The "Disappearance" of Leigh Marine Occhi :Part One

Part One will deal with the facts of the case. Part Two will deal with my analysis. I put quotations on Disappearance because this is more a murder than a disappearance.
                                                                                                                 SHURLOCK




LEIGH MARINE OCCHI

DATE OF BIRTH: 08/21/1979 (ON A MILITARY BASE IN HONOLULU, HA)
"DISAPPEARANCE" DATE: 08/27/1992 
ADDRESS AT TIME OF "DISAPPEARANCE": 105 HONEY LOCUST DRIVE TUPELO, MISSISSIPPI
PARENTS: DONALD OCCHI AND VICKIE FELTON (THEN VICKIE YARBOROUGH)
STEPFATHER BEING JULIAN "BARNEY" BARNETTE YARBOROUGH JR. (DECEASED)
HEIGHT AND WEIGHT: 4'10, AROUND 95 LBS.
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICSLAZY LEFT EYE, STRAWBERRY BIRTHMARK AT THE BASE OF HER SKULL, BOTH EARS WERE PIERCED. SMALL SCRATCH SCARS ON RIGHT KNEE.
WEARINGA NIGHTSHIRT AND GREEN AND YELLOW BOXER SHORTS.
BLOOD TYPE: EITHER A OR O

Contact Agency
Tupelo Police Department 

662-841-6491 
OR 
Federal Bureau Of Investigation 
202-324-3000





BACKGROUND INFORMATION:

LEIGH'S PARENTS DONALD AND VICKIE MET WHILE SERVING IN THE ARMED FORCES TOGETHER. (IN CALIFORNIA) THEY MARRIED IN 1977. AND IN 1979 LEIGH WAS BORN. THE COUPLE DIVORCED SOON THEREAFTER SOMETIME IN 1981. DONALD WAS TRANSFERRED TO A VARIETY OF MILITARY BASES OVER THE YEARS. AND VICKIE MADE HER WAY TO MISSISSIPPI. THE DISTANCE BETWEEN FATHER AND DAUGHTER NEVER BROKE THE BOND BOTH LEIGH AND DONALD HAD FOR EACH OTHER. (FROM WHAT I READ THE LAST TIME DONALD ACTUALLY SAW LEIGH WAS THE SUMMER OF 91. I'M SURE HE SPOKE TO HER ON A SEMI REGULAR BASIS THO.) AFTER RETURNING FROM A TOUR OF DUTY IN OPERATION DESERT STORM. DONALD WAS ADVISED THAT HIS DAUGHTER LEIGH WAS MISSING FROM VICKIE. (DONALD WAS BACK LESS THAN 6 MONTHS AT THIS POINT.) DONALD WAS LIVING IN ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA ON A MILITARY BASE IN AUGUST OF 92. VICKIE HAD SINCE REMARRIED TO A BARNEY YARBOROUGH AT THE TIME. BUT SHE WAS SEPARATED FROM HIM FOR SEVERAL WEEKS AT THE TIME OF LEIGH'S "DISAPPEARANCE".

"It felt like someone punched me in the stomach," he said. "All day I did not know what I did at work. Initially I thought that she may have run away, so I did not go to Mississippi right away. For days I walked around in a daze and kept thinking about getting my .45 pistol and going to Tupelo and killing someone, but I did not know who to kill. I still don't."  Donald Occhi


105 HONEY LOCUST DRIVE TUPELO, MS 38801
NOTE: NOTICE THE LARGE WOODED AREA TO THE RIGHT




DAY OF DISAPPEARANCE:
THURSDAY AUGUST 27TH 1992 
(THIS ACCOUNT IS FROM STATEMENTS MADE BY VICKIE FELTON AT THE TIME)

AT 6:45AM VICKIE'S RADIO ALARM GOES OFF AND SHE LAYS THERE FOR A FEW MINUTES BEFORE GETTING UP TO TAKE A SHOWER.  LEIGH HAD SLEPT IN HER MOTHERS BED THAT NIGHT LIKELY DUE TO HER BEING AFRAID OF STORMS AND IT HAD BEEN THUNDERING ALL NIGHT. (HURRICANE ANDREW WAS COMING IN. ALTHOUGH BY THE TIME IT REACHED THAT AREA IT HAD BEEN DOWNGRADED TO A TROPICAL STORM.) SHE NOTICED THAT LEIGH LAY AT THE FOOT OF THE BED IN THE OPPOSITE WAY YOU WOULD NORMALLY SLEEP. THIS IS DUE TO VICKIE BEING A SNORER AND LEIGH WOULD TRY TO MUFFLE OUT THE NOISE. VICKIE STATED SHE GOT UP AND BRUSHED SOME OF LEIGH'S HAIR OFF TO THE SIDE OF HER FACE AND ASKED IF LEIGH WAS AWAKE. AT THE TIME SHE WAS EITHER TOO GROGGY TO RESPOND OR STILL ASLEEP. VICKIE DIDN'T WAKE HER. VICKIE THEN SHOWERED WHICH SHE ESTIMATED TOOK ABOUT TEN MINUTES. (VICKIE STATED SHE WASN'T SURE.) WHEN SHE EXITED THE SHOWER AND STARTED GETTING DRESSED LEIGH WAS STILL IN BED BUT WAS AWAKE. SHE THEN WENT OUT TO THE FRONT YARD TO RETRIEVE THE MORNING PAPER. LEIGH WAS UP AT THAT POINT. THE TWO ATE BREAKFAST AND DISCUSSED THE UPCOMING SCHOOL YEAR. LEIGH HAD PLANS FOR THE DAY. LEIGH WAS SUPPOSED TO HAVE BEEN PICKED UP BY HER GRANDMOTHER AND GO TO A SCHOOL OPEN HOUSE THAT DAY. AND THEN TO TACO BELL FOR DINNER.  VICKIE LEFT WORK AROUND 7:40 AM. VICKIE WAS AT THE TIME EMPLOYED AT LEGGETT & PLATT. WHO ACCORDING TO THEIR FACEBOOK PAGE IS:

Leggett & Platt (NYSE: LEG) is a diversified manufacturer that conceives, designs and produces a broad variety of engineered components and products that can be found in virtually every home, office, retail store, and automobile. With 2009 sales (from continuing operations) of $3.06 billion, the company serves a broad suite of customers that comprises a "Who's Who" of U. S. manufacturers and retailers. The 127-year old firm is composed of 19 business units, 20,000 employee-partners, and more than 140 manufacturing locations in 18 countries.

