Details of Disappearance LeeAnna was last seen walking home from a friend's house, which was a block and a half from her own residence. She had gone to play with the friend at 4:30 p.m., but no one was home at her friend's residence. She was last seen walking on southwest Second or Third Street, westbound, between 5:00 and 5:15 p.m.
LeeAnna's mother, Tiffany Kaelin Whittaker, more commonly known as Kaelin Warner, began looking for her at 5:30 p.m., enlisting neighborhood children to help. When the search turned up no sign of LeeAnna's whereabouts, Kaelin called the police between 8:40 and 9:00 p.m.
An extensive search by authorities, which lasted several days and included helicopters and bloodhounds, failed to locate LeeAnna. While there is no evidence that she was kidnapped, authorities have been leaning towards that view, feeling they would have found her quickly had she merely wandered off. Tracker dogs traced her scent to the roadside edge but lost it after that.
An unidentified man in his mid-thirties was seen on foot in the neighborhood at about the time of LeeAnna's disappearance. He was approximately 5'10 tall and 155 pounds, with a dark-colored tattoo of a star or sun on his right arm.
A maroon and blue two-door Cadillac driven by an African-American man in his twenties or thirties with a bald or shaven head, and an older model rusty brown pickup truck driven by a Caucasian man with black curly hair were also seen in the area. Neither the vehicles or their drivers have been identified. It is unknown whether any of them had to do with LeeAnna's apparent abduction.
Matthew James Curtis, 24, was arrested in Chisholm in August 2003 for possession of child pornography charges which were unrelated to LeeAnna's case. He was interrogated several times about a possible connection to LeeAnna, however, due to the nature of his alleged crime. Curtis was found dead September 2003, the day before he was supposed to appear in court on the child pornography charge. Police say he suffocated himself with a plastic bag and his body was found in a gravel pit eight or nine miles outside of Chisholm.
The investigation into his death has been closed and ruled a suicide. There has been speculation that Curtis did not commit suicide and was in fact murdered in a possible revenge or gangland-style killing, and his remains were then staged to make it look like he took his own life. There is no evidence to support this theory, however.
Authorities initially suspected that Curtis was involved in LeeAnna's disappearance, and they processed his pickup truck for DNA samples. They could not find any evidence that the child had ever been in the vehicle, and it was decided that Curtis was not connected to LeeAnna's apparent abduction.
Police suspect foul play in LeeAnna's disappearance. LeeAnna's parents were not asked to take lie detector tests and are not suspects in their daughter's apparent abduction.
They have both been previously divorced and LeeAnna's father, Christopher, had domestic problems with his ex-wife; they both sought mutual restraining orders and he alleged that she had threatened Kaelin and LeeAnna. These difficulties occurred several years before LeeAnna's disappearance, however, and are not thought to be related to it. The Warners moved to Chisholm just a few months prior to LeeAnna's disappearance.
After LeeAnna vanished, a child's footprints were found near Longyear Lake, a shallow lake near where she was last seen. Investigators pumped some of the water out of the lake in late October 2003 to search for evidence relating to her case, but they found nothing important and had to stop pumping because the lake was freezing over.
They began a new search of Chisholm in the summer of 2004, looking for the child's remains, but to no result. No further searches are scheduled for the foreseeable future. LeeAnna's parents believe she is still alive and was possibly abducted for the purposes of black-market adoption.
LeeAnna enjoys playing with dolls and riding her bicycle, and is described as an outgoing, precocious, and fearless child. She has been known to wander, and her survival instincts are said to be quite advanced for her age. Her case remains unsolved.
- Chisholm Police Department
Updated 8 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated November 1, 2019; picture added.