Twenty one year old journalism student Leah Hickman went missing on Friday Dec. 14 2007.
She was reported missing by her family on Sunday December 16 after she failed to show up for work.
Leah’s body was discovered strangled, wrapped in plastic and tucked in a crawl space beneath her apartment at around 5pm on Friday, December 21.
A timeline looking at the events around her disappearance and hunt for her killer-
- FRIDAY, DEC. 14 2007
Leah Hickman, 21, is last seen by her half-sister, 25-year-old Jessica Vickers, at the apartment the two share on the 400 block of 8th Avenue in Huntington, WV sometime in the afternoon.
Hickman’s last recorded logon to her MySpace page takes place sometime on this day. No specific time is given.
5:40 p.m., Hickman makes a call from her cell phone to a friend saying she is going to get food from McDonald’s. It is the last call made from her phone, and incoming calls that night go straight to voicemail. After a time, incoming callers receive a message that Hickman’s voicemail is full.
- SATURDAY, DEC. 15
Morning, Vickers stops back by the apartment and notices Hickman’s purse, keys and car are still at the residence, though Hickman is nowhere to be found.
1:01 p.m., Vickers posts a message on Hickman’s MySpace page which reads “Oh sister, where are you???”
5 p.m., Hickman does not show up for a scheduled four-hour shift at Dress Barn on Merritts Creek Road in Barboursville, where she has 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 usually called even if she was going to be a few minutes late.
- SUNDAY, DEC. 16
4:48 p.m., Hickman’s mother, Sherry Russell of Leon, W.Va., files a missing person report with the Huntington Police Department. Authorities begin the investigation into Hickman’s disappearance.
- MONDAY, DEC. 17
7:30 a.m., Hickman’s friend, Roger Parker of Proctorville, posts a message on Hickman’s MySpace page informing friends that she is missing, and asking anyone with information on her whereabouts to contact him, or friend Caitlin Starkey. Friends begin to post fliers across the area.
- TUESDAY, DEC. 18
Police continue to search for Hickman and conduct interviews, searching for leads in the case.
- WEDNESDAY, DEC. 19
Vickers is interviewed on MSNBC concerning her sister’s disappearance, other national media begin to carry stories on the incident.
11 a.m., Police canvas Hickman’s neighborhood, searching abandoned houses and interviewing sex offenders in the area looking for any new evidence in the case. Authorities state the search does not turn up any new information.
Dress Barn announces a $10,000 reward for information on Hickman’s whereabouts.
- THURSDAY, DEC. 20
Police announce they are pursuing new leads in the case.
6 p.m., Friends conduct a candlelight vigil at the Memorial Student Center plaza on the campus of Marshall University
- FRIDAY, DEC. 21
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 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.
- SATURDAY, DEC. 22
Forensic units continue to investigate at the apartment building.
The victim’s body is removed from the building and sent to the state Medical Examiner’s office for identification.
- TUESDAY, JAN. 8 2008
News reports Police know Cause of Death but not releasing it preliminary autopsy results out.
- THURSDAY, JAN. 10
Police hold press conference and confirm Leah was strangled to death — 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 the person or people responsible for the crime was/were “familiar with” Leah and the layout of her apartment building. Stating they are not going to release the results of the DNA tests at this point in their investigation.
- TUESDAY, MAY. 6
The Leah Hickman Memorial Scholarship awarded its first scholarship established in honor of the student killed.
- FRIDAY, JUN. 13
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 latest forensic tests and they are hoping that will provide new insight on the murder.
- 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” Huntington Police Capt. Steve Hall said.
- Hall says in the past eight months police have interviewed dozens of people trying to find answers in the death of 21 year old Leah Hickman. But he says one name keeps popping up.
- “It is an individual that we have contacted and have spoken to,” Hall said. “However this individual keeps coming to the forefront of someone we’re particularly interested in.”
- Hall will not release the name of the person or persons of interest in the case. He also says that so far there have been no arrests.
- DNA evidence was sent back in April to an FBI lab in Arizona for further testing. Hall says it could take several months before results are known.
- Hall says the results of the testing could either lead to an arrest, or could clear the name of the person of interest all together.
- He also stressed that a quick arrest would be nice, but in the end, the main goal of the department would be a successful conviction.
At this time speculation was running rampant online, like on the local community boards on sites like “Topix”, that someone very close to Leah, maybe her sister and sisters boyfriend were involved in Leah’s murder.
Unfortunately, these sites no longer exist. Some of these threads are mentioned on MyDeathSpace.com including the following-
Jessica, had a shady ass ex-boyfriend (not the one she was spending her weekends with) The rumor is: he used to live in the apt with Jessica before he shipped off to Iraq. They broke up while he was gone, and Leah/Jessica threw all his crap away. It was stored in the basement.http://mydeathspace.com/vb/showthread.php?6869-Leah-Hickman-(21)-was-found-dead-in-the-crawlspace-of-her-apartment-building/page5
He had just came back from deployment. Leah and him never liked each other at all.
