In 1997, a year after losing her mother, Leah Toby Roberts was involved in a car accident that left her hospitalized.
During her recovery she revealed to her older sister that having survived the collision, she felt born again.
A year later, her father succumbed to the lung disease that he had been battling throughout Leah’s childhood and died.
Feeling as though she had been given a second chance at life, Leah decided to experience the world, and take a break from her studies at North Carolina State University to travel to Costa Rica.
She would never complete her education and dropped out with only six months left until graduation.
Instead, she frequented coffee houses, scribbled philosophy and poetry in her journals, practiced guitar and developed an interest in photography.
Much like Chris McCandless before her, who walked into the Alaskan Wilderness in 1992, Roberts found herself mostly conversing with her room mates and new found friends on the topic of Jack Kerouac inspired road trips to the west.
Leah was last seen on March 9th 2000.
She was officially reported missing March 12th.
A search of her room found clothes missing as well as Leah’s kitten, Bea.
There was a note left on her dresser that said:
“I’m not suicidal. I’m the opposite.”
Along with more mentions of Kerouac, enough money to cover her rent and utilities for a month and a drawing of a Cheshire cat smile.
Checking her bank accounts turned up the following information:
-On the 9th of March, Leah withdrew several thousand dollars.
-She charged one night’s stay at a hotel in Tennessee to her debit card along with gas and food, suggesting that she ended up in California.
The activity on her bank account ended on the 13th of March in Oregon.
A tip off from one of Leah’s coffee shop frequenting friends revealed that they had conversed about “The Dharma bums” and that Leah had mentioned how she’d like to visit Desolation peak, in Washington, where the friend had previously worked and felt inspired by.
Her sister, feeling that she understood Leah’s intentions and believing that she would return, took a sigh of relief and returned to her usual schedule.
Days later, Leah’s white ’93 Jeep Cherokee was discovered in a remote area in Washington, however without her inside.
Early morning joggers found her clothing strewn by the side of the road, some garments wrapped around trees. Peering over the steep embankment they noticed the Jeep with a parting of trees leading down to it.
The vehicle looked as though it had flipped and rolled over, however there were no signs of human injury, such as blood. There was also seemingly no presence of a passenger, leading some to believe that it looked like a staged crash scene.
Although the Jeep appeared to have been lived in post-crash, valuable items such as $2,500 in cash, jewelry, documents such as Leah’s passport and bank book remained behind.
Evidence of her kitten being present on the journey was also in the vehicle, but the kitten itself was never found.
A box of road trip mementos lead investigators to a restaurant in a nearby town where two men claimed to remember Leah and one attested that she’d left with a man named “Barry” and that she had been telling the men about her plans and situation.
She hasn’t been seen since.