SHE ESTIMATED SHE GOT TO HER PLACE OF EMPLOYMENT AT AROUND 7:50 AM. WHICH IF YOU ACCOUNT FOR TRAFFIC SOUNDS REASONABLE. AT LEAST ACCORDING TO GOOGLE MAPS.


ONE THING THAT'S INTERESTING IS THAT VICKIE DOESN'T REMEMBER IF SHE CLOSED THE GARAGE DOOR. SHE STATED SHE IS SURE SHE DID. THAT SHE ALWAYS DID SO. BUT IT DIDN'T STAND OUT IN HER MIND. ANOTHER INTERESTING THING WAS THIS WAS GOING TO BE THE FIRST TIME LEIGH WAS GOING TO BE LEFT HOME ALONE. VICKIE STATED THAT WHEN SHE ARRIVED AT WORK SHE WENT AND RETRIEVED A RADIO OUT OF HER BOSS'S OFFICE SO SHE COULD LISTEN TO THE NEWS FOR THE WEATHER. 

Donald Occhi- Angry and wanting answers.

A then concerned looking Vickie Felton-Yarborough

'cause Leigh is very afraid of thunderstorms … [The radio commentator] was talking about the weather and the tornado watches or warnings or whatever it was and the severe thunder storms and after that I decided I had better call home 'cause I knew Leigh was really scared of the weather. So I called and we have a special ring, all right, where I let it ring twice and I hang up and then I call right back and that's how she knows to answer. I did that. I let it ring for a long time that second time. Nobody answered."  VICKIE FELTON

NOTE: IT'S INTERESTING THAT THEY HAD A SPECIAL RING BECAUSE THIS REPORTEDLY WAS THE FIRST TIME LEIGH WAS EVER LEFT HOME BY HERSELF. SHE MADE THE CALL AROUND 8:30 AM ACCORDING TO VICKIE. SHE ALSO CALLED HER MOTHER TO SEE IF SHE WOULD DRIVE BY SINCE SHE ONLY LIVED AROUND 5 MINUTES AWAY. 

HAVING NOT HEARD FROM LEIGH. VICKIE LEFT WORK EN ROUTE BACK TO HER HOUSE. VICKIE ARRIVED BACK HOME AT AROUND 8:45 AM. THE GARAGE DOOR WAS OPEN AND THE INSIDE LIGHT TURNED ON. SHE WENT AROUND TO THE FRONT DOOR AND IT WAS UNLOCKED. SHE THEN PROCEEDED INSIDE AND CALLED FOR LEIGH BUT THERE WAS NO RESPONSE. SHE TURNED INTO THE HALLWAY AND NOTICED BLOOD ON THE WALLS AND FLOOR OF THE HALL. VICKIE SCREAMED AND MADE A DASH TOWARDS LEIGH'S ROOM.  LEIGH'S BROWN BLANKET WAS ON THE FLOOR. SHE PICKED IT UP TO SEE IF SHE WAS UNDER IT. SHE WAS NOT. SHE DISCOVERED LEIGH'S BRA AND NIGHTGOWN COVERED IN BLOOD IN THE LAUNDRY BASKET. VICKIE THEN PROCEEDED TO CHECK EVERY ROOM IN THE HOUSE. AS WELL AS OUTSIDE IN AND AROUND THE POOL AND THE UNLOCKED SHED. SHE CALLED 911 AT 9 AM.


LAW ENFORCEMENT ARRIVE

Based upon the evidence found at the scene, Aguirre said it is likely that Leigh was killed inside the house and then transported elsewhere. In addition, Aguirre said that elements of the crime scene were not typical of what his department would expect to find in this type of case.


TWO OFFICERS CAME TO THE RESIDENCE. UPON SPEAKING WITH VICKIE REALIZED THEY WOULD NEED A DETECTIVE TO COME OUT. THEY CALLED THE THEN LEAD DETECTIVE BART AGUIRRE TO COME OUT TO THE RESIDENCE TO CONDUCT AN INVESTIGATION. WHEN AGUIRRE REACHED THE HOUSE BARNEY YARBOROUGH WAS THERE ALONG WITH VICKIE AND THE TWO OFFICER WHO INITIALLY CAME TO THE SCENE. ALONG WITH THEM WAS A REPORTER WHO LIVED NEARBY AND WAS LISTENING TO A POLICE SCANNER WHEN IT WAS CALLED IN. ACCORDING TO AGUIRRE THERE WERE NO SIGNS OF FORCED ENTRY. THERE WAS A SIGNIFICANT AMOUNT OF TYPE O BLOOD IN THE HOUSE. ENOUGH BLOOD WAS LEFT IN THE HOUSE TO SHOW THAT SOMEONE HAD SUFFERED FROM A RECENT INJURY. A SERIOUS AND LIKELY FATAL ONE AT THAT. THERE WAS A BLOOD TRAIL THAT LED FROM THE HALLWAY TO THE KITCHEN TO THE BACKDOOR. THE BLOOD WAS VERY FRESH. THERE WERE BLOOD STAINS ON THE WALLS, LEIGH'S BEDROOM DOOR FRAME, CARPET, AND BATHROOM COUNTER TOP.  THERE WERE STRANDS OF HAIR FOUND ON LEIGH'S DOOR FRAME.  NEAR THE DOOR FRAME WAS A FIST SIZED POOL OF BLOOD WHICH WAS CONSISTENT WITH A HEAD WOUND AND AS IF SOMEONE MATCHING LEIGH'S HEIGHT RESTED THERE FOR A PERIOD OF TIME. THERE WAS AN EFFORT TO CLEAN UP THE BLOOD IN THE MASTER BEDROOM BATHROOM. NO USED TOWEL OR RAG WAS EVER LOCATED. IT APPEARED TO HAVE NOT COAGULATED AT THE TIME AGUIRRE ARRIVED. THERE WAS NO "SKIN" ON THE TOP OF THE BLOOD WHEN LE ARRIVED. LE IS OPERATING UNDER THE ASSUMPTION THE BLOOD AT THE SCENE WAS LEIGH'S. BUT THEY AREN'T SURE. THERE IS NO SAMPLE OF LEIGH'S BLOOD TO COMPARE IT TO. THE ONLY ITEMS MISSING IN THE HOUSE WERE LEIGH'S SHOES, READING GLASSES, SOME OF HER UNDERCLOTHES, AND A SLEEPING BAG. THE POLICE HAVE THE NIGHTGOWN AND OTHER RELATED EVIDENCE. BUT THEY HAVE NEVER RELEASED ALL OF WHAT THEY HAVE. K-9S WERE BROUGHT OUT THAT VERY MORNING BUT WITH THE STORMS IT MADE IT VIRTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE TO FIND A SCENT. 


