Details of Disappearance Leigh was last seen at her family's residence in the 100 block of Honey Locust Drive in Tupelo, Mississippi on August 27, 1992. Her mother, Vickie Felton, saw her before leaving for work at 7:35 a.m. Leigh planned to attend an open house at her school that day, and was waiting for her grandmother to come pick her up. It was the first time her mother had left her at home alone.
There were heavy storms that day as Hurricane Andrew moved over the area, and Leigh's mother was concerned for her as a result. Her mother tried to call her at 8:30 a.m., but got no answer. She tried to call once more before returning home, but there was still no answer.
Felton became worried and returned home to check on Leigh, and discovered that the garage door was open and the light was on, meaning the door had been activated in the past several minutes. Another door to the house was left unlocked. There was no sign of Leigh at the scene and she has not been seen again. Felton called the police at 9:00 a.m. to report her daughter's disappearance.
There were no signs of forced entry into the home, but there were some indications that a struggle had taken place. Fresh, still-wet stains of Type O blood were inside the house on the walls, the carpet, and the bathroom countertop. There was a blood trail leading from the hallway to the living room to the back door, and blood and hair stuck to a door frame, suggesting Leigh hit her head on the door frame.
One of Leigh's nightgowns and her brassiere, both items bloodstained, were in her bedroom. She had been wearing that nightgown when Felton left the house that morning. It looked like someone had made efforts to clean up the blood in the bathroom, but police couldn't find a used rag or towel anywhere.
Leigh's reading glasses, shoes, some of her underclothes and a sleeping bag were missing. Police searched the area with bloodhounds, but due to the weather conditions the dogs weren't able to get a scent.
About one month after Leigh's disappearance, her glasses arrived at her residence in the mail. They were addressed to "B. Yarbrough"; Leigh's stepfather was named Barney Yarborough. He and Leigh's mother had separated a short time before her disappearance. The street name in the address on the envelope was misspelled "Hony Locust" and the envelope had six stamps, twice as many as was needed. It was postmarked Booneville, Mississippi, a town about thirty miles north of Tupelo.
There was nothing else in the envelope. Handwriting and forensic tests on the envelope yielded no results; the stamps had been wet with water and there was no DNA on the envelope. The person who mailed the glasses has never been identified, but police think the glasses were mailed to mislead the investigation.
Fourteen months after Leigh's disappearance, a skull was found in a soybean field and identified as Leigh's. It turned out the state medical examiner's office was not using Leigh's most recent dental records, and the skull wasn't hers after all. It was later identified as a missing 27-year-old woman.
Authorities stated they had very little evidence to determine who was responsible for Leigh's disappearance. Several persons of interest have been interviewed, but no one has been charged in connection with her case.
Felton was given three polygraphs and failed all of them, but she hasn't been identified as a suspect. She stated she believes Oscar "Mike" Kearns, a local man who knew Leigh through church, was responsible for her disappearance. Nine months after Leigh's disappearance, Kearns abducted a fifteen-year-old girl from her home in Memphis, Tennessee, sexually assaulted her and released her. He had also known the victim through church.
Kearns pleaded guilty to rape and was sentenced to eight years in prison, but was released after less than four. After his release, he kidnapped a married couple and raped the wife, and was sent back to prison. He is scheduled for release in 2019. He has refused to be interviewed or polygraphed about Leigh's disappearance.
Leigh resided alone with her mother at the time of her disappearance. She was about to begin the eighth grade at Tupelo Middle School. Her father, who divorced from her mother in 1981, was in the United States Army and was stationed out of state. Felton is also a veteran of the armed forces.
Leigh's father got emergency leave from the military after her disappearance and moved to Tupelo with his family so he could assist in the search for his daughter. He stated although he wasn't able to see Leigh often due to his military obligations, they had a close relationship. He believes someone within the family was involved in Leigh's disappearance.
Both Leigh's father and her stepfather passed polygraph tests and were ruled out as suspects in her case. Her stepfather is now deceased, and her mother lives in Michigan. Leigh's boyfriend, who was eleven years old at the time of Leigh's disappearance, was never questioned by police.
Foul play is strongly suspected in Leigh's disappearance, which remains unsolved.
- Tupelo Police Department
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
Updated 10 times since October 12, 2004. Last updated December 13, 2018; details of disappearance updated.