Details of Disappearance
Leppert left her family's home in Rockledge, Florida at 11:00 a.m. on July 6, 1983 with a 20-year-old male friend. She said she was going to the beach and would be "be back in a little while." She never returned home.
Her friend later told authorities that he and Leppert had an argument while driving and that he left her standing in a parking lot outside the Glass Bank near an Exxon gasoline station in the vicinity of State Road A1A between 2nd Street North and 3rd Street North in Cocoa Beach, Florida.
Many reports erroneously state that Leppert was barefoot at the time of her disappearance. Her mother said she noticed she had not combed her hair before leaving the house that day, which is very uncharacteristic of her; she usually spent considerable time on her appearance before going anywhere. At the time of her disappearance, Leppert was planning to go to California to act in some movies. She apparently never arrived there, however.
Investigators looked into the possibility that Leppert was attacked by Christopher Wilder, a man linked to at least a dozen disappearances, rapes, murders and/or attacks of women in the early to mid-1980s.
Photos of Wilder are posted with this case summary. He frequented the Florida region at the time of Leppert's disappearance. He sometimes attempted to lure young female victims by offering non-existent "modeling sessions" or other tactics, which would have fit well into a scenario involving Leppert. She was a relatively known model who had won several titles and was an occasional actress, landing bit parts in the films Scarface and Spring Break, and she wanted to be an internationally famous star.
Wilder, whose history of violence towards women went back to his adolescent years, was put on probation in 1980 after pleading guilty to attempted sexual battery towards a teenage girl. While on a visit home to Australia that same year, he was charged with kidnapping and sexually assaulting two teenage girls. His parents bailed him out of jail and he flew back to the United States, promising to return for his trial which was set for April 1984.
Wilder is a also a suspect in the Florida disappearances of Mary Opitz
, Rosario Gonzales
, and Elizabeth Kenyon
. He was killed during a shootout with authorities in 1984.
Leppert's family filed a one-million-dollar lawsuit against Wilder before his death, but dropped the suit afterwards. Leppert's mother, modeling agent Linda Curtis, later stated that she never believed Wilder was involved in Leppert's disappearance. Police have never been able to link Wilder and Leppert and it may be coincidence that she disappeared at the same time he was targeting area models. He had a long history of sex crimes but did not begin his killing spree until a year after Leppert vanished.
John Brennan Crutchley, the so-called Vampire Rapist, is also considered a possible suspect in Leppert's case. He was sentenced to life in prison in 1986 for kidnapping and raping a woman in Orlando, Florida and drinking her blood. Crutchley committed suicide in prison in 2002. Authorities have never been able to link him to Leppert. A photo of Crutchley is posted with this case summary.
Curtis criticized the police for allegedly mishandling the investigation into Leppert's disappearance. Police initially believed she ran away, and some continue to think that foul play was not involved in her case. Curtis said her daughter was afraid of the man who last saw her, and that the individual was never properly investigated. Authorities say they did the best they could to find Leppert and the man she was last seen with has been interviewed is not a viable suspect in her case.
On June 1, a month before Leppert vanished, she began acting erratically at her home. She yelled and screamed, broke a window with a baseball bat, and accused family and friends of trying to poison her. Curtis took Leppert to a mental health center for a 72-hour observation after she calmed down. Psychiatrists there could not find anything wrong with her, and a toxicology screen on her blood and urine turned up no indication of drug use. Curtis planned to find a therapist for Leppert, but she disappeared before that could be arranged.
Curtis believed that Leppert may have been kidnapped and murdered as a result of her knowledge of a large-scale drug and money laundering operation in Brevard, Florida. The operation allegedly involved many prominent local citizens. Leppert was reportedly afraid for her life because of what she knew. She stayed in her bedroom more than usual and refused to drink from open containers or eat from her own plate.
Curtis claimed Leppert made a police report about what she knew, but investigators have no record of the report and do not espouse Curtis's theory. Curtis moved to Orlando, Florida after her daughter's disappearance. She died in 1995. Leppert's sister is still looking for her and believes her mother's theory about Leppert's disappearance.
Leppert's dental records have been lost. Some agencies incorrectly state that her home is in Cocoa Beach, Florida.