“There was some indication Leigh had sustained some kind of injury,” Aguirre said. “You couldn’t tell how bad the injury was. You couldn’t tell where the injury was.”

“Because it looked like the blood had dripped down onto her nightgown, you would think the injury had to be above the neck possibly,” said Aguirre.

The timeline that she had given us, we felt -- was a little strange," Chief Aguirre said.



"When you go back and look at her medical records, that child has never been to the hospital or had blood work done," Aguirre said. "There was nothing to use for a comparison. That made it really difficult in trying to say that the blood left at the scene was in fact Leigh Occhi's."





She was somewhat distraught. I don’t remember seeing her crying at the time. She just didn’t seem to be as forthcoming with some of the information that we felt like a mother would share once they were looking for their daughter.” Lead Detective Bart Aguirre regarding Vickie

THE INVESTIGATION CONTINUES

"I couldn't tell you why," Felton said about the test results. "They measure changes in your body and when your daughter has gone missing and they strap you up to things, I can't imagine anyone's body not reacting.
" Vickie Felton regarding her failing 3 polygraph tests.

A TASK FORCE WAS ASSEMBLED ON THE 1ST OF SEPTEMBER.  BLOOD THAT WAS TAKEN FROM THE CRIME SCENE WAS SENT TO THE STATE CRIME LAB. THE BLOOD WAS CONFIRMED TO BE TYPE O BLOOD. BUT THAT IS ALL THAT COULD BE DETERMINED THEN.(DNA TECHNOLOGY WAS IN THE INFANT STAGES BACK THEN.) VICKIE FELTON WAS ASKED TO TAKE A LIE DETECTOR TEST. NOT ONLY DID SHE FAIL THE TEST. SHE ALSO FAILED 2 MORE. TOTALING 3 FAILS. TWO OF THOSE TESTS WERE ADMINISTERED BY THE FBI.  THE FIRST OF THE TESTS WAS TAKEN WITHIN HOURS OF HER DAUGHTER BEING MISSING. AND THE NEXT TWO WERE WITHIN THE FOLLOWING WEEKS. DONALD OCCHI AND BARNEY YARBOROUGH ALSO TOOK AND PASSED POLYGRAPHS TESTS. BOTH FATHERS WERE RULED OUT AS SUSPECTS. 
 

POSSIBLE SIGHTING
DAYS AFTER LEIGH'S DISAPPEARANCE, A FAST FOOD WORKER STATED THEY SAW WHAT LOOKED TO BE LEIGH IN A TRUCK AT THE DRIVE THRU WINDOW IN BOONEVILLE. A LITTLE OVER 30 MILES AWAY FROM TUPELO. THE VEHICLE WAS SOON TRACKED DOWN AND IT WAS PROVEN THE GIRL WAS NOT LEIGH. HOWEVER, AN INTERESTING DEVELOPMENT BECAME OF THIS FALSE SIGHTING. 


THE PACKAGE

“There was no ransom letter or anything like that that came with those glasses,” Aguirre said. “It was just those glasses. You would think if it was an actual kidnapping, you would have expected a little more to come along with that.”

ON THE 11TH OF SEPTEMBER A PACKAGE WAS RECIEVED FROM BOONEVILLE. IT WAS ADDRESSED TO A "B. YARBOROUGH" AND THE STREET NAME WAS MISSPELLED AS "HONY LOCUST DR." UPON RECEIVING THE PACKAGE VICKIE CALLED UP HER SOON TO BE EX HUSBAND AND NOTIFIED HIM THAT HE RECEIVED SOMETHING IN THE MAIL. HE ARRIVED AND OPENED TO PACKAGE ONLY TO DISCOVER THAT IT WAS LEIGH'S READING GLASSES. THE ENVELOPE WAS SENT IN FOR FORENSIC TESTING AND HANDWRITING COMPARISON WHICH RESULTED IN NOTHING AT THE TIME. IT APPEARS THE STAMP USED TO MAIL THE PACKAGE WAS APPLIED USING WATER INSTEAD OF SOMEONE LICKING THE STAMP.(CONVENIENT HUH? A POSSIBLE SIGHTING IN BOONEVILLE THAT TURNED OUT NOT TO BE LEIGH. THEN ALL OF  SUDDEN POOF! LEIGH'S GLASSES APPEAR MAILED FROM NONE OTHER THAN BOONEVILLE OF ALL PLACES. GOTTA LOVE "COINCIDENCES".)



MISTAKEN IDENTITY
ON NOVEMBER 11TH 1993 A MONROE COUNTY CORONER ANNOUNCED THAT REMAINS FOUND IN HIS COUNTY HAD BEEN IDENTIFIED AS LEIGH OCCHI. MONROE COUNTY IS A LITTLE OVER 30 MILES AWAY FROM TUPELO. THIS TURNED OUT TO BE A MISTAKE. I CAN ONLY IMAGINE HOW THE FAMILY MUST'VE FELT AT THAT TIME. THE REMAINS WERE LATER IDENTIFIED AS THAT OF POLLYANNA SUE KEITH. SHE WAS MISSING FROM SHANNON MISSISSIPPI BACK IN 93.




