Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bellingham, Washington

We left Burlington relaxed with the knowledge that we had the rest of the day to ourselves. We had things to do in Bellingham but the next official event wasn't until the following morning. We arrived happy to see a NICE motel. Kara and Holly were there waiting for us, and soon we were joined by the detective in Leah's case. Leah Roberts was 23 when she went missing while on a cross country trip. She left Raleigh North Carolina on 3-9-00. Her wrecked car was found 9 days later on Mount Baker. Leah is the inspiration for our road tour. The first tour was taken to bring awareness to her case, with stops in all the places she had been on her journey.

We all piled into the detective's car and he took us to see Leah's vehicle. 12 long years have passed since they first took possession. Kara, Leah's sister, and the detective discussed various things regarding the car, with the rest of us listening quietly. I had earlier asked if they wanted all of us along on today's events, they seemed private to me. I couldn't help but think of Matt's truck, and how I would feel seeing it. That's when I understood, these are the people you want with you. This is a group that gets the magnitude of what is occurring. Afterward, the detective took us to lunch at a nice restaurant with magnificent water views. It was encouraging to see how invested he was in Leah's case. When he dropped us back at the motel we all got into the van for the ride up Mount Baker to the spot where Leah's car had been found. But in the end, the road was blocked off about 2 miles from where the car went off the road and onto the mountain. We attempted to walk it, knowing that it would soon be getting dark, but the bear threat became too real when Holly found fresh droppings. I was upset, not so much for the rest of us, although I would have liked to put a visual with all that I had heard, but for Kara. She hasn't been here in awhile since she lives in North Carolina, and I'm sure it is a place that will always be important to her. I often visit the canal that took Mathew from me. I find solace there and I find myself drawn there pretty much every time I'm down that way.

The next morning we had a meeting at the police station prior to the press conference. The office was full of law enforcement when we arrived. The sheriff was there along with the D.A. and a few others who were sitting around a large conference table. Three of the men there had been on Leah's case since the beginning. We got specifics about the vehicle's recovery from the first officer on the scene. At one point he apologized for not knowing it was a missing person case, for assuming it was just someone who ran off the road. I found it refreshing to hear him be so truthful. Another told us all about the search efforts that have gone on at the mountain. I know how important this information was to Monica, watching as she questioned him on all the specifics. Everyone seemed so willing to share information, to answer all Kara's questions. So many families do not receive this from their police departments. They asked questions also, probing Kara's memories of Leah from that time so long ago. I believe we all came away from that meeting with new information. I believe it was a very positive experience for all in attendance. I believe that this department wants very much to close Leah's case. I believe that for many of them it is the one "cold" case that stays with them. I believe that meeting Kara, seeing how much she looks like Leah, putting family in front of them can only toughen their resolve.
Elisa Stirling

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