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On March 9, 2000, 23-year-old Leah Roberts, who had recently dropped out of college, left her hometown of Durham, North Carolina in her 1993 Jeep Cherokee and set out for the Pacific Northwest, specifically Whatcom County, Washington. One of Leah’s favorite books was Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac which describes a soul-searching trip in that area. Leah’s friends and family definitely believed she was looking for some sort of meaning. Her parents had recently died and Leah herself had escaped death several years before in an automobile accident.
Before leaving her apartment, Leah scribbled a note to her roommate. It was quite specifically an anti-suicide note, assuring her that she was not thinking of ending her life, but that she was emulating Kerouac’s writings. She brought her cat with her, thus also making a suicidal motive for her trip unlikely.
Leah’s Charley Project file describes what happened:
Roberts’s vehicle was discovered wrecked and abandoned on a logging road in Whatcom County, Washington on March 18, 2000, nine days after she left North Carolina. The Jeep was located near an embankment off of Mount Baker Highway at the foot of the Cascade Mountains, which is approximately 85 miles north of Seattle, Washington. Authorities discovered a fuel purchase receipt dated during the early morning hours of March 13 from Brooks, Oregon inside Roberts’s vehicle. A ticket stub for a March 13 showing of the film American Beauty at the theater in Bellis Fair Mall in Bellingham, Washington was also recovered. Cat food was found inside the Jeep as well. Roberts’s guitar, compact discs and checkbook were scattered near the scene. $2,500 was tucked inside a pair of her pants. Blankets had been placed over the vehicle’s broken windows, signaling that someone had sought protection from the elements. There was no sign of Roberts or her kitten at the scene and no evidence of foul play was discovered.
The clues left behind in the car have created an almost insoluble mystery surrounding Leah Roberts. Although the car looked like it had crashed, it didn’t seem like a person was inside at the time of the impact–thus suggesting that perhaps she (or someone else) deliberately sent it off the road, driverless, for what reason we cannot guess. In fact, in late 2006 investigators found evidence that the car was tampered with in a way that suggested it was sent off the road by itself. But why? What do the blankets mean? Did someone else come along later and camp in the wrecked car? If so, why didn’t they find the $2500?
There are reports of a woman resembling Leah being seen at a gas station in Everett, Washington, disoriented, about the time the car may have crashed. We can’t know for sure, but it might have been her. Was she wandering around after escaping the crash? If so, what happened to her after that?
Like the case of Bradyn Fuksa, Leah Roberts’s disappearance was profiled on the investigation Discovery channel show “Disappeared,” and has thus engendered a considerable amount of fairly recent publicity. The “Disappeared” show referred to new DNA evidence that had been found among Leah’s belongings, but if that evidence has (since 2010) led to any break in the case, I haven’t heard about it.
This one is definitely a brain-breaker as far as missing persons cases are concerned. Hopefully it will be solved someday and Leah’s family will gain some closure on whatever happened to her up in Washington 13 years ago.