AFTERMATH
IN AUGUST OF 1997 POLICE ANNOUNCED THEY HAD A SUSPECT IN THE CASE. BUT FAILED TO NAME HIM OR HER. AS WELL AS LE HAS NEVER STATED THAT VICKI FELTON WAS A SUSPECT. LEIGH'S EX STEPDAD BARNEY YARBOROUGH DIED A LITTLE AFTER 4 YEARS AFTER LEIGH DISAPPEARED. SOME ONLINE POSTS HAVE OPINED THAT HE HAD AT ONE POINT MOLESTED LEIGH. AS FAR AS I'M CONCERNED THIS IS A RUMOR. I HAVE NO SUPPORTING FACTUAL EVIDENCE TO BACK THIS UP. HOWEVER ITS BEEN SAID THAT LEIGH WAS NOT TREATED VERY WELL BY EITHER VICKIE OR BARNEY.  THAT WAS ACCORDING TO LEIGH HERSELF. VICKIE DENIED THIS. WHETHER THIS WAS JUST A MOTHER DAUGHTER CLASH IS UNKNOWN. I'VE READ WHERE VICKIE WAS BASICALLY RUN OUTTA TUPELO BY THE PEOPLE WHO LIVED THERE. VICKIE FELTON IS STILL ALIVE AS WELL AS DONALD OCCHI. MR. OCCHI LIVES IN ARIZONA AND VICKIE LIVES IN MICHIGAN. I CONTACTED MR. OCCHI TO SEE IF HE WOULD ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS REGARDING HIS DAUGHTER'S DISAPPEARANCE. HE STATED HE WILL THINK ABOUT IT. THERE HAS BEEN NO SUBSTANTIAL LEADS IN THE CASE SINCE 92. THIS CASE IS STILL UNSOLVED.







LINKS


FACEBOOK PAGE

CHARLEY PROJECT
TOPIX FORUM
MISSING KIDS
WEBSLEUTHS
FLETCHERMARPLE TUMBLR
MY DEAR FRIEND'S POST ON LEIGH
NAMUS
DAILY JOURNAL ARTICLE
LEIGH'S FIND A GRAVE MEMORIAL





PART 2 of this 3 Part Entry
ADDITIONAL ARTICLES


Decades Old Disappearance Still Baffling



By 
Robert Davidson
– August 27, 2013Posted in: Local News

TUPELO, Ms (WCBI) 21 years ago today Tupelo police started working on the most baffling missing persons case in that city’s history.

Today marks the anniversary of when then 13 year old Leigh Occhi disappeared from her Honey Locust Drive home in Tupelo. Detectives found blood and signs of a struggle inside the West Tupelo residence but never any signs of the teenager. The only other clue they ever received was when someone mailed her glasses to the family on the one month anniversary of the disappearance.

Detective Brandon Garrett says even though two decades have passed, detectives say the case still generates a lot of attention “Every month or so we do have someone call in with information from things they remembered in the past or someone that did not want to come forward at the time but had some information that might be helpful.” says Garrett.

Tupelo police are still taking tips on the crime at 662 841 6546



Leigh Occhi – Still Missing but Not Forgotten



By 
Nicole Bexten
– August 27, 2013Posted in: Crime, Faith-Family, Local News

TUPELO, Miss. (WCBI)- 21 years ago today Tupelo police started working on the most baffling missing persons case in that city’s history. Today marks the anniversary of when then 13 year old Leigh Occhi disappeared from her Honey Locust Drive home in Tupelo. Detectives found blood and signs of a struggle inside the West Tupelo residence but never any signs of the teenager. The only other clue they ever received was when someone mailed her glasses to the family on the one month anniversary of the disappearance.

Using age progression software, this is what detectives think Occhi would look like today as a 34 year old woman. Even though two decades have passed, detectives say the case still generates a lot of attention.

Detective Brandon Garrett with the Tupelo P.D. told WCBI, “There’s a lot of tools out there that we’re just now discovering. DNA technology is really 100% different from what it was in the past…you used to have to have a large sample to do any type of testing. Now, it’s just the smallest little sample will go a long way. So, what I’ve been doing over the past few months is going back through the evidence that was collected in the case and sending it to labs to be retested.”

Tupelo police are still taking tips on the crime at 662-841-6546.



