It’s shocking to me that people can disappear off the face of the earth with little evidence of where they went or what happened to them. And yet every year thousands of people go missing, leaving behind family and questions with no answers.
For some of these cases, there will never be an easy answer, there will never be any closure and answers are few and far between.
It only ever takes one person to solve a case and that’s why I talk about the missing, because one person could solve the unsolved.
Today we are going to be delving in to another missing persons case, as investigate what happened to Leah Roberts.
Who was Leah Roberts?
On the 23rd of July 1976, Leah Toby Roberts was born. She was the youngest of three children and was raised in Durham, North Carolina.
Their childhood was very happy, she came from a loving home and Leah had no idea of the tragedy that was eventually to come.
When she was 17, Leah’s father was diagnosed with a chronic lung condition and this placed a great amount of stress upon the family.
In 1995 Leah began her studies at North Carolina State University in nearby Raleigh. However shortly after starting, Leah was forced to take a break from her studies when her mother suddenly died from heart disease.
A few years later, Leah returned to school and was involved in a serious car accident that left her in the hospital. The accident had caused a punctured lung and a shattered femur and as a result Leah needed a metal rod inserted in to her leg.
The car accident had given Leah a new lease of life and inspired her to live life to the fullest. So she had signed up for a program in Costa Rica and was excited to leave.
Sadly a few months before she was due to leave, Leah’s life was to be dramatically changed once again, as her father passed away. Aged just 22, Leah had lost both of her parents in a short space of time.
Yet by the time the Costa Rica trip came around, Leah decided she was ready for the challenge and chose to still attend the program. Having just received her inheritance, Leah made her sister, Kara, power of attorney; a fact that was later to prove helpful to the case,
Despite the fact that she had almost completed her degree in Spanish and Anthropology, upon returning to Raleigh Leah decided to quit university. It was a decision that her brother and sister thought she might regret but she wasn’t persuaded by them.
In the days before she disappeared Leah had been spending a lot of time in a local coffee house, Cup O’Joe, writing poetry and getting to know other people. A number of people later stated that Leah had frequently discussed her desire to emulate the road trip in Jack Kerouac’s Beat Generation, a book that Leah had been fascinated with.
They also commented that Leah had become increasingly spiritual and it was something that she was deeply interested in.
At the time she went missing, Leah was 23 years old and 5ft3 tall.
There are huge gaps in the timeframe of Leah’s disappearance and little is known about her movements during those gaps.
On the 9th of March 2000 Leah climbed in to her White 1993 Jeep Cherokee and set off on a road trip to the Northwest United States. She had packed some clothes and her kitten, Bea.
Earlier that day Leah had spoken to her sister about possible future plans, they made no firm committeeman’s but Kara recalls that they had vaguely agreed to make plans soon.
In the early afternoon, Leah and her roommate Nicole agreed to do some babysitting together the following day. Shortly after Nicola left to go her job.
When she returned from work, Nicola noticed that that Leah’s 1993 white Jeep Cherokee was not there and neither was Leah. However, she didn’t really think anything of it as Leah had been coming and going for unpredictable intervals since she had dropped out of school.
Prior to leaving Leah had not told her family of her plans but had left a note for her roommate, Nicola Bennett. In the letter Leah stated that she was not suicidal and was intrigued by the writings of Kerouac. She had drawn a Cheshire cat grin and also left enough money to cover a month’s rent.
On the 13th of March 2000 Leah’s sister, Kara, reported her missing.
At the time Kara still had power of attorney over her sister’s bank account and was therefore able to access her statement. She noticed that Leah had withdrawn several thousand dollars on the afternoon of the 9th of March. She had then used her debit card to pay for a hotel room near Memphis. Later transactions were made for gas and food at various locations across interstate 40 and interstate 5, suggesting that she was travelling.
This pattern reassured her sister, as it seemed to support the theory that she was travelling as she had said she would be.
Thanks to evidence later found in Leah’s car, we do know that in the early hours of the 13th of March Leah visited a petrol station in Brooks, Oregon. Again she used her card to pay and this is the last known activity on her account.
Later that evening she had attended a showing of American Beauty in Bells Fair Mall in Bellingham, Washington. The receipt and ticket stub were both found inside Leah’s car.
On the 18th of March – 9 days after Leah left – two joggers in Whatcom County, Washington, discovered an abandoned vehicle. It was located on a logging road on an embankment at the foot of the cascade mountains. The car had been wrecked and appeared to have been in an accident.
By pure coincidence, Kara had called her sister to wish her happy birthday on the same day but hadn’t got a response. Instead she found a letter in her mailbox from the Durham police, advising her to contact Whatcom County. They informed her that they had found the car.
Inside the car police found the aforementioned ticket and receipt, cat food, clothing and other miscellaneous items. Many of her belongings were found scattered in area surrounding the car suggesting the car had rolled before coming to a stop. These items included ID, her checkbook, CD’s, her guitars and a number of other items. Inside the vehicle police located a pair of pants that contained $2500.00. Strangely, the windows of the car had been covered with blankets as if someone had tried to protect the interior or had been living in the car after it crashed.
There was no sign of Leah inside the car, nor of her kitten and there were no immediate signs of foul play.
While there were no immediate signs of foul play, the police did start to become suspicious shortly after they started investigating the case.
In actual fact the LACK of evidence inside the car, made them question whether there had actually been an accident at all. There was no blood, no stretch in the seatbelt, no damage the windscreen and no signs that anyone had been in the car at the time of the accident. The more they looked at the scene, the more they wondered if the accident had been staged.
Several years after the car was initially found, this theory was given more credence after the FBI investigated and found evidence of a crime. Firstly, they were concerned about the amount of money Leah had in her vehicle and compared this with the amount she had earlier withdrawn. They were concerned to find that she had spent very little of the money and this did not seem to fit with the idea that she had been in Bellingham for 5-6 days.
The police also found a ring under one of the floor mats, it was her mother’s engagement ring and something that Leah wore constantly. Her friends and family stated that Leah treasured this item and was never seen without it, they failed to believe that she would have taken it off voluntarily.
In 2006 more evidence was found which seemed to support the “staged accident” theory, when two younger investigators took on the case. They discovered that no one had looked under the Jeep’s hood and so they set out to take a closer look at the car.
When they opened the bonnet, they were shocked to find that a wire to the starter relay had been cut. This would have meant that the vehicle could have accelerated without anyone pressing the gas pedal, confirming that no one had been in the car at the time of the crash. They also found a fingerprint on the underside of the hood and male DNA on an article of Leah’s clothing.
Police, family and friends are now convinced that the car was deliberately wrecked.
However, working on the initial assumption that perhaps Leah had been injured in the accident and had wandered off, police spent two week searching the area thoroughly. They even brought in dogs but the police were unable to find any sign of her.
They late found CCTV footage from her gas station transaction in Oregon. At the time Leah appeared to have been in good health and she was alone, however police did notice that she constantly peered out at the parking lot while the transaction was processed. Some have speculated that perhaps she did have someone with her.
Just outside of the cinema, where Leah had watched American Beauty, was the mall’s only sit-down restaurant. Inside the restaurant the police were shocked to find two men who had not only seen Leah, but had sat with her and engaged in conversation. The subject of the conversation proved to be an important factor as it proved to police that it was Leah the men had spoken to. Both stared the she had been talking about Kerouac and her plans to travel.
One of the men claimed to have seen Leah leaving the restaurant with a third induvial, who Leah had called Barry. The man gave police a description and they drew a sketch of the man. However nether the second man or anyone else in the restaurant, corroborated this information.
The police later discovered a witness who told police that his wife had seen Leah at a Texaco gas station in Everett. He said that she had appeared to be disorientated and wasn’t sure who she was. However he seemed panicked and hung up the phone. Yet police do believe this tip to be credible and might be the last sighting of Leah.
It’s never easy to say that you believe someone was murdered because hope can be a really powerful thing.
However, in this case, I do believe that Leah met with foul play. I have to wonder if the person who tampered with the vehicle had knowledge of vehicles, I’m not sure many people would have known how to tamper with a vehicle in such a way.
If you or anyone you know has information on the case, please contact the number on the flyer below.
For more content like this, don’t forget to check my new YouTube channel. A video about Leah’s disappearance will be following this post.