There’s nothing that peaks my interest and drives me insane than unsolved disappearances. How can a person just vanish into thin air? Here are the five cases that have stuck with me the most.
5. Leigh Occhi
In August of 1992, Tropical Storm Andrew was bearing down on Tupelo, Mississippi. Because of the impending storm, Vickie Felton called her eighth-grade daughter Leigh Occhi from work around 9:00 a.m. to check on her. There was no answer. Vickie rushed home to check on Leigh, but she arrived home to find the garage door open and blood smeared in the hallway and carpet. She also found a bloody nightgown that was in the laundry hamper. There were no signs of forced entry. Leigh Occhi was never seen again.
Weird, right? It gets weirder. Weeks later, Leigh’s stepdad received a mail package containing Leigh’s glasses. There were no fingerprints or saliva on the packaging. But it was postmarked in Booneville, a nearby town.
Leigh’s stepfather is convinced that her mother is responsible for her disappearance. But Vickie believes the culprit was a Sunday school teacher who used the same stable where Leigh kept her horse. He had also been convicted of abducting and assaulting a 15-year-old girl. He died in 2021, but no conclusive evidence ever linked him to Leigh’s disappearance.
Brandon Swanson was a 19-year-old college student at Minnesota West Community and Technical College in 2008. After a night of celebrating the end of the semester, he left the town of Canby in his car to go home to his parents home in Marshall, Minnesota. On the way, he drove his car into a ditch.
This is where it gets weird. Brandon called his parents to ask them to come pick him up. His parents headed in the direction that Brandon said he was located, but they never found him. Both Brandon and his parents flashed their headlights as a signal but neither saw the other.
Brandon finally decided to walk to the lights he could see in the distance, which he believed was the town of Lynd, Minnesota. He asked his parents to go to the parking lot of a bar there to wait on him. They remained on the phone with Brandon.
Around 2:30 a.m., Brandon abruptly said “Oh, shit!” He never said anything else and the call disconnected. By the next morning, his parents reported him missing. They found Brandon’s car some 25 miles or more away from Lynd, no where near where he told his parents he was.
One theory is that Brandon fell into the Yellow Medicine River and drowned, but there’s no real evidence of this and his body has never been recovered.
3. Maura Murray
21-year-old University of Massachusetts nursing student Maura Murray disappeared after wrecking her car in New Hampshire in 2004. Before this disappearance, Maura had been in some trouble. She used a stolen credit card to buy food. The week she disappeared, she broke down in tears at her job as campus-security according to her supervisor. Maura wouldn’t say what was wrong. Only, “My sister.” A few days later, Maura borrowed her dad’s Toyota Corolla and drove to a dorm party before hitting a guardrail causing damage to his father’s car.
On February 9, 2004, Maura emailed her work supervisor saying that she would be out of town for the next week due to a death in the family. No such death occurred. Maura loaded her car with clothes, toiletries, her textbooks, and birth control pills. She withdrew all of her money at an ATM, which was $280, and then purchased a trunk full of alcohol.
That night Maura drove her car into a snowbank in Woodsville, New Hampshire. She told a passerby that she had already called AAA for help but the man knew that was a lie because there was no cell service. So he went home and called police. By the time cops arrived, Maura was gone leaving her car behind. Also missing were Maura’s debit and credit cards, cell phone, and some of the liquor. None of this has ever been recovered and no one ever used the cell phone or cards.
That’s really all we know about this disappearance. Theories abound though. Check out The Disappearance of Maura Murray on Oxygen for more of that.
2. Sneha Philip
Sneha Philip, a physician living in New York City, was last seen on September 10, 2001, only one day before the infamous attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Sneha had lunch with her husband Ron Lieberman who was also a doctor that day before cleaning their apartment and doing some shopping. Sneha wasn’t home when her husband came in from work that night, but this wasn’t unusual. He wasn’t concerned until 8:45 that morning when the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
He called Sneha several times but there was no answer. By the time Ron got home, their apartment building was locked up and Sneha wasn’t there. The last known sighting of Sneha was on September 10 when she was captured on security footage shopping at department store near the World Trade Center.
Officially, Sneha’s date of death was September 10, 2001, so she is not considered a victim of the 9/11 attack. However, police believe that she was killed either in the attack or in the aftermath. Sneha’s family, on the other hand, thinks she was murdered.
Last seen on November 13, 2009, Christina Whittaker disappeared in Hannibal, Missouri. Christina’s mother Cindy believes that Christina is a victim of human trafficking. Here’s what we know.
Christina went out to Rookie’s Sports Bar that night before being kicked out and then being kicked out of another bar. A family friend who was a bartender at another bar, spotted Christina on her phone. This friend says that it looked like Christina was arguing with someone. Then, she ran out the back door of the bar in tears. That’s the last time anyone has ever seen her.
Her cell phone was found on the sidewalk the next morning near the stretch of bars, but it wasn’t turned over to police immediately and nothing of note was found on it. She wasn’t reported missing until more than 24 hours after her disappearance.
The suspect who received the most scrutiny was Darcy “Bookie” Morris, a known violent offender and drug dealer. Her mother believes that Christina got into his car on the night of her disappearance, but Morris denies this allegation. Also complicating the story is Christina’s involvement in drugs, possibly being a police informant, and her alleged sexual relationships with several Hannibal police officers.
If you want to learn more, I highly recommend the documentary Relentless on Discovery+. It’s a wild ride from start to finish.