Tupelo teen's disappearance remains a mystery



  •  


TUPELO - Hurricane Andrew was a tropical depression slogging over north Mississippi toward its doom in the Appalachian mountains on Thursday, Aug. 27, 1992.
Most Tupelo children were readying their backpacks for school and enjoying their last week of summer break.
Thirteen-year-old Leigh Occhi was home alone at 105 Honey Locust Drive in west Tupelo about 8 a.m. after her mother, Vicky Felton, left for work at Leggett amp& Platt. That evening they planned to attend Leigh's school open house at the new Tupelo High School and then eat dinner at Taco Bell.
When Felton called home before 9 a.m. to check on her daughter, there was no answer, so Felton drove back. Her daughter wasn't there and hasn't been seen since.
***
Twenty years ago Monday, Tupelo was rocked by the gruesome disappearance of Leigh Occhi. Two decades later, a person of interest exists in the case but there is no evidence to tie him to the disappearance. Regardless, Leigh Occhi is still on the minds of some Tupelo residents.
"It was right after the hurricane and I wanted to make sure everyone was fine," Felton recalled recently about that day, "and I came home and the garage door was open."
She said she went in the house, called Leigh's name and didn't hear anything.
In the hallway, she discovered blood splattered on the wall.
Felton then checked the girl's bedroom, the rest of the house, the backyard and a shed there.
About 9 a.m., she said she called the police and anxiously waited for them to arrive.
Rick Hammond, the Daily Journal's law enforcement reporter at the time and now an attorney in Arkansas, heard the verbal commotion on the police scanner and headed over from his house, just a few blocks away.
He saw Felton and a couple of police officers.
"There was blood in the house, blood on the door frame, the garage door was open and the police were starting to check into it," Hammond said. "You could see the alert level was sort of rising.
"The police were canvassing the neighborhood and the word started to spread this wasn't a teenager who got mad and left the house. There was some kind of foul play."
Bart Aguirre, the case's lead detective, was teaching a course at the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Center when he got the call.
"I think two of our other investigators had already responded and they needed help with the crime scene," he said. "There was a lot of rain going on that day, seems like it was real stormy."
Aguirre said the scene wasn't in disarray - no forced entry or damage to the house - but a large pool of blood stained the hallway leading to Leigh's bedroom.
"There were blood spatters on a door-facing, which led into the kitchen from the hallway," he recalled. "According to the mother, there were certain clothing items missing and we did find a bloody nightgown in the clothes basket in her room."
The blood pool on the floor, still wet when he arrived, indicated to police that someone sustained significant trauma and bled there for a time, according to Aguirre.
He said the spatter on the door-frame could have been consistent with head trauma to someone standing about 5 feet tall. Leigh was 4 feet 10 inches.
He and other officers walked through the neighborhood and bloodhounds were used, but the rain hampered their efforts and no evidence was uncovered.
Aguirre said the crime lab didn't have the technology to process DNA in 1992 so they could only check blood for type and match it that way. Two samples were taken, one from the door and one from the spot on the carpet and both tested as type-O.
Police took the nightgown and other related evidence but are not releasing a list of all evidence taken.
The family car's trunk lining was tested for signs of foul play - things like clumps of hair or blood spots. Tests came back negative.
Aguirre said they can't be 100 percent certain the blood found at the scene was Leigh Occhi's because her blood was not on record anywhere, so authorities have operated under the assumption it is hers.
"When you go back and look at her medical records, that child has never been to the hospital or had blood work done," Aguirre said. "There was nothing to use for a comparison. That made it really difficult in trying to say that the blood left at the scene was in fact Leigh Occhi's."
The following weeks
At the time of Leigh's disappearance, her father, Donald Occhi, was stationed in Fort Myer, Va., divorced from Felton and remarried.
"My former bride called me the next day ... and she said 'Leigh's missing,'" Occhi remembered. "I said 'What the hell do you mean? Did she run away? What happened?'"
He said he didn't know why she waited a day to tell him, but Occhi remembered telling her to give it a couple of days, that their daughter might come back.
"I had no idea there was blood and stuff like that," he said. "It was a small town - I didn't expect her to stay missing long.
"I figured she might have run off because I heard rumors her mother and stepfather didn't treat her very well."
Felton said she was never aware of Leigh's mistreatment in their home and the stepfather is deceased and can't comment.
Two weeks after Leigh was reported missing, her father and his family drove to Tupelo to search for her as the foot patrols
He, along with community members, combed the fields surrounding Leigh's neighborhood, searching for clues, or even her body.
"We're grateful that, if it had to happen, it did in Tupelo because the people there were some of the kindest I've met in my life," Occhi said of the community that rallied behind his search efforts.
He recalled searching for a month before having to return to Virginia.
He returned once the next year with two psychics and again with television detectives to film an episode about unsolved mysteries, but it never aired.
The only evidence police gathered after processing the home and searching the neighborhood was a pair of glasses that belonged to the girl. They were mailed to her mother's house from a Booneville post office box, but the envelope didn't contain any other clues as to Leigh's whereabouts or who may have been involved with her disappearance.
Aguirre said with today's techniques, the crime lab could try to pull a DNA sample off the stamps on the envelope.
Tupelo Police Detective Brandon Garrett, who inherited the case, said the stamps are on his to-do list of items to test and is in the works right now.
He said he isn't sure how well the blood has been preserved but is sending it to the crime lab for processing, "I've got my fingers crossed," he said.
Who did it?
No suspect was ever named in the case, though Felton drew some attention at one point. Multiple people involved in the case implicated an area man as a potential suspect.
Aguirre said the police investigation continued under the assumption Leigh was abducted because there was no forced entry and it would have been difficult for her to run away, given the amount of blood at the scene, if it were hers.
Leigh's mother and a detective on the case mentioned one person of interest who was interviewed. He was never considered an official suspect because of lack of evidence.
Felton said Leigh would never open the door to a stranger, so anyone entering the house without breaking in would have to be someone she knew and trusted.
She insists her own "prime suspect" is a man who was in a position of trust in the church where Leigh and her grandparents were members. He was incarcerated in 2000 for burglary, and kidnapping and rape of a young girl.
No real evidence ties the man to Leigh, but Felton and detectives say the man would have been able to enter the house and he was charged for a crime under similar circumstances in the same time period.
The 54-year-old possible suspect was interviewed once by the FBI during the initial investigation. Garrett said he and another detective spoke to him in 2009, but he refused to talk to them.
"He is still my prime suspect," Felton said. "I know that Leigh wouldn't have let anyone into the house that she didn't know."
The man is scheduled for release in 2019 from Marshall County Correctional Facility.
Aguirre admits police have little to go on now.
"The mother was our main source for information, she was the last one to see her alive," he said. "We had to really depend on her for information.
"There were times that we didn't feel she was being as forward as we thought a mother should be, but we didn't go as far as to call her a person of interest or to say she was a suspect."
Felton was interviewed multiple times and failed multiple polygraph tests, although they are inadmissible as evidence in court. Police did not release specific details about the questions asked or what she reportedly failed in the tests.
Investigation status
Garrett recently sorted through the evidence to see what can be retested or tested in new ways.
He said as it stands, technology can match any remains against DNA samples from Leigh's parents to see if the remains are hers.
Calls come in, one or two each year, from people offering a tip. Garrett said it's usually just the caller's theory of what happened and is difficult to follow through on.
"They'll say she's buried under the high school and you can't just look under there, but if it's something we can follow up on, we always do," he said.
Leigh's father and others who knew Leigh scour online message boards for anyone who claims to know details about her disappearance.
Occhi said most of what he reads online is crazy, but he still looks.
"You read some of the stuff on the Internet and it's out there like Pluto," he said. "They say she was buried under here or under there, but how are you going to bury someone during a hurricane?
"All I know is she's missing and hasn't been found."
© Copyright 2017 Daily Journal, 1242 S Green St Tupelo, MS 

CNN ARTICLE
New York (CNN) -- Leigh Occhi, 13 and ready to start the eighth grade, was still in her pajamas the morning of August 27, 1992, when her mother left their home in Tupelo, Mississippi, for work.

It was one of the last days of Leigh's summer break and mother and daughter had eaten breakfast together, reading the paper and talking about the coming school year.

Leigh planned to go to an open house at her new school that morning. She was waiting at home for her grandmother to pick her up. It was the first time she'd waited home alone.

As Vickie Felton left for work shortly before 8 a.m., bands of rain from Hurricane Andrew moved over Tupelo, and the Gulf Coast was under a hurricane alert. Worried, Felton called home. Nobody answered, so she hurried home after spending just a few minutes at the office.

Felton said that when she returned home, she found the garage door open, the light turned on. "That was very strange because the light doesn't turn on unless someone triggers the door," she said.

"I came in the house and there was blood on the side of the wall," Felton said. "I started calling for Leigh and going through all the rooms," she said. "Then I went into her bedroom."

"Her favorite blanket was crumbled up on the floor and I was very scared," she said. She ran into the backyard, checking the pool and the shed. There was no sign of Leigh.

Felton called 911. 

Police said they received the first call at 8:30 a.m. from Felton and responded immediately. Leigh had been alone for less than hour, said Capt. Bart Aguirre, one of the original Tupelo police investigators assigned to the case.

"Vickie took us to Leigh's bedroom," Aguirre said. "There, we found a laundry basket that contained Leigh's nightgown that had blood stains all over it."

Blood and hair were stuck to a door frame and a small blood trail led from the hallway to the living room to the back door.

"It's a pretty significant amount that would lead any parent to concern," Aguirre said.

A team of bloodhounds and searchers canvassed the neighborhood, beginning in the yard and expanding outward to nearby ditches and fields.

"We covered a half-mile radius from the house that morning with the dogs and could not come up with anything," Aguirre said. "It was raining and it was storming and blowing pretty good. Had our dogs not had that bad weather to work in, they probably could have gotten on good scent."

Helicopters were added to the search once the storm passed. Still, there was no sign of Leigh. Investigators refocused their attention on the house, the only place where they had found evidence.

Aguirre said he searched the master bedroom down the hall from the bathroom. "I noticed there was a real light pink haze on the countertop," he said. The countertop later tested positive for the presence of blood, he said.

"It's pretty obvious to us that someone tried to clean up the scene or the countertop," Aguirre said. "But we couldn't find the rag or towel that had been used. We couldn't find it anywhere."

According to Felton, articles of Leigh's clothing were missing from the house, including a pair of shorts, a pair of shoes and a sleeping bag.

It's pretty obvious to us that someone tried to clean up the scene.

--Capt. Bart Aguirre
Detectives found no sign of forced entry, and the girl's mother and grandmother said she'd never open the door for a stranger.

At the time of her daughter's disappearance, Felton was separated from her second husband, Leigh's stepfather. Barney Yarborough had recently moved out of the family's ranch-style home. Leigh's father, still serving in the military, was living in Alexandria, Virginia.

The police investigation cleared both men of involvement in Leigh's disappearance.

Investigators asked Felton to submit to a polygraph examination. She agreed and failed it. "We let the FBI do another poly and they said they found deception," Aguirre said.

Felton said the first polygraph was administered within hours of her daughter's disappearance, and the others within a week or two.

"I couldn't tell you why," Felton said about the test results. "They measure changes in your body and when your daughter has gone missing and they strap you up to things, I can't imagine anyone's body not reacting."

She said detectives would not be doing their job if they didn't push her for answers.

"But, unfortunately," she said, "they wasted a lot of time with it."

Felton is not considered a suspect, and Aguirre said she has always been very cooperative. 

About a month after Leigh's disappearance, the mystery deepened. A package arrived at Felton's doorstep, addressed to Yarborough.

"I called my husband and told him that he had gotten something in the mail," Felton said. "When he opened it, it was Leigh's glasses."

The package, which identified both the addressee and remitter as "B Yarborough," had been mailed from Booneville, Mississippi, approximately 30 miles north of Tupelo.

Tupelo officials sent the glasses and packaging to the FBI, which was already involved in Leigh's case. "We tried to get anything from the envelope, the packaging, and we didn't come up with anything," Aguirre said.

It was the last clue that investigators would get in Leigh's case.

Ultimately, Aguirre says, the lack of DNA evidence from a potential perpetrator in Leigh's home is what handicaps the investigation.

At the time she disappeared, Leigh had a slender build, bluish-green eyes and blond hair. She would be 30 years old.

An award up to $1,000 is offered by Crime Stoppers of Northeast Mississippi for information leading to an arrest in Leigh's case. An undisclosed reward is also offered by Leigh's mother. 

Anyone with information concerning Leigh Occhi's disappearance is asked to call Crime Stoppers of Northeast Mississippi at 800 773-TIPS.


February 28, 2008 

Investigator searches for ID

By Niki Doyle
The Huntsville Times


HUNTSVILLE -- Sgt. Charles Berry had hoped to identify Jane Doe's body, her bones stored in a cardboard box in the evidence room next to his office, before he retired.

It's been 10 years since a hunter found the teenager's body in Indian Creek, and Berry, a crime scene specialist with the Madison County Sheriff's Office, hasn't given up yet.

"You think someone would miss a teenager," said Berry, who's eligible to retire next year. "I find myself looking every time I see a missing child poster. I don't know if it has become a habit or a mission."

An entire shelf of Berry's office is dedicated to Jane Doe, with 4-inch binders full of dead-end leads and, maybe, just maybe, a possible match for Jane Doe.

The sheriff's office has compared the girl's DNA and dental records to more than 40 missing girls from as far away as Hawaii and Canada.

A raccoon hunter found her bones, wrapped in plastic sheeting, off Indian Creek Road near Alabama 53 and Jeff Road in October 1997.

She wasn't wearing clothes.

Forensic scientists believe she's a young white girl, between 15 and 17 years old. She was about 4-feet-10 to 5-feet-1. Weight and eye and hair color are unknown.

Investigators found about 95 percent of her skeleton beside the creek.

She had probably been there for a year to a year and a half, said Berry.

Dr. James Lewis, a Madison dentist and forensic odontologist, said Jane Doe had received some type of dental care in her life.

It's a sign that someone cared for her at one point, but it hasn't yielded any new information, he said.

"This case has been run through the NCIC (National Crime Information Center), and we've come up with nothing," he said.

"The problem with that system is, unfortunately, some of the missing children don't have dental records.

"Chances are she's in it somewhere, but she doesn't have dental records in the system."

And she doesn't have a name. At least not yet.

"At first, when you find someone, you want to know who she is and who did this," Berry said. "The biggest thing now is to find out who she is and get her back to her family."

He's gotten so close.

Racheal Dawn Hayson, a missing 16-year-old from Missouri, had a similar physical description but DNA samples and dental records didn't match.

That letdown came in March. Now, Berry is waiting for DNA from the mother of a missing Tupelo, Miss., girl named Leigh Marine Occhi.

The 13-year-old girl has been missing since 1992, when she was possibly abducted from her home in her nightshirt and green-and-yellow boxer shorts.

"Really and truly, that's the last (lead) I've got right now," Berry said.

It comes in bursts, said Berry.

Sometimes other agencies who see the posting on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children will call him, and sometimes an interested citizen phones in a tip.

Lauren Johnson, a social worker in Huntsville, has been trying to feed tips to Berry when she comes across a possible match.

Johnson heard about Jane Doe a few years after her body was found, and she hasn't been able to shake the thought of her.

She's even had dreams about Jane Doe, finally prompting her to set up a MySpace page in her honor.

"When I got out of college and got my first job, a lot my clients lived off Highway 53, and I had to drive past the site numerous times a week," she said. "Every time I would think of her."

10/28/2005 8:56:45 PM
Daily Journal 

If you have any information on unsolved cases, call CrimeStoppers at (800) 773-8477.

By DANZA JOHNSON


Daily JournaL


TUPELO - Capt. Bart Aguirre has been a Tupelo Police criminal investigator for 18 years. For most of those years, he's had the same question on his mind: "What happened to Leigh Occhi?"


Though Tupelo police have hundreds of unsolved cases, Aguirre said the Occhi mystery keeps calling to him. 


"It just was a weird set of circumstances," Aguirre said as he leaned forward in his chair, rubbing his forehead. "Aug. 27, 1992, Leigh Occhi's mother called and said she was missing. We went to her home and found a bloody gown and signs that a struggle took place, but there was no Leigh Occhi."


Thirteen years later, Aguirre said they're no closer to solving the case than when it happened. He said "cold cases" like this one can drive an investigator crazy.


"It's hard when a parent or loved one asks you how a case is going and you have nothing to tell them," Aguirre said. "It's something as an investigator you think about all the time."


Not forgotten


With police having to deal with new crimes every day, many people think the old ones are forgotten, but Aguirre said that's not true. He said all of Tupelo's cold cases are active. 


Lee County Sheriff Jim Johnson inherited five murder cold cases from the previous administration. Despite several leads and arrests on some of them, they remain unsolved.


"After a case goes a while without being solved, it takes a lot of luck to solve it," Johnson said. "Many factors can contribute to solving them. Sometimes people's attitudes change and they confess. Sometimes technology becomes more advanced, which leads to cases being solved. 


"It just takes one little piece to put the puzzle together," he said.

Puzzle pieces


Aguirre knows all too well how a missing piece can solve a puzzle, even if it's 13 years old.


In January 1998, Aguirre received a tip that the remains of John Edward Seals, a man police had been seeking for 13 years, were in the bottom of an Itawamba County well.


"Seals was last seen alive at the VA Hospital in Memphis," Aguirre said. "When he was reported missing, we found his car in a median in Belden.


"We had absolutely no clues for all that time until one day someone called and said we could find his remains in that well. We know all these cases are solvable; we just need that one piece of information to get the ball rolling," he said.

Cold Case Task Force


Because new crimes are committed every day, Aguirre and Johnson can't devote all their time to dealing with these old cases. Thanks to the Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, they don't have to. 


About 16 months ago, MBI created the Cold Case Task Force to assist local departments in investigating these cases. Johnson said he has sent some case information to its headquarters in Batesville.


Task force director Steve Chancellor said sometimes an outside agency can make all the difference in solving a case.


"When we come in and investigate a case, we get to look at it independently," Chancellor said. "We don't know any of the people involved, so we can look at the evidence without prejudice. Sometimes local officers know the area and the persons involved, which can cause them to overlook stuff."


Chancellor said often something was overlooked in the initial investigation that would've help in the case, but luck is still the best tool to solving a cold case.


"As we say in our business, I'd rather be lucky than good."


Aguirre is hoping for some of that luck in solving the Leigh Occhi case. 


"We just have to stick with it," he said. "Like I said, one little piece of evidence can break these cases; we just have to find that piece."


Lee County cold cases:

1996 - Susan Collier's body was found partially decomposed in a Brewer community field. Her mother had reported her missing. Clifton Benson was arrested and charged in connection with the crime, but was never indicted.

1997 - Shannon Police Chief Bobby Spencer was found in front of City Hall at 4:45 a.m. with a gunshot wound to the back of his head. No one was ever arrested for the murder, but according to a county official, a man who was a suspect was killed by a sheriff's deputy in Pontotoc County.

1999 - The bodies of Pamela Reid and her infant son, Brandon Gliatta, were found at the bottom of a lake in the Palmetto community. The child's father reported them missing. Charles Walters was arrested and charged in connection with murders, but was acquitted at trial.

2000 - Bill Mattox was found beaten in his home in Verona. He died in the hospital from injuries sustained during the assault. Benjamin Yancy was arrested in connection with Mattox's death but was never indicted.

2003 - Steve Duggar was found shot to death outside his residence. No one was ever arrested for his murder.

2003 - Wendy Benson was found shot to death in her home. No one was ever arrested for her murder.

Tupelo cold cases

1988 - Jennifer Jackson Floyd was last seen at her job at Hancock Fabrics, from which she had departed after receiving a phone call. Her car was found a block away from West Main Street and Coley Road. She left behind a 1-year-old daughter.

1992 - Leigh Occhi's mother reported her missing. When officers searched her home, they found blood on a gown and signs of a struggle. Her body was not found. Several people of interest were interviewed, but no one was arrested.



