Seven-year-old Donna was last seen in Weaverville, California on November 10, 1980. She had been kept home from school that day for unspecified reasons and told her grandfather that she was running away from home.
The grandfather believed that Donna was only pretending and helped her pack her bags. Donna disappeared afterwards. She was last seen near the Joss House Historical Museum on Main Street downtown at 2:30 p.m. Her mother reported her disappearance to police at 11:30 p.m.
In October of 2008, Wayne Harvey Smith confessed to Donna's murder. Harvey lived near Donna's home and had known her family for years. He was a suspect in her case from the beginning, but he left the county a few days after her disappearance and investigators didn't have enough evidence to file charges.
Smith is presently serving a life sentence for another murder; he robbed and killed a young woman in Los Angeles, California in 1985. He agreed to discuss Donna's case as part of a plea deal for an unrelated third homicide, the shooting death of a Los Angeles teen in 1983.
Smith said that Donna went to visit his house and refused to leave; he became angry and strangled her. He stated he disposed of Donna's body in the local landfill. In exchange for his confession, Smith won't face the death penalty in the 1983 case and investigators think it's possible that Smith was responsible for more deaths than he admits to.
However, Smith will not face charges in Donna's presumed death because he is already in prison for life. Investigators stated that they would not attempt to recover Donna's body because she's been missing so long it would be difficult or impossible to find her remains in the landfill.
In the aftermath of Smith's confession, Donna's family prepared to hold a memorial service for her. Her case is now considered closed, but her remains have never been found.
Donna is described as a Caucasian female with blonde hair, blue eyes, 3'0 and 43 pounds. She has a one-inch scar between the second and third toes on her right foot.
She has a healed skull fracture that occurred when she was two and a half months old in 1973. Her upper baby teeth were in place and her permanent lower teeth had grown in by the time of her disappearance.
Donna was last seen wearing a brown multi-colored smock shirt, brown jeans and brown suede shoes.