Leah Peebles is an endangered missing
adult. She was last seen by friends in Albuquerque, New Mexico on May 22,
2006. Attached are two flyers. Leah is listed with the Albuquerque Police
department, the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) - FBI Information
Systems and the National Center for Missing Adults.
Here are a few links for Leah -
A very intense article written September
15th, 2007 - http://www.abqtrib.com/
Two MySpace Pages -
From Leah's Mother -
From Leah's Father -
Leah's Pjotobucket Albumn -
Leah's National Center For Missing Adults
John Peebles handed over a lovely picture of his daughter - smiling, shining, hopeful. It was the most recent photo he could provide of Leah Peebles, 24.
Albuquerque police Detective Ida Lopez placed it on her pile, another face among the hundreds reported missing in May 2006.
Clean-looking young woman. Petite. Pretty. Pale.
That's not at all what Leah Peebles likely looks like now.
That's hard for a dad to hear.
Leah has become the most recent addition to Lopez's "girls" - a select group of 16 women who were last seen alive in Albuquerque and whose cases, all reported since 2001, are distinguished by the combination of prostitution, drug addiction and, probably, a miserable anonymity.
That's hard for a dad to hear, too.
But John Peebles is willing to hear more; willing to hear anything just to know Leah is alive.
"Not knowing is the hardest part," he said. "Even if I hear her say `I hate your guts,' that's fine. Call us and tell us that you hate us. We believe she's in a position where she can't (call) or whoever has her isn't allowing her."
It's possible, Lopez said, that Leah has found herself with a violent pimp and can't make a connection with her family. Some girls, the detective adds, have had run-ins with some nasty men, and she suspects some might still be in such situations.
It's also possible that Leah hitched a ride with a trucker to El Paso or California or some unknown town.
"This is a highly transient population," said Lopez's supervisor, Lt. Beth Paiz.
It's also possible Leah is dead. Lopez asks for DNA samples from the families of missing women, which are kept on hand for comparison to Jane Doe bodies found anywhere in the nation. Suspicion of foul play is listed on nearly all missing persons reports involving these women, because of what Lopez says is a high-risk lifestyle.
John Peebles winces at this grim range of fates, left to only wonder which one has consumed his daughter.
But he refuses to wait for a terrible phone call.
Instead, Peebles and his wife, Leah's mother Sharon, traveled to Albuquerque from their home in Forth Worth, Texas, earlier this week. It was the family's sixth trip to search the city's streets for their daughter.
Neither Leah nor her parents seem to fit there.
After all, Leah grew up in a middle-class neighborhood. The couple - dad, a helicopter mechanic; mom, a homemaker and florist - have been married for 28 years.
Sharon Peebles kept Leah sheltered, but she couldn't keep the world from intruding in a vicious way. Family members say Leah was molested by a distant relative while a young child. She was sexually attacked at the age of 14, her parents said, by an acquaintance.
At that point, the parents said, Leah's future was bruised, if not broken.
In that way, Lopez said, she shares a similarity with other missing women, almost all of whom survived some sort of assault and then became involved with drugs and alcohol.
The wholesome-looking, blonde cheerleader started using drugs, harder and more potent ones as her high school years progressed. When Leah was 18, her parents sent her to a Christian counseling camp. But fresh out of rehab and back at home in Fort Worth, she relapsed into addiction.
With hope that new surroundings would mean a new beginning, Leah moved to Albuquerque with some family friends.
Though a skilled hairstylist, Leah pursued a job at the Flying Star restaurant in Nob Hill, where she fit in with young bohemians and funky hipsters.
"When I left her (in Albuquerque) last May, we had a great parting. She was in good spirits and things were good between us," John Peebles said.
Two weeks later, she didn't return from a date and had slipped into the city's shadows.
On May 22, the father contacted Lopez, the Police Department's dedicated, albeit only, missing person's detective.
Lopez helped them put together a missing person's flier using the picture John Peebles provided of Leah with highlighted light brown hair, clear bright skin and a shiny-lipped smile.
APD receives about 125 reports a month on adults who are reported missing. Most turn up on their own, having been on a binge or an adventure. Lopez contacts many who say they don't want to be found for whatever reason and don't want their families to know.
She tells concerned family, including the Peebles family, that this might be the case with Leah.
John and Sharon don't want to hear it. They want to find their daughter and bring her home.
But the the group of women Lopez calls "my girls" are especially problematic in tracking down.
They've been handed a "hard lot in life" and live their life hard, she said.
Some are from families who don't know how to care enough to report them missing and then follow through with updates, DNA samples and other information.
Clearly, that does not describe the Peebles family. They've dedicated a MySpace.com page to Leah and their own MySpace pages to pleas for help. They've written to Albuquerque police Chief Ray Schultz and city councilors and Mayor Martin Chavez.
Of the missing women in Lopez's group, only two others, Darlene Trujillo and Evelyn Salazar, have had family members reach out to the community for help.
Families often find it hard to believe their missing loved one is involved with prostitution and drugs.
But Lopez knows otherwise. Credible tips often lead her to local truck stops, where women sell sex for drugs. Some of those women tell the detective they've seen Leah.
On Tuesday, Sharon and John Peebles prayed - then hit the spots that have turned up good leads in the past: homeless shelters, a truck stop, the area around Expo New Mexico.
They handed out T-shirts they made up with a big picture of Leah and their cell phone number.
"In case someone doesn't want to call police," Sharon Peebles said.
"She's not in trouble; she is well loved. We just want to tell her we love her," the mother said to a group of homeless people gathered around her at St. Martin's Hospitality Center Downtown looking at the T-shirts she's passing out.
One well-spoken, semi-toothless woman named Beth said she recognized the girl on the T-shirt.
"Those eyes. Those eyes look familiar," Beth told Sharon.
The woman thinks she saw Leah near Central Avenue and Wyoming Boulevard. The Peebles family has come to know the tip well; the intersection is well-known for prostitution and drug availability.
One man at the TA Travel Center truck stop near the Big-I told the Peebles he recognized Leah from a cafe in El Paso.
A believable tip?
Hard to say. John and Sharon, from a comfortable life in the shelter of a Christian community, aren't sure what to believe.
The father's tenderness and desperation have been easily recognized by those on the streets; in his first few trips to Albuquerque, he was an easy mark for the drug addicts and homeless people he was mining for information.
"One guy said he hit her in the neck with a shot of heroine and that she was under the bridge," he said, remembering one of his first trips to Albuquerque. He gave the man $30.
"Your heart," he said, "goes pitter-pattering."
Peebles went crawling under the foul-smelling bridge. No Leah.
Other possible sightings have seemed more reasonable. One prostitute told him that she recognized the girl in the picture and that she had cut her hair.
The father said he knew that tip was real.
A group of tips pointed to the possibility that Leah was with a violent pimp.
Peebles spent that night on a previous trip in a nearby hotel dozing off behind a pair of binoculars watching for a glimpse of his baby girl wandering between the semis.
On Friday, John and Sharon tracked down leads they got from a methadone clinic where a client said they knew Leah as "Pebbles" and that she's often seen at a 7-Eleven in Nob Hill.
They walked the nearby streets Friday, peeking in yards and talking to countless strangers.
John and Sharon said they vow to "exhaust every avenue until we have no more to exhaust."
Lopez, too, is putting force behind finding Leah and her other girls.
She said she believes Leah has surfaced to law enforcement twice.
Shortly after she was reported missing, Lopez was driving near Candelaria Road and Fourth Street Northwest when she saw a young woman walking. Though the girl did not look like the Leah in the picture provided by her father, Lopez's instinct told her to check the girl out.
By the time she made the U-turn, the girl was gone.
Lopez later acquired more pictures from the family, including a mug shot from Leah's 2006 arrest in Fort Worth on drug charges.
"That was her. I know it was," Lopez said. "That's why I always tell them (the reporting person) that it's not a judgment call but I need the right information."
John Peebles now has provided more pictures. Leah's hairstyling skills are obvious in her many looks - some with a modest bob, others with short spiked black or red hair.
It was likely one of the grungier looks that Albuquerque police noticed in a prostