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  • Writer's pictureMountain State Mysteries

WHO KILLED LEAH HICKMAN?

  LEAH HICKMAN WAS BORN ON NOVEMBER 22ND 1986, IN POINT PLEASANT, WEST VIRGINIA, TO RONALD L. HICKMAN AND SHERRY J (COLE) RUSSELL. 

LEAH GREW UP IN LEON WEST VIRGINIA. WHEN LEAH WAS IN HIGH SCHOOL SHE PLAYED THE TRUMPET IN THE SCHOOL BAND AND PERFORMED WITH THE BELL CHOIR. 


IN 2005 SHE GRADUATED FROM CHRIST ACADEMY. A K THROUGH 12 SCHOOL IN POINT PLEASANT WEST VIRGINIA. 

LATER THAT YEAR SHE STARTED HER FRESHMAN YEAR AT MARSHALL UNIVERSITY IN HUNTINGTON WEST VIRGINIA.

LEAH STUDIED JOURNALISM IN HOPES OF ONE DAY BECOMING A TELEVISION NEWS REPORTER.


NOT WANTING TO LIVE ON CAMPUS LEAH MOVED INTO AN APARTMENT WITH HER HALF SISTER JESSICA VICKERS. 


IF YOU REMEMBER 2005 LIKE US THE SOCIAL MEDIA CRAZE WAS ON THE RISE. LEAH JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE JOINED MYSPACE.

 SHE WORKED AT A SEARS DEPARTMENT STORE FOR A LITTLE WHILE AND IN 2007 SHE WOULD START WORKING AT DRESSBARN CLOTHING STORE IN BARBOURSVILLE, WEST VIRGINIA. 


DECEMBER 14TH 2007 STARTED OUT AS A NORMAL DAY FOR LEAH THAT MORNING HER AND HER SISTER WENT TO THE MALL EARLIER THAT DAY. HER SISTER HAD TO LEAVE FOR WORK LATER THAT EVENING. 


LEAH SPOKE TO HER MOTHER EARLIER THAT AFTERNOON AND THEY TALKED ABOUT HER COMING HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. HER MOTHER PROMISED TO CALL HER THAT EVENING. HER MOTHER SAID THAT THE PHONE CALL WAS JUST A NORMAL CALL AND LEAH HAD SEEMED EXCITED TO RETURN HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS. 


AROUND 3PM LEAH SPOKE WITH HER FATHER. SHE HAD JUST RECEIVED HER GRADES AND WAS REALLY HAPPY WITH THEM. SHE HAD TALKED ABOUT HOW SHE MISSED HER FATHER AND WAS LOOKING FORWARD TO SEEING HIM WHEN SHE CAME HOME. 


LEAH’S SISTER RETURNED TO THE APARTMENT FOR HER LUNCH BREAK AROUND 3:30 PM. HER SISTER SAID LEAH WAS EXCITED ABOUT HER GRADES AND WAS PACKING HER BAGS FOR THE TRIP HOME. SHE LEFT AROUND 4 PM WHILE LEAH WAS DOING THE DISHES. THIS WOULD BE THE LAST TIME SHE SAW LEAH ALIVE. 


AT SOME POINT LEAH LOGGED INTO MYSPACE WE AREN’T 100% SURE WHAT SHE WAS DOING ON MYSPACE AT THE TIME. 


THE LAST KNOWN CONTACT WITH LEAH WAS AROUND 5:40 PM LEAH MADE A CALL FROM HER CELL PHONE TO A FRIEND SAYING SHE IS GOING TO GET FOOD FROM McDONALD’S.

WHICH IN TOTAL WAS A SIX MINUTE DRIVE ROUND TRIP.

YOU CAN SEE A PICTURE OF HER RECEIPT ON SOCIAL MEDIA AND WEBSITE (MOUNTAIN STATE MYSTERIES PODCAST. COM) 

 IT IS THE LAST CALL MADE FROM HER PHONE, ALL INCOMING CALLS THAT NIGHT GO STRAIGHT TO VOICEMAIL. AFTER A TIME, INCOMING CALLERS RECEIVE A MESSAGE THAT HICKMAN’S VOICEMAIL IS FULL.


LEAH’S SISTER DID NOT RETURN TO THE APARTMENT THAT NIGHT WHEN SHE GOT OFF WORK. SHE DECIDED TO STAY WITH HER BOYFRIEND THAT NIGHT. 

ON THE MORNING OF DECEMBER 15TH JESSICA VICKERS LEAH’S SISTER STOPS BY THE APARTMENT AND NOTICES LEAH’S PURSE, KEYS, AND CAR ARE STILL AT THE APARTMENT, BUT LEAH IS NOWHERE TO BE FOUND. 


AT 1:01 PM VICKERS POSTED A MESSAGE ON LEAH’S MYSPACE PAGE “OH SISTER, WHERE ARE YOU???”


5 PM LEAH DID NOT SHOW UP FOR HER SCHEDULED FOUR - HOUR SHIFT AT DRESS BARN ON MERRITTS-CREEK ROAD IN BARBOURSVILLE, WEST VIRGINIA, WHERE SHE HAD BEEN WORKING FOR FIVE MONTHS. HER MANAGER, PEGGY NIDA, LATER TOLD REPORTERS THAT HICKMAN WAS NOT THE TYPE OF EMPLOYEE WHO DIDN’T SHOW UP FOR WORK, AND SHE WOULD USUALLY CALL EVEN IF SHE WAS GOING TO BE A FEW MINUTES LATE. 


ON SUNDAY DECEMBER 16TH

AROUND 4:48 PM LEAH’S MOTHER, SHERRY, FILES A MISSING PERSON REPORT WITH THE HUNTINGTON POLICE DEPARTMENT, AUTHORITIES BEGIN THE INVESTIGATION INTO LEAH’S DISAPPEARANCE. 

(I WANT TO THROW THIS IN. I’VE SEEN OTHER REPORTS THAT LEAH’S MOM TIRED TO FILE A MISSING PERSONS REPORT WITH THE WEST VIRGINIA STATE POLICE BUT SHE WAS TOLD IT WAS BEST TO FILE IT WITH THE LOCAL AUTHORITIES.)



ON MONDAY DECEMBER 17TH 

AT 7:30 PM, LEAH’S FRIEND, ROGER PARKER OF PROCTORVILLE, POSTED A MESSAGE ON LEAH’S MYSPACE PAGE INFORMING FRIENDS THAT SHE IS MISSING, AND ASKED ANYONE WITH ANY INFORMATION ON HER WHEREABOUTS TO CONTACT HIM OR FRIEND, CAITLIN STARKEY. FRIENDS BEGAN TO POST FLIERS ACROSS THE AREA. 


TUESDAY, DECEMBER 19TH

POLICE CONTINUE TO SEARCH FOR HICKMAN AND CONDUCT INTERVIEWS, SEARCHING FOR LEADS IN THE CASE. 


WEDNESDAY DECEMBER 19TH 

JESSICA VICKERS WAS INTERVIEWED ON MSNBC CONCERNING HER SISTER’S DISAPPEARANCE, OTHER NATIONAL MEDIA BEGAN TO CARRY STORIES ON THE DISAPPEARANCE OF LEAH. 


11AM, POLICE CANVAS LEAH’S NEIGHBORHOOD, SEARCHING ABANDONDED HOUSES AND INTERVIEWING SEC OFFENDERS IN THE AREA LOOKING FOR ANY NEW EVIDENCE IN THE CASE. AUTHORITIES STATE THE SEARCH DID NOT TURN UP ANY NEW INFORMATION. 


DRESS BARN ANNOUNCES A $10,000 REWARD FOR ANY INFORMATION ON LEAH’S WHEREABOUTS. 


THURSDAY DECEMBER 20TH

POLICE ANNOUNCE THEY ARE PURSUING NEW LEADS IN THE CASE. 

6PM, FRIENDS CONDUCT A CANDLELIGHT VIGIL AT THE MEMORIAL STUDENT CENTER PLAZA ON THE CAMPUS OF MARSHALL UNIVERSITY. 

DECEMBER 21ST

JESSICA VICKERS IS INTERVIEWED ON MSNBC FOR THE SECOND TIME CONCERNING HER SISTER’S DISAPPEARANCE. 

HUNTINGTON POLICE FIND THE BODY OF A WHITE FEMALE IN A CRAWL SPACE IN A LAUNDRY ROOM IN HICKMAN’S APARTMENT BUILDING. 

POLICE BELIEVE IT IS HICKMAN’S BODY, BUT THE WOMAN WAS NOT IDENTIFIED CONCLUSIVELY. POLICE FORENSIC UNITS LOOK FOR CLUES AND TREAT THE DISCOVERY AS AN ACTIVE CRIME SCENE. 

(TO SEE PICTURES OF THE CRAWL SPACE YOU CAN SEE THEM ON ALL OF OUR SOCIALS AND OUR WEBSITE. MOUNTAINSTATEMYSRTIESPODCAST.COM

WE HAVE NEW AND OLD IMAGES. 

SHOUT OUT TO OUR FOLLOWER SETH WHO SENT US PICTURES WHEN HE FOUND OUT WHAT CASE WE WERE COVERING.)


DECEMBER 22ND 

FORENSIC UNITS CONTINUE TO INVESTIGATE AT THE APARTMENT BUILDING. LEAH’S BODY WAS REMOVED FROM THE BUILDING AND SENT TO THE STATE MEDICAL EXAMINER'S OFFICE FOR IDENTIFICATION. 


DECEMBER 24TH 

POLICE ANNOUNCE THE BODY HAS BEEN POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED AS LEAH HICKMAN 

DECEMBER 26TH 

THE FUNERAL FOR LEAH HICKAMN WAS ANNOUNCED TO TAKE PLACE AT THE POINT PLEASANT NATIONAL GUARD ARMORY AT 7:30 PM AND THAT HICKMAN WILL BE BURIED THE NEXT DAY FOLLOWING A PRIVATE GRAVESIDE SERVICE.


DECEMBER 27TH

DRESS BRAN ANNOUNCES THAT $10,000 REWARD FUND WILL GO TO PAY FOR THE FUNERAL


DECEMBER 29TH

MORE THAN 2,000 ATTENDED SERVICES AND VISITATION FOR HICKMAN AT THE NATIONAL GUARD ARMORY IN POINT PLEASANT. 


SO JUMP FORWARD TO TUESDAY JANUARY 10TH 2008 

NEWS REPORTS POLICE KNOW CAUSE OF DEATH BUT NOT RELEASING IT PRELIMINARY AUTOPSY RESULTS OUT. 


THURSDAY JANUARY 10TH 

POLICE HOLD A PRESS CONFERENCE AND CONFIRM LEAH WAS STRANGLED TO DEATH (WHICH IS THE MOST PERSONAL WAY TO BE MURDERED) AND THERE ARE NO SIGNS THAT SHE WAS SEXUALLY ASSAULTED. THEY HAVEN’T EXCLUDED ANYONE WITH REGARD TO SUSPECTS IN THE CASE - AND THIS IS STILL A VERY ACTIVE CASE. THEY DID NOT BELIEVE LEAH’S MURDER WAS A RANDOM ACT - AND THEY THINK THE PERSON OR PERSONS RESPNSIBLE FOR THE TIME WAS / WERE “FAMILIAR WITH” LEAH AND THE LAYOUT OF HER APARTMENT BUILDING. STATING THEY ARE NOT GOING TO RELEASE THE RESULTS OF THE DNA TEST AND THIS POINT OF THEIR INVESTIGATION. 


FRIDAY, JUNE 13TH 

SIX MONTHS IN POLICE CONFIRM IT IS STILL AN ACTIVE INVESTIGATION BUT THERE ARE STILL NO SUSPECTS AND THEY ARE WAITING FOR RESULTS FROM THE LASTEST FORENSIC TESTS AND THEY ARE HOPING THAT WILL PROVIDE NEW INSIGHT ON THE MURDER OR MURDERS. 


SEPTEMBER 2008 

EIGHT MONTHS INTO THE INVESTIGATION POLICE TALK ABOUT THE DNA IN THE CASE SAYING THERE ARE NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CASE OF A MARSHALL STUDENT WHO WAS MURDERED IN HER OFF CAMPUS APARTMENT LAST DECEMBER. “THERE IS AN INDIVIDUAL THAT WE BELIEVE WAS INVOLVED.” HUNTING POLICE CAPTAIN STEVE HALL SAID 

 

WITH THIS TIMELINE WE KNOW YOU STILL HAVE SOME QUESTIONS ABOUT THE DAY LEAH WENT MISSING. THAT’S WHY WE ARE GOING TO ANSWER SOME OF THEM. 


SO FROM REPORTS WE THINK LEAH WAS IN THE MIDDLE OF DOING LAUNDRY WHEN SOMEONE OR MORE THAN ONE PERSON ENTERED INTO THE APARTMENT. 

IT’S BEEN SAID BEFORE THAT LEHA AND HER SISTER WOULD OFTEN LEAVE THE BACK DOOR OPEN WHILE THEY WERE DOING LAUNDRY. 


THE APARTMENT WAS MADE UP OF 4 DIFFERENT APARTMENTS. ONE OCCUPIED BY LEAH AND HER SISTER. 

ONE BY THE MAN WHO OWNED THE BUILDING 

AND TWO THAT WERE VACANT. 

BEFORE YOU JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS DURING THE TIME OF LEAH’S DISAPPEARANCE HER AND JESSICA WERE THE ONLY TWO STAYING IN THE APARTMENT. THE OWNER WAS IN FLORIDA AT THE TIME AND RULED OUT OF THE CRIME ALL TOGETHER FROM WHAT WE PUT TOGETHER. 

HOWEVER.


WE’VE SEEN REPORTS THAT JESSICA’S EX BOYFRIEND WAS SUPPOSED TO STOP BY AND PICK UP SOME OF HIS BELONGINGS. DURING THEIR BREAKUP HE WAS DEPLOYED. 

FROM MULTIPLE REPORTS WE GATHER THAT HIM AND LEAH DID NOT GET ALONG. 



WE’VE ALSO SEEN REPORTS THAT THERE WAS CONSTRUCTION GOING ON DURING THIS TIME AND THAT THE OWNERS BROTHER WAS OVER SEEING IT WHILE HE WAS IN FLORIDA. 


THE BIGGEST QUESTIONS WE KNOW YOU PROBABLY HAVE RIGHT NOW ARE 

HOW DID POLICE NOT FIND HER BODY IN THE FIRST DAYS OF THE SEARCH?

WELL FROM MULTIPLE REPORTS, PODCASTS, AND ARTICLES THE CRAWL SPACE WAS VERY HARD TO FIND. BASICALLY YOU HAD TO LIVE THERE TOO EVEN KNOW ABOUT IT. 


LEAH WAS ABOUT FIVE FOOT TWO OR FIVE FOOT THREE. 

MULTIPLE REPORTS STATE THAT THE CRAWL SPACE WAS 5 FEET OFF THE GROUND. SO TO US IT WOULD’VE BEEN HARD FOR ONE SINGLE PERSON TO LIFT SOMEONE AND PUT THEM IN THEIR LIKE THEY DID. WE BELIEVE THAT THE MURDER HAD SOMEONE TO HELP WITH THIS. 


WHEN POLICE FOUND LEAH’S BODY SHE WAS WRAPPED IN PLASTIC. MULTIPLE PEOPLE HAVE THEIR OWN THEORY ON THIS BUT ONE THAT STANDS OUT TO US IS FROM A SERIAL KILLER TURNED MASS MURDERER FROM SOUTH CAROLINA. 

TODD KOHLEPP GAVE HIS OPINION OF THE CASE AND MURDER OF LEAH. THIS IS WHAT HE SAID. 


“AS FOR THE MURDER YOU MENTION, IT DOESN’T SOUND VERY COMPLICATED. IT WASN’T OVER DRUGS AS IT WOULD HAVE BEEN OBVIOUS, SHE WOULD HAVE BEEN ROBBED AND NO ONE WOULD HAVE WRAPPED UP AND HIDDEN THE BODY. IT WAS SOMEONE SHE KNEW, WHO SOMEWHAT CARED ABOUT HER. HIDING THE BODY TO GET IT OUT OF SIGHT AND CONNECTED WITH THEM. WRAPPING THE BODY IS A CARING GESTURE  OF NOT WANTING HER IN DIRT OR BUGS. PLUS CUTS DOWN ON SMELL, BUT THAT TOOK A REAL EFFORT AND TIME, THEREFOR NOT RUSHED, SO THEY KNEW THEY WOULDN’T BE DISTURBED. 

THEY KNEW THE DOOR WAS OFTEN UNLOCKED AND THE LAYOUT OF THE BUILDING IN ORDER TO HAVE ACCESS TO HER, COMFORTABLE WITH THAT TIME FRAME WHEN PEOPLE OFTEN RETURN FROM WORK AND CONNECTION TO NEIGHBORS. STRANGLED US PERSONAL, ANGER AND FRUSTRATION INVOLVED, BUT DIFFERENT THAN BEATING SOMEONE WITH A PAN OR HAMMER, ANTI - BLOOD, SO THEY WANTED HER DEAD, BUT NOT ,UTILATED, REMEMBER HER HOW SHE LOOKED, NOT DAMAGED. 


I WOULD THINK SOMEONE MALE OR LARGER, COMFORTABLE WITH THEMSELVES. AS INSECURE THEY WOULD HAVE USED KITCHEN KNIFE OR WEAPON. SEX AT THE TIME HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH IT AND IT WASN’T PLANNED OUT, IT WAS SPONTANEOUS. I’M THINKING EITHER HER BOYFRIEND (WE AREN’T SURE IF LEAH WAS DATING ANYONE AT THE TIME OR NOT)

OR MAYBE SOME DRAMA GOING ON WITH THE SISTERS BOYFRIEND (OR MAYBE THE SISTER) MAYBE HE MADE A MOVE ON THE YOUNGER ONE AND IT DIDN;T TURN OUT RIGHT, COVERED IT UP SO HE WOULDN’T LOSE BOTH. STRANGLED AND WRAPPING TELLS ME SHE KNEW THEM AND SAW HER AS A PERSON, NOT TARGET. THEM MAY BE PLURAL (SISTER AND BOYFRIEND) CONSIDERING WEIGHT OF MOVING A BODY WITHOUT OBVIOUS DRAG MARKS AND WRAPPING OF THE BODY. STEP DAD MAYBE? WAY TOO MUCH COMFORT AND CARE INVOLVED TO BE RANDOM. I WONDER IF SHE WAS PREGNANT (WE WANT TO SAY THERE IS NO PROOF OF THIS EVEN IN THE AUTOPSY) 

THAT COULD REALLY SHED SOME LIGHT ON A FEW POINTS OF THIS. SISTER’S BOYFRIEND KNOCKED HER UP, DRAMA GOT OUT OF HAND. THAT’S JUST MY TAKE ON IT. 

WHAT DO YOU THINK? - TODD KOHLHEPP 

COURT DO YOU WANNA RESPOND LIKE YOU DID WHEN I TEXTED THIS TO YOU ?


“WHAT THE HELL”


IN THE WEEKS AND MONTHS OF THE INVESTIGATION OF THE MURDER OF LEAH AUTHORITIES REMAINED TIGHT LIPPED. HOWEVER AUTHORITIES DID ANNOUNCE AFTER LEAH’S BODY WAS FOUND THAT THEY WERE LEANING IN ONE DIRECTION ON SUSPECTS. 

POLICE WERE ABLE TO LOCATE THE OWNER OF THE APARTMENTS EDWARD JACKSON WHO LIKE WE SAID BEFORE WAS IN FLORIDA. HE DID CONFIRM THAT ROUTINE MAINTENANCE WAS GOING ON AT THE TIME OF THE MURDER. SOME OF THE REPAIRS WAS TO LEAKY FAUCETS AND A REPLACEMENT OF A HOT WATER TANK. 

POLICE NEVER STATED IF THE RENOVATIONS HAD ANY CONNECTION WITH LEAH’S MURDER. 


