Leigh Occhi

Leigh Marine Occhi also called Leigh Occhi (born August 21, 1979) disappeared as a teenager on August 27, 1992, under mysterious circumstances at her home in Tupelo, Mississippi, during Hurricane Andrew. Her mother, Vickie Felton, found Occhi missing and evidence of blood in the house when she returned home that morning.

Search efforts around Tupelo were unsuccessful. On September 9, 1992, Occhi’s eyeglasses were mailed to her home in an envelope addressed to her ex-stepfather, which law enforcement considered a tactic to mislead detectives. In November 1993, a human skull found in a soybean field was mistakenly identified as Occhi’s but was later confirmed to belong to an adult woman from a nearby town.

Despite extensive searches, Occhi’s whereabouts are still unknown. Her case has been featured on Nancy Grace, 20/20, and in an in-depth podcast produced in 2017.

Timeline

Background

Leigh Marine Occhi was born on August 21, 1979, in Honolulu, Hawaii, to Donald Occhi and Vickie Felton, who were both in the United States Army. The couple met while serving in California and married in 1977. They divorced in 1981, after which Donald Occhi moved to Germany but stayed in touch with his daughter, who visited him there. Leigh lived in the United States with her mother, eventually settling in Tupelo, Mississippi.

Disappearance

On the morning of August 27, 1992, 13-year-old Leigh Occhi was left at her home at 105 Honey Locust Drive in Tupelo when her mother left for work around 8:00 a.m. Leigh had planned to attend an open house at her middle school that day with her grandmother. At the time, her father lived in Virginia.

Shortly after arriving at her office, Vickie Felton was informed that a storm related to Hurricane Andrew was heading toward Tupelo. She called home to warn her daughter sometime before 9:00 a.m., but Leigh did not answer.

Worried, Felton left work and drove about 1.5 miles back to her house. Upon arriving, she found the garage door open and the light on. Inside the house, she saw blood smeared on the wall. “I started calling for Leigh and going through all the rooms,” Felton said. “Then I went into her bedroom. Her favorite blanket was crumpled up on the floor and I was very scared.” Felton called 9-1-1 at approximately 9:00 a.m.

Investigation

Initial Search Efforts:

Further inspection of the house by law enforcement revealed additional pools of blood in Leigh Occhi’s upstairs bedroom, as well as significant smears in the hallway, bathroom, and on her bedroom door. The blood in the bathroom suggested that someone had tried to clean the scene.

Felton reported that several articles of her daughter’s clothing were missing. Detectives found a bloodied nightgown belonging to Occhi in a laundry hamper.

Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre noted, “Because it looked like the blood had dripped down onto her nightgown, you would think the injury had to be above the neck possibly.” There were no signs of forced entry into the house.

Immediately after Occhi’s disappearance, organized searches were conducted around Tupelo, mainly in wooded areas, but they were unsuccessful. Occhi’s father, Donald, believed his daughter “was dead the day my ex-wife called me and told me she was missing. My theory is that some bastard beat that child to death in that house.”

While searching for his daughter in Tupelo in September 1992, several locals suggested he “look at her mother,” though he was already considering that possibility. Rumors also circulated that Occhi’s stepfather, Barney Yarborough—whom her mother had recently separated from—was abusive toward Occhi. However, law enforcement ruled him out after he provided a substantiated alibi and passed a polygraph examination.

Mailing of Eyeglasses:

On September 4, 1992, eight days after Leigh Occhi went missing, a McDonald’s worker in Booneville reported seeing a girl resembling Occhi in a car at the drive-through, but this child was later determined to be someone else.

Five days later, on September 9, a package containing Occhi’s glasses was mailed to the Honey Locust Drive residence, addressed to her stepfather, Barney Yarborough. The package was postmarked from Booneville. After this development, the FBI joined the search for Occhi and conducted DNA testing on the stamps used on the envelope. However, it was determined that the stamps had been adhered with water, not saliva.

Police Chief Bart Aguirre believed the glasses were mailed to mislead investigators, stating, “There was no ransom letter or anything like that that came with those glasses. 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.”

Erroneous Attribution of Remains:

On November 9, 1993, the Jackson Clarion-Ledger reported that a Monroe County coroner had confirmed via dental records that a human skull found in a soybean field was that of Leigh Occhi. However, this identification was retracted several days later.

The state medical examiner then conducted further forensic testing on the skull, which had been found by a farmer in a ditch along the soybean field. It was subsequently determined that the skull belonged to Pollyanna Sue Keith, a 27-year-old woman who had gone missing in March 1993.

Subsequent developments

After Yarborough passed his polygraph examination, Vickie Felton underwent three separate polygraph tests—one with local law enforcement and two with the FBI. Independent examiners indicated she showed deception on all of them. In 2017, Chief Aguirre stated that Felton remained a person of interest: “You still can’t eliminate her.

There are still too many unanswered questions for Vickie, and I don’t know if that is unusual for somebody to go off to work and say, well I just left Leigh but I’m going to call and check on her. Why check on her that soon after she just left her?”

Felton denies any involvement in her daughter’s disappearance and has openly stated that she believes a man named Oscar McKinley “Mike” Kearns was responsible for her daughter’s kidnapping. Kearns was convicted in 1999 for kidnapping a couple and raping the woman. Nine months after Occhi disappeared, he kidnapped a ninth-grade girl he had met through a Tupelo church, raping her in Memphis, Tennessee.

For this latter crime, Kearns was sentenced to over eight years in prison but served only half of his sentence. He was released in 1997, before committing the kidnapping and rape that led to his subsequent conviction.

Publicity

Leigh Occhi’s disappearance has been covered by Nancy Grace and featured on the Geraldo Rivera Show and 20/20. In 2017, her case was the focus of a six-episode podcast titled “13: The Search for Leigh Occhi.” The case has also been discussed on true crime podcasts such as Crime Junkie, The Trail Went Cold, Big Mad True Crime, and Going West.

This article uses material from the Wikipedia article Disappearance of Leigh Occhi, which is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

By admin

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *