A college student, inspired by Jack Kerouac, leaves on a cross-country trip and never returns.

Two photos of Leah Roberts, a young caucasian woman with short blonde hair.

Leah Roberts

Missing:

Gender: Female
DOB: 7/23/7
Height: 5’6”
Weight: 130 lbs.
Eyes: Blue
Hair: Sandy blonde
Defining Characteristics: She has a beauty mark on her right upper lip and a surgical scar on her right hip
Remarks: Last seen 3/00

CASE DETAILS

In March of 2000, two people jogging on Mount Baker in Washington State noticed a piece of clothing dangling from a tree branch. When they investigated, they found that an SUV had plunged over a steep embankment. There were no signs of anyone, or any indication that someone had been injured. A passport, money, and some clothing were found inside the car.

An officer looks into a car that has crashed. The back seat is littered with personal belongings.

Was Leah in the car when it crashed?

Police traced the jeep to missing 23-year-old college student, Leah Roberts. Nine days earlier, Leah had left her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, without telling anyone where she was going. Suzie Smith was a friend of Leah’s:

“Leah is just a very awesome person. Everybody that meets her likes her. Very personable, great smile. But, you know, she was kind of private also. Definitely.”

When Leah was in her early 20s, her mother died unexpectedly. Then Leah was in a near-fatal car accident, and, finally, after a long illness, her father died. Leah’s brother, Heath, thinks these events deeply affected his sister:

“I think that all of those things together had the cumulative effect of making Leah even more introspective and probably more aware that, although she didn’t know what she wanted to do, I think she was unhappy that she wasn’t achieving it.”

A closer look at the personal belongings in the back seat, including shoes, clothes and books.

Why would Leah leave everything behind?

Leah found comfort in the writings of Jack Kerouac, the Beat Generation author who wrote about the free-spirited road trips he took across America. Leah’s favorite was called The Dharma Bums. It’s a story that encourages the reader to leave behind the materialism of modern life. Part of that book takes place at a forest fire lookout on Desolation Peak, near Mount Baker in Washington State. Another of Leah’s friends, Jeannine Quiller, confirmed that Leah had mentioned the location to her:

“From the last conversation that we had, we were talking about Dharma Bums and about how Kerouac was up on Desolation Peak, just taking in all the beauty around him.”

It appears that Leah Roberts secretly decided to turn her dream into a reality. Just three months before she was to graduate from college, she packed up most of her cherished belongings and her cat Bea, and took off for Desolation Peak, 3,000 miles across the country.

Leah’s family and friends filed a missing persons report and checked bank records for any activity on her account. She had made several cash withdrawals, tracing a route towards the West Coast. It took her only three days to get to Oregon. Leah’s sister Kara decided to see what she could find at her sister’s house. On Leah’s dresser, Kara discovered a cryptic note:

“Leah’s note said, ‘I’m not suicidal. I’m the opposite. Remember Jack Kerouac,” and that might be part of her trip.’

A dog leads two officers through dense foliage.

A search team found no evidence

Five days later, Leah’s SUV was discovered in Mount Baker National Forest near Desolation Peak. But Leah was nowhere to be found. Authorities estimate that the car was traveling about 40 miles per hour when it plunged over the embankment. Sgt. Kevin McFadden of the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office said that the driver was most likely injured:

“With the speed that the vehicle was traveling and the amount of damage to the vehicle, you would anticipate some type of injury to the person inside. At least some type of evidence to indicate contact damage, that the person had been inside the vehicle.”

But there was no blood inside the SUV or in the surrounding area. Sgt. McFadden said that investigators wondered if Leah had even been in the car when it went over the edge:

“There’s nothing to indicate the wheel was tied and that it was pushed off the road. We couldn’t find any marks on the back that indicated anybody had pushed it to where it was. If you had somebody driving the vehicle and they jumped out, you would have taken your life into your own hands trying to jump out of the vehicle at that speed.”

A officer in a polo shirt and wearing medical gloves holds up a ring.

Sgt. McFadden found Leah’s ring

To make things even more confusing, blankets had been placed in the car’s shattered windows. To Sgt. McFadden, it appeared that someone used it as a shelter after the accident:

“We brought in dogs, we brought in search and rescue, and did a complete grid search up and down the road. But they weren’t able to find any indication that anybody had left that vehicle.”

The SUV was carefully examined at a police garage. It was full of Leah’s personal belongings: a large amount of cash, an empty cat carrier, and Leah’s mother’s diamond engagement ring. Leah’s roommate, Nicole Bennett, remembered the ring:

“As long as I’ve known Leah, she has worn her mother’s engagement ring. It was her most prized possession. And when we discovered that the ring had been found in the car, it was definitely, for me, a bad sign.”

There are several theories about the disappearance of Leah Roberts. According to Sgt. McFadden, she could have caught a ride with the wrong person after the accident.

“You can’t rule out foul play when you don’t see somebody for over a year, but there’s no evidence to indicate that that has happened. We did process the vehicle for your typical evidence, hairs and fibers and blood, but there was nothing to indicate that happened.”

She could be living somewhere with no memory of who she is or where she came from.

Or, perhaps Leah Roberts was inspired by her favorite author, Jack Kerouac, and left her former life behind in one final, dramatic gesture. Leah’s sister doesn’t think so:

“I can understand Leah’s needing to get away and find some peace within herself, but considering the loss that our family’s experienced, it’s difficult for me to think that she would leave us open for another loss like this.”

One week after Leah’s car was found, a man called police to report that his wife had just seen Leah at a gas station 30 miles from Seattle. He didn’t give his name, but said Leah appeared confused and disoriented. Before police could get more information, the caller hung up.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eleven with Robert Stack and in season four with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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27 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Sad

    Israel Keyes. He was smart enough to stage the accident by cutting the accelerator safety cable. He probably was the one who called about the gas station tip too. I have a hunch he’d go after cars with out of state plates. If he could hide the car (failed this time) the person would be reported missing in their home state not far away where they drove to. And we know he was good at getting rid of bodies.

    I think he killed Maura Murray too. I think he was on the police scanner and got to her before the police (took police 10minutes). Based on his bank robbery experience he would have a good estimate how long the cops would take.

    Reply

  2. Avatar

    LostInTexas

    Leah’s story has stuck with me all these years. I pray it’s solved one day. It has to be the guy she met there. Please keep working her case @LawEnforcement. #WheresLeah #JusticeForLeah

    Reply

  3. Avatar

    Luis

    I believe that Leah Roberts met with foul play, I hope I’m wrong but 20 years later and her body still isn’t found, it makes me think of the Maura Murray case. The two of them coincidentally resemble each other.

    Reply

  4. Avatar

    thinkingoutloud

    it seems she wasn’t in that car when it crashed if there was no blood or anything to confirm someone was in it the time it crashed. it seemed like she was just following her favorite author’s steps. her leaving her mother’s engagement ring behind and crashing her car and leaving behind her things was to show she had given up materialistic possessions.

    Reply

  5. Avatar

    III

    Youtube user Rob Dyke did an episode of this case (6:18)
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqlMwcFa9mg

    Reply

  6. Avatar

    Jessica

    I hope someone finds Leah one day this is so very sad. For some reason this case just has me baffled. Someone out there must know something. If she did lose her memory I hope she stumbles across YouTube and here. I can’t imagine what her family is going through I know what it’s like losing a parent.

    Reply

  7. Avatar

    Bill Blaski

    This reminds me so much of Maura Murray, and they resemble one another. I can’t help but think both succumb to the elements. There’s always that suspicion that a serial killer picked them both up and that makes me cringe.

    Reply

  8. Avatar

    Anonymous

    Unfortunately, the waterways from the area she disappeared in flow to the ocean. If she fell victim to the waterways, her, and the rod in her leg could be in the ocean. Maybe the family needs to inquire about the shoes with feet that have washed up on the west coast if they know what shoes she had with her. Morbid, I know, just that living over here these are real problems.

    Reply

  9. Avatar

    Anonymous

    I might have seen this girl, or a girl that looked just like her. She looks like a girl in Honolulu around the shelter for women. She looks a tiny bit older but still the same as the photos. She looks very lonely and like she has lost sense of friends. She looks like she is searching for deep changes about herself. She is someone that makes you desire her but never fills you with her friendship or love. It is very sad. She looks like this lost girl that I have seen here lately and the past year.

    Reply

  10. Avatar

    Faith

    I believe Leah is at the Hydroelectric power plant that’s abandoned ….. Trust me on this …. She is hidden over there somewhere !!

    Reply

  11. Avatar

    Marie

    I live in Raleigh and this case has always interested me. I agree with the above comments about Israel Keyes. He left a lot of unanswered questions .

    Reply

  12. Avatar

    Wendy

    So sad about this young lady. I pray she is found.

    Reply

  13. Avatar

    Paul Mytych

    If there is no evidence in smashed car of her, blood, etc., then probably was not in car during crash.

    Reply

  14. Avatar

    Paula Smoley

    On Leah Roberts…I think I saw her.. she also talked to me about a month ago. Asking for a cigarette. I gave her one. She had short hair, seemed homeless, thin. She might be hanging in old town Euerka, Ca. I hope this helps,,,

    Reply

  15. Avatar

    Nessa

    Have any of you that “think” you’ve seen her or have suspected this Israel Keys guys contacted the police in Washington? Or just randomly say stuff on the Internet and hope the police have time to read all these feeds? KUHOOK, if you really think this guy did it call the police on the case. Plus you guys in Hawaii, call them too. Ok, so I know this is several posts in a row. I just wanted someone to ponder the river to ocean theory with before I made any calls. Then I read the thread and I got frustrated, so I commented per post as I felt the need.

    Reply

  16. Avatar

    KUHOOK

    Israel Keyes told the FBI he had committed 4 total murders in Washington, 3 remain unsolved and that in one, he staged it to look like an accident and that the media had initially reported it as an appearant accident/missing person. It’s a longshot, but this could be the one. He may have been stationed at joint base Ft. Lewis-McCord at this time. He gave no further details at least none made public and took many secrets to his grave when he commited suicide in jail.

    Reply

  17. Avatar

    ImNotSure

    I heard that the second interview guy, that moved to Canada commented on an article that said he may have lied. Anyone know where this commentary can be found?

    Reply

  18. Avatar

    BRAD SAXENHAUS

    I SAW THIS CASE ON DISAPPEARED AND I CAUGHT SOMETHING. WHEN SHE WAS AT THE GAS STATION IN OREGON SHE STEPPED BACK TO LOOK OUTSIDE EVERYONE KEPT SAYING SOMETHING IS GOING ON OUTSIDE. THIS IS NOT TRUE . THIS HAPPENS ALL THE TIME YOU GET TO THE CASH REGISTER AND THEY ASK YOU WHAT PUMP NUMBER YOU ARE ON, LEAH STEPPED BACK TO SEE WHAT PUMP SHE WAS AT. HAPPENS ALL THE TIME. NOW LETS LOOK AT THIS GUY THAT WALKED FROM THE RIGHT AND STOOD WAY BACK NOT IN LINE AT ALL. LOOK WHAT HE LOOKS LIKE AND HE IS WEARING A LONG SLEEVE PINK STRIPE SHIRT. NOW LETS GO TO THE RESTURANT WHERE THE GUY ON HER LEFT SITS DOWN AND STARTS TALKING TO HER. HE IS WEARING A LONG SLEEVE PINK SRIPE SHIRT. THEN HE MADE UP STORIES DIFFERENT THEN OTHER PEOPLE AND WHEN HE LEFT HE WENT TO CANADA. I CALLED THE DETECTIVES ON THE CASE AND TALKED TO THEM SEVERAL TIMES AND ALL THEY CAN SAY IS THEY DO NOT HAVE THE MONEY AND TIME TO LOOK AT THE TAPE. ITS A SHAME THIS MAN IS OUT THERE PROBLEY HURTING OTHER GIRLS AND THE POLICE DO NOT HAVE TIME TO LOOK INTO IT. SAD VERY SAD.

    Reply

    • Avatar

      KUHOOK

      Where did you get the Canada information regarding the guy in the long sleeve pink striped shirt? Probably a lead worth exploring. Regarding comment by Mazey on the Honolulu sighting, I lived on Kauai from 2010-2014 and often saw a woman resembling her hitchhiking on 530 from Koloa to Lihue. She was often talking to herself and seemed like she was either an amnesiac or on hallucinogens. Can you provide Honolulu dates of sightings? The shelter must have some record of names if she stayed there.

      Reply

    • Avatar

      Nessa

      The guy in the REENACTMENT was wearing the same shirt. Really?

      Reply

  19. Avatar

    Ryan

    @Anonymous Are you sure you watched the episode on ID? There were two witnesses. The second witness said Leah was with a man and even gave a detailed description, but investigators said it was a ruse to throw them off. He also has experience as a mechanic and after inspection, they said her vehicle had been tampered with. I agree with you Ashley. They had found some male DNA on some of Leah’s belongings that they were testing and they collected DNA from the second witness, but that’s the last we heard. The man lives in Canada now, and hopefully they can put him away. Investigators said his behavior became very suspicious. Sounds like Leah trusted the wrong person, and it cost her.

    Reply

  20. Avatar

    CW

    I have a question for the person above me ^^^ Mazey. So you comment saying you might have seen her (past tense) but then your post talks aboyt this “person” you “saw” in the present tense. You kept saying “she looks like” rather than, she lookED like. You ALSO said “She is someone that makes you desire her but never fills you with her friendship or love” That is a but odd considering you said you might have seen this person yet you know alot about them?? How does she make you desire her as you said if you dont even know this person? Seems to me something about you (Mazey) is a little off…..hmmm.

    Reply

  21. Avatar

    ashley

    The 2nd witness from the restaurant KNOWS where leah is…he did WAY too much to throw investigators off…he should’ve been in custody a LONG time ago…this aggravated me SOOO bad watching this case. Leahs family deserves the truth and justice. She didn’t cause harm to anybody and was just trying to take a soul searching trip after sone hard times in her life. Im praying this case is sloved…but if it were up to me i would already had that 2nd witness locked up LONG ago…its SO obvious its him.

    Reply

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