POLICE BELIEVE THAT LEAH’S MURDER WAS NOT AN RANDOM ACT OF VIOLENCE. THEY FELT LIKE WHOEVER MURDERED LEAH KNEW HER AND THE LAYOUT OF THE APARTMENT BUILDING. 


AUTHORITIES HAVE SAID TIME AND TIME AGAIN THAT THEY DO HAVE SUSPECTS IN MIND BUT THEY NEED HARD EVIDENCE TO CONVICT SOMEONE OF THE MURDER OF LEAH. 


TRACE EVIDENCE INCLUDING DNA WHICH THEY COLLECTED AT THE CRIME SCENE. THE DNA WAS SENT AWAY FROM ANALYSIS IN THE HOPE THAT IT WOULD LEAD THEM TO THE MURDERER OR MURDERERS HOWEVER THE RESULTS WERE INCONCLUSIVE. 

MITOCHONDRIAL DNA TESTING WAS PERFORMED ON HAIRS FOUND AT THE CRIME SCENE AT A LABORATORY IN PHOENIX IN MAY OF 2009. 

HOWEVER THESE TESTS ALSO PROVED TO BE INCONCLUSIVE. 

THE HUNTINGTON POLICE SAID THEY WERE FORCED TO WAIT ON NEW DEVELOPMENTS IN TECHNOLOGY DUE TO HOW SMALL THE DNA WAS THAT THEY HAD. 




MUSIC PAUSE 


TIME HAD SADLY TAKEN OVER THIS CASE. THERE WOULD BE OCCASIONAL MEMORIAL ARTICLES IN THE LOCAL NEWSPAPERS 


LEAH HICKMAN’S CASE WENT COLD. 

THAT IS UNTIL APRIL 24TH 2014, LEAH’S MURDER HIT HEADLINES AGAIN. THIS TIME THANKS TO SOMEONE WHO GRAFFITIED “WHO KILLED LEAH HICKMAN?”

ON THE SIDE OF HER APARTMENT BUILDING. 


YOU CAN SEE THE IMAGE ON OUR SOCIALS AND WEBSITE. YOU CAN SEE THAT IT IS TWO DIFFERENT COLORS OF WHITE SPRAY PAINT 

WHO KILLED BEING A YELLOW WHITE AND LEAH HICKMAN BEING MORE OF A BASIC WHITE. 


YOU CAN ALSO SEE THAT THE LETTERING IS COMPLETELY DIFFERENT. 

WHO KILLED BEING THINK AND POINTED AND LEAH HICKMAN BEING BOLDER AND MORE ROUNDED. 

IT’S HAD US AND EVERYONE ELSE WONDERING IF IT COULD POSSIBLY HAVE BEEN MORE THAN ONE PERSON WHO DID THIS. 

 THE BUILDINGS NEW OWNER GARY WARD OFFERED A REWARD FOR INFORMATION LEADING TO AN ARREST BUT AS OF 2023 THE IDENTITY OF WHO DID IT IS STILL UNKNOWN. 


 MUSIC PAUSE 


AUTHORITIES HAVE NEVER NAMED A SUSPECT IN THIS CASE. HOWEVER PEOPLE WHO STAY UP TO DATE WITH THE CASE OF LEAH HICKMAN HAVE THEIR OWN THEORIES ON WHO KILLED LEAH. 

MOST PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT IT COULD HAVE BEEN THE EX BOYFRIEND OF LEAH’S HALF SISTER JESSICA. THAT HE COULD’VE STOPPED BY TO GET HIS THINGS AND HIM AND LEAH GOT INTO AN ARGUMENT AND HE HAD STRANGLED HER AND THAT HER SISTER HELPED HID THE BODY. 


SOME BELIEVE THAT IT WAS JESSICA. THAT THERE WAS A HUGE ARGUMENT BETWEEN THE TWO AND SHE ENDED UP KILLING HER SISTER NOT MEANING TO DO IT. 


HOWEVER, AUTHORITIES HAVE NEVER NAMED A SUSPECT IN THE CASE. 


IF YOU HAVE ANY TIPS OR INFORMATION ON THE CASE OF LEAH HICKMAN PLEASE CONTACT THE HUNTINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA POLICE DEPARTMENT AT (304)-969-4470.


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