Appeared originally in the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, 10/29/2005 8:00:00 AM, section A , page 1 
Where is Leigh Occhi? Investigators still hoping to solve
Where is Leigh Occhi? Investigators still hoping to solve Tupelo teen's disappearance
By Michaela Gibson Morris
Daily Journal
Five years after the stormy day she disappeared, a Tupelo teen's fate remains a mystery.
Wednesday will mark the fifth anniversary of Leigh Occhi's disappearance from her Tupelo home. No body or sign of her whereabouts has ever been found.
In August 1992, she had just celebrated her 13th birthday. She was a thin, blonde teen-age girl due to begin eighth grade at the new Tupelo Middle School.
If she had not disappeared, Leigh Occhi might have graduated from Tupelo High School last spring and might be starting her first year of college this fall. Her 18th birthday fell on Thursday.
Tupelo Police and FBI investigators believe it's unlikely that Leigh Occhi is still alive.
"We won't be sure (Leigh is dead) until we find a body," Lt. Ronnie Thomas said. "After this period of time, the likelihood of her being alive is not great."
Leigh's father, Donald Occhi, who now lives in Phoenix, feels certain his daughter is dead.
"Most people (reported) missing that are not recovered within 72 hours are dead," said Occhi, who was stationed at a U.S. Army Base in Virginia when his daughter disappeared.
Leigh's mother, Vickie Felton of Tupelo, who reported her daughter missing, still holds out hope her daughter is alive.
"I'm not going to believe anything other than that unless there's proof," said Felton, who was separated from her husband Barney Yarborough at the time of her daughter's disappearance. She went back to her maiden name after the divorce was final about three years ago.
Although no arrests have been made in the Leigh Occhi case, for kidnapping or murder, investigators feel they know who is responsible.
"We have a suspect in this case," said Thomas, who is the investigator assigned to the case.
Without the discovery of Leigh's body, a murder prosecution would be extremely difficult.
"In the state of Mississippi, it is almost impossible to get a murder conviction without a body," Thomas said.
The most important piece of evidence a body would give investigators is its existence, said Will Booth, spokesman for the FBI field office. After five years, forensic evidence gathered from a body could be limited.
"What you do have with a body is a murder, not just a disappearance," Booth said.
Investigation continues
After five years, the Tupelo police and FBI investigations continue, but fresh leads are few and far between.
The case file is where Thomas can see it every day. It sits in a large cardboard box, having outgrown the accordion files Thomas uses for other big cases, on top of a file cabinet in his office.
Whenever information turns up about the Occhi case, it is given top priority, Tupelo Chief of Detectives Harold Chaffin said.
"Our expectations are a good deal less than they were five years ago, but we still have hope," Chaffin said. "We badly want to solve this case."
In cases where children are missing, parents are often suspected of playing a role in their disappearance. Because no suspects have been named publicly, some community suspicion has settled on Leigh's mother. Felton said she brushes it off as malicious gossip.
"I pay no attention to it," Felton said. "People talk about anything."
Felton, who recently returned to Tupelo after spending a year-and-a-half in Texas, said she has faith that the case of her daughter's disappearance will eventually be solved.
"We need to know," Felton said. "It's the only way this is going to have any peace. The uncertainty is unbelievable."
Donald Occhi is not optimistic the case will ever be solved or a suspect prosecuted. But he doesn't rule those possibilities out.
"Stranger things have happened," he said. "I think they could have solved it in the first three weeks."
Even though five years have elapsed, that doesn't mean the Occhi case will never be solved, Booth said.
"The passage of time doesn't mean we're not going to be able to solve the case," Booth said. "Sometimes, the passage of time can help."
The person responsible for Leigh's disappearance could begin to feel the prick of conscience, Booth said. When that happens, sometimes the person feels a need to confess their actions to someone else.
Another reason investigators keep cases like Leigh's open is that the perpetrator could strike again, Booth said.
A dark, stormy morning
The story of Leigh Occhi's disappearance begins on a dark and stormy morning. The remnants of Hurricane Andrew had brought heavy storms to Tupelo on Aug. 27, 1992.
Leigh's mother told police she became suspicious when she called home from work about 9 a.m. and no one answered the phone.
She rushed to the Honey Locust Drive residence and told police that the garage door was open.
Police found blood stains on carpet, on a bathroom counter top and some blood stains and hair on a door frame. Tests show all the blood was human, came from the same person and could match Leigh's blood type. The blood found was type O, and Leigh's type is either A or O.
Evidence gathered at the scene shows an attempt was made to get rid of the blood stains, Thomas said.
"Someone had tried to clean up some of the blood," Thomas said.
Evidence from the house was tested at the Mississippi State Crime Lab and the FBI Crime Lab in Quantico, Va. The police department also hired a forensic specialist from Hattiesburg to assist them in the investigation.
Leigh's disappearance touched off a series of searches by law enforcement officers and hundreds of volunteers who combed Tupelo and the surrounding areas looking for signs of the blonde teen.
As the hunt for Leigh continued into the fall, it became clear searchers expected to find a body, not a living child.
Donald Occhi traveled from Virginia and spent most of September 1992 searching with volunteers around the area for any sign of his daughter.
"I will always be grateful to the people of Tupelo for their support," he said.
On Sept. 11, Leigh's glasses were mailed to her family. The plain envelope had a Booneville postmark.
Investigators hoped it would provide a big break in the case, providing a fingerprint or DNA sample that would lead directly to the perpetrator.
Tests were performed on the stamp to determine if there was any genetic evidence left by someone licking the stamp, Thomas said. Investigators found that water had been used to attach it to the envelope, and no fingerprints were uncovered.
As months passed and the investigation uncovered no new evidence, some began looking for alternative ways to search for Leigh Occhi.
Vickie Felton hired a private investigator to follow up on the police investigation.
Donald Occhi worked with at least three psychics, hoping to find some clues to where his daughter's body could be found.
"Anybody who's had someone missing would do the same thing," Donald Occhi said. "You've got nothing to lose."
In addition to foot searches with psychics in March of 1993, aerial photos of Lee County were taken in August that year for a psychic to determine where Leigh's body was hidden.
"Anything they came up with, I chased without much success," Donald Occhi said.
False starts
Throughout the search for Leigh Occhi, several false leads gave investigators momentary hope that they had found the missing girl.
A week after Leigh disappeared, a Northeast Mississippi Community College student reported he saw Leigh Occhi at the Booneville McDonald's in a vehicle with a black man. Detectives tracked down the truck and driver and determined the girl was not Leigh Occhi.
Thomas theorizes the person responsible for Leigh's disappearance sent Leigh's glasses from Booneville because of the sighting.
Around Tupelo, rumors surfaced that Leigh's body had been found in a barn near her home. They were unfounded. Thomas said there is no evidence her body was ever in the barn.
In November 1993, investigators believed they might have found Leigh's body in a soybean field in northwest Monroe County. Although the body was initially identified as Leigh Occhi, further investigation revealed it was the body of Pollyanna Sue Keith, who had been missing since March of 1993.
Several teeth had been pulled out of the Keith body's skull, making identification difficult, Thomas said.
Grieving parents
The pain of losing a child is still fresh for Leigh's parents.
Donald Occhi said he wishes he could have spent more time with his oldest daughter.
"I had no place to send the flowers," said Donald Occhi of Leigh's 18th birthday on Thursday.
Felton said she still looks at dresses and imagines how Leigh would look in them.
"I think about all the things we've done together," Felton said.




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