On the morning of the 27th of August 1992, thirteen-year-old Leigh was left at home, 105 Honey Locust Drive in Tupelo, Mississippi, alone whilst her mother, Vickie Felton, left for work at approximately 8:00am.
Leigh planned to visit an open day at a middle school that day with her grandmother.
Not long after arriving at work, Vickie was notified that a storm-related to Hurricane Andrew was heading towards Tupelo. Vickie phoned her house to warn Leigh, but when no one answered the phone, Vickie became worried and drove back to her house to check on her daughter.
When she returned home, Vickie found the garage door open and the light on. When she went into the house, Vickie found blood smeared on the wall. After seeing this, she started to call for Leigh all throughout the house. When she reached her bedroom, Leigh’s favourite blanket was all crumpled up on the floor. Vickie then immediately called 911, it was approximately 9:00am.
When police arrived to search the house, they found more puddles of blood in the hallway, Leigh’s bedroom, the bathroom, and her bedroom door. The blood found in the bathroom suggested that whoever was responsible for Leigh’s disappearance had tried to clean up the blood. There was no forced entry into the house.
Vickie claimed that some of her daughter’s clothing was missing. Upon searching a laundry basket in the house, detectives discovered a blood-stained nightgown that belonged to Leigh. Tupelo Police Chief Bart Aguirre said that “Because it looked like the blood had dripped down onto her nightgown, you would think the injury had to be above the neck possibly.”
Leigh’s disappearance sparked huge searches around Tupelo and the wooded areas, but all of these searches did not yield any results.
Leigh’s father, Donald Occhi, was living in Germany at the time of her disappearance. He was also divorced from Leigh’s mother, Vickie. Donald’s theory is that some “bastard” beat Leigh to death in the house that morning.
Donald also said that whilst he was searching for Leigh, he was told by many of the locals to “look at her mother.” Donald said that he didn’t know if Vickie was involved in Leigh’s disappearance or not.
There were also rumours that Leigh’s stepfather, Barney Yarborough, who Vickie had recently separated from, had been abusive towards Leigh. However, Barney was able to provide police with a strong alibi and passed a polygraph exam, so he was ruled out as a suspect by officials.
On September 9th, a package containing Leigh’s glasses was sent to her home at Honey Locust drive. The package was addressed to Barney Yarborough. The package was postmarked from Booneville.
The FBI was called in to investigate the package. After doing DNA testing, they found that the stamps had been attached to the envelope using water rather than saliva. Police Chief Bart Aguirre said that he felt the glasses were sent as more of a distraction; “You would think if it was an actual kidnapping, you would have expected a little more to come along with that.”
After Barney had been cleared, Vickie was interviewed three separate times. She was interviewed once by the local police, and twice by the FBI.
Independent examiners have said that she showed deception in all three interviews.
In 2017, Police Chief Bart Aguirre said that Vickie is still 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?“
Vickie has disputed that she had any involvement in Leigh’s disappearance. Vickie has openly said that she thinks a man named Oscar McKinley “Mike” Keams was the one behind Leigh’s kidnapping.
Nine months after Leigh went missing, Keams kidnapped a ninth-grade girl that he met at a Tupelo Church and then raped her in Memphis, Tennessee. He was sentenced to over 8 years in jail, but he got out after serving just only half of his sentence and was released in 1997. He then went on to kidnap a couple and rape the woman and was convicted of rape and kidnapping in 1999.
As of 2022, Leigh still remains a missing person. She has never been found.
Leigh Marine Occhi, Tupelo, Mississippi, 1992, the 1990s, Suspected Foul Play, Missing Child Case, Unsolved Missing Child Case, Still Missing, Missing Child, Missing Person, True Crime, Real Crime