POSITIVELY IDENTIFIED. RIP Sherry.
ANOTHER UPDATE: HERE. Bones and clothing have been found on father-in-law’s property. Not officially identified as Sherry, as of yet.
UPDATES: HERE AND HERE. Still breaking news, but it appears that Sherry’s father-in-law admitted to accidentally killing Sherry in a recorded phone conversation. He has been arrested and a search is underway on some land that he owns. My heart breaks for her family…
Sherry Jean Leighty, age 22, went missing from Altoona, Pennsylvania on September 26, 1999.
Sherry’s ex-husband’s parents reportedly dropped Sherry off on the morning of Sunday, September 26, 1999 a block away from Labor Ready, where she was employed. Labor Ready said that Sherry did not show up for work that day. She has never been heard from again. Sherry’s father reported her missing in early October, after her birthday came and went with no contact.
Although Sherry and her husband were separated, she and their children were still living with him and his parents temporarily until she could find her own place.
Sherry’s ex-husband told the Altoona Mirror that some of Sherry’s friends told him that Sherry had planned to move to Maine with “some kid”, although names of these friends were never provided, so no one was questioned.
Both Sherry’s parents are now deceased, and Sherry’s sister is on a quest to find out what happened to her. It hasn’t been an easy road for her.
Five months after Sherry disappeared, the Altoona Mirror ran a brief article at the request of her family. In the article, local law enforcement is quoted as saying that since she’s an adult, and was said to have traveled to Maine of her own volition, that there was no case for them to investigate. In fact, they refused to accept a missing persons report, which would have placed her in the National Database for missing persons.
Thirteen years later, when Sherry still hadn’t surfaced, they finally took a report. By this time, of course, those who worked with her at Labor Ready more than likely had moved on to other things. The Labor Ready office had relocated. Sherry’s children grew up without their mom, and probably now only have vague memories of her disappearance.
Of course, hindsight is 20/20. From information that has been provided by Sherry’s sister, there were several suspicious aspects to Sherry’s disappearance, aside from the fact that nobody in her family believed she would abandon her children:
Sherry’s ex-husband claimed that Sherry’s friends told him she planned to travel to Maine. No names of these friends were ever given, and this statement was never corroborated. Sherry’s sister, who knew most of Sherry’s friends, said she has spoken to all of them, and none of them knew anything about Sherry planning to leave town.
Sherry and her ex-husband were separated, and in the process of a divorce when she disappeared. She was living in her ex-husband’s family home at the time. She had filed a restraining order against him previously.
Sherry’s ex-husband’s parents claimed to have dropped Sherry off a block away from her job at Labor Ready. Why a block away, and not in front of the building where she could be seen?
The day in question was a Sunday – Labor Ready is generally closed on Sundays.
Sherry left all her belongings, including her purse, behind.
Yet there was no case to investigate.
So you’d think that 13 years later, when the report was finally taken, and Sherry’s information was entered into NamUs, a proper investigation would begin, with an attempt to backtrack to 1999 and recreate the investigation that should have happened back then. I’m sure that’s what Sherry’s family expected.
It didn’t happen.
Sherry’s sister contacts the Detective weekly, and is told there is nothing new to report. There is no evidence that they’ve examined any evidence, questioned any individuals, or conducted any searches.
When asked if they planned to question Sherry’s ex-husband and his parents, she was told that they would, if they had the need to. While I’m not in any way implying that Sherry’s ex-husband or his family are responsible for her disappearance, they WERE the last people known to see her. For that reason alone, I can’t understand why they wouldn’t be questioned. Maybe they’d have some insight as to why Sherry was reporting to Labor Ready on a Sunday. Or where, exactly, she was dropped off. Or at what time. Or if they’d had any discussion while en route that might provide any clues.
As a result of the lack of investigation, Sherry’s sister has contacted the Pennsylvania State Police, and the FBI, requesting that they get involved. Both sympathized with her predicament, but stated that they can’t just come in and take over a case, without the local police requesting assistance. The local police did not seem to be interested in their help.
When Sherry had an offer to be interviewed for a local news piece, local police advised her against it.
Sherry is still missing. Her family is as distraught now as they were when it first happened.
I’ve strongly considered the theory that Sherry may have been working ‘off the books’ for someone she’d previously worked with through Labor Ready, a temp agency sort of set-up that specializes in day labor. It was a common thing to do, as it was cheaper for the ’employer’ and better pay for the worker. It might explain why she’d be dropped off a block away (since Labor Ready obviously frowned on this), or why she’d be reporting on a Sunday.
It would help greatly to know who she’d worked for in the days leading up to her disappearance. Maybe there was a post-it note among her belongings left behind in the house with that information scribbled on it. Maybe she’d made a phone call from the home that could have provided a clue.
Now, we’ll probably never know, and will just have to hope that she is found, or that someone in a law enforcement capacity steps up to the plate and makes a real effort to make up for lost time.
After 14 years of agony, I think Sherry’s family deserves that.