls had been raped and strangled; their bodies were dumped in wooded areas. Also, even though there is a four-year gap in age between the girls, they were similar in appearance – both had brown hair and brown eyes. Both cases remain unsolved.

The only real difference is the time of year – Kathleen had just started a full year of school (September) while Michelle had just completed one or was about to (May).

Norwalk is only about 140 miles southwest of Central Falls. I think these two cases could be related due to their many similarities.

Michelle’s mom told NBC’s Dateline that Michelle would never go off with a stranger, therefore, Michelle must have known her killer. It is possible the killer knocked her out somehow right before taking her, not giving Michelle the chance to react and alert others.

I’m a little confused as to how Michelle’s brothers and cousins didn’t see or hear anything after looking at this satellite shot of Michelle’s school and the playground she was playing at.


I realize it may have looked differently in 1988, and I don’t even know if the playground is in the same spot now as it was back then. But we’re going to say it was for discussion sake.

The playground seems pretty open. I’m not sure where the kids would be playing hide and seek here. And I’m also not sure how someone could have taken her without these kids seeing her or the killer at all. But when kids are playing, they really are not paying attention to anything else. It’s just a shame they didn’t see the killer so that the police could have had a description of him.

The killer had to act pretty fast. He had to grab her without anyone seeing or hearing him do it in broad daylight. And I’m guessing he was on foot because the other kids didn’t see a suspicious vehicle in the area. I’m wondering if maybe he lived in the neighborhood by the school or near Michelle’s residence. From what I understand, Michelle only lived 3 blocks from the school.

Of all the kids there that day, Michelle’s brothers and cousins (maybe other children, too), why did the killer take Michelle? I think that’s a little interesting. Was she the only female? Or was she the only brown-haired female? There was something about her the killer preferred, I think.

It’s been almost 30 years since Michelle was murdered. It’s time her killer was brought to justice so Michelle can rest in peace and her family can finally move on. Someone out there knows something. Grow a pair, do the right thing, and end this.

Sources: NBC News, UPI.com 


Sheila March 17, 2017 - 3:04 PM

I was with her Mom looking for her,we also picketed outside of the Chief of Central Falls Police house. To no avail. And where they said she was found, was at one time called the bug club. It’s sad.

nay January 25, 2017 - 9:14 AM

The playground was very different and was in the back of the school not the side. i lived a street over and her grandmother live two house down from the school. Her brothers left to the store and she stayed behind when they got back she was gone. She would come over to my house to play, she was very sweet and quite the only girl in her house. I still remember her mom coming by my house that night looking for her. i was 2 years older than her.

truecrimediva January 26, 2017 - 1:49 PM

Thank you! How awful that must have been for the community. I can’t even imagine. Nothing like that happened where I grew up.

Nic September 5, 2016 - 3:18 PM

i was in the same 2nd grade class as her brother. The area has changed a lot since then, it’s far more built up.

Central falls November 24, 2016 - 2:42 PM

I heard her uncle on her dads side did it….

Rachel March 16, 2017 - 7:45 PM


Sayuri September 2, 2016 - 10:49 AM

I have a question. What if the body of Michelle Norris had some evidence of her killer? I know this will sound strange, but did the police find any traces of semen on her? Or maybe skin under her nails, maybe she struggled a little and clawed at her attacker? Those are just some of my thoughts.

truecrimediva September 2, 2016 - 1:18 PM

If there was, I don’t think that info has been released to the public.

Monica April 28, 2016 - 9:21 AM

I live in Central Falls. My children attended Capt. Hunt. I became curious one day and googled her name from her picture they have on the playground. Then found out that my neighbor is her cousin.. I wish that the family could receive justice. Case need a fresh set of eyes.RIP michelle. Yesterday was her birthday 💕

Eric March 16, 2016 - 3:48 PM

I lived by the Flynn murder location,was one grade behind her, had the same 5th grade teacher she did, she was in 6th when she was killed. I too am curious who the suspect is. Supposedly incarcerated. I heard a rumor of one of the neighborhood kids being a suspect, who I believe was incarcerated around the time of the article. One thing that also stood out between these two cases is the street Kendall. The elementary school we went to is Kendall in Norwalk, Ct., and Ms. Flynn lived on Kendall Ct, across from the school. Probably just coincidence, that this case is so similar and and this cases school is on Kendall street. Strange.

truecrimediva March 17, 2016 - 12:17 PM

Hi Eric! Whoa, that is strange! I didn’t catch that! Coincidence, maybe, but you never know!

Northern Flicker March 2, 2016 - 9:24 AM

I’m stunned by the fact that there is not one tree or blade of grass on this school property. Playground? What playground? Like you said, Diva, perhaps it looked different at the time of the abduction. If it wasn’t different, I can imagine someone in one of those dozen or so adjoining yards luring the child with a place to hide/ a drink of water or soda/ a puppy. If each of the adjacent homes have basement rental suites, perhaps a tenant or friend of a tenant watched the children at recess or lunch period playtime? Very strange that nobody saw anything peculiar.

Nick April 26, 2016 - 9:38 PM

I grew up a town away in Cumberland and I would have been 8 years old in 1988, Close in age to Michelle. I recall rumors amount someone being kidnapped and parents being very concerned. Central Falls is now a very crowded city that is only a mile wide. My grandparents from both sides immigrated with their families and lives in Central Falls when it was a nice and safe community. My mom walked alone as a teenager and people left their doors unlocked. Unfortunately it is no longer a small safe community. I would imagine that change occurred in the 70’s and 80’s. Crime, drugs, poverty and prostitution are a major problem for such a small city.
I am not familiar with the location of the school that she disappeared from but I am familiar with the geography of the city as a whole and it is not a community where you would find a lot of wooded areas these days. Back then it would be very possible that there was a wooded area near the school, however Being from the area I can tell you that it is very likely that the surroundings have changed since the 1980’s. More tenamant houses have presumably gone up in the area.


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True Crime Diva

True Crime Diva

I've blogged true crime since 2010, happily taking up only a tiny corner of the internet. I'm not here for attention; I'm here to tell you their stories.

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