Rumor is his arm was injured right after Leah came up “missing” and he refused to take any lie detector tests.
It is also stated there that Leah Hickman was friends with Brittanee Drexel on myspace.
-jessica (sister) has a job that requires her to punch in and out for lunch. there are time punches for when she left and when she returned to work. leah’s last cell phone call was after jessica returned to work.
-jessica is generally a very shy and introverted person. not a “people person” so to say. she would generally be very nervous in interview type situations as had been taking place on the networks. she was actively looking for leah (posting fliers, making phone calls, etc.) up until her body was found. she has not been at her job since leah was discovered missing.http://mydeathspace.com/vb/showthread.php?6869-Leah-Hickman-(21)-was-found-dead-in-the-crawlspace-of-her-apartment-building/page5
-there is an ex-boyfriend of jessica’s that lived with her in that apartment for 2 years. she broke up with him a few months ago. he still has keys to the apartment. he never came and got his stuff from the apartment and it was being stored in the laundry room up until a couple weeks ago when leah told the people working on the building to throw it out.
-the crawl space where leah was found was not just an open area. there were actually small compartments with doors lined up on one side. they were about 18 inches wide. i don’t know how deep. she was found basically shoved into one of these spaces wrapped in some sort of plastic.
- TUESDAY, OCT. 7
…The mitochondrial DNA laboratory is one of four of its kind in the United States and has a long waiting list of cases.
It is unclear when the results of the tests will be returned…
“We hope to have the results of the tests soon, but while this is a high priority case for us,”Williams said. “It’s one of many for this lab. We’re at the mercy of the lab before we can proceed much further into the case.”
Williams stresses that this is not a cold case. “This is a high priority case and will remain as such,” he said. “The case has not been put up on the shelf. It’s still on my desk, and we act on any leads that come in”
There are three things that help solve cases: confessions, witnesses and physical evidence, Williams said. No one has confessed, and there are no known witnesses.
“The physical evidence is the only thing we have to go on,” Williams said. “That slows up the process.”
Williams would not release the names of any suspects or persons of interest, but did confirm that the police believe the suspect to be someone with “close knowledge of the victim.”
Williams said anyone with information regarding Hickman’s death or any odd occurrences surrounding the time of her death should contact him.
“We want anyone with information, even if it seems small or trivial, to call us,” he said. “I think some people assume the information they’re holding is insignificant or that we already know it, but they may be holding key information.”
- TUESDAY. FEB, 24 2009
Local paper reports “Hickman DNA tests in final stages”
- SATURDAY. MAY, 23
Mitochondrial DNA tests are complete, but the Leah Hickman homicide investigation remains unsolved despite the best efforts of law enforcement, says Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook.
No additional tests are under way, but his department is prepared to move forward with additional analysis sometime in the future, he said. Investigators had hoped mitochondrial DNA in hair fibers would identify the killer. That did not occur, and investigators are left to wait for new technology to be developed, so they can complete more precise testing.
I can’t emphasize enough that we don’t recognize any case as being a cold case, and this is something that is a top priority for us,” he said. Outside assistance probably lingers as time goes on, but as far as forensic evidence, analysis and technologies that are developed — those things always are important to an investigation. If you think about it, we are clearing cases now because of DNA advances that technology didn’t exist 10 to 15 years ago.
“We’ve come a long way,” Holbrook added.
- SATURDAY. DEC,12
Nearly two years later Police speak to reporters again and say the same as before- “
Hickman, 21, hailed from Leon, W.Va., in Mason County. Detectives say the Marshall University journalism student was strangled Dec. 14, 2007. Police found her body seven days later hidden in a crawl space at her off-campus apartment building at 403 8th Ave. The crawl space was connected to a common laundry room.
Investigators believe Hickman died in a targeted attack carried out by someone familiar with the layout of her 8th Avenue apartment. They have a working theory about that person’s identity, but they lack evidence needed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Limited evidence and very few leads have long been characteristics of the Hickman investigation.https://www.herald-dispatch.com/news/recent_news/case-remains-unsolved/article_179248b0-0de9-57fd-ac17-a2fb9ff0bea2.html
Very little has come out since 2009. Her father often gives interviews to keep her name and face fresh in the public, but there has been very little movement on her murder.
The tiny amount of DNA gathered has been tested. With current technology, though, it did not yield the evidence needed to advance the case.
“Who’s to say that six months from now the technology might be available to test this evidence,” Williams said. “It might be the key to solving this case.”
Leah’s family and friends, are still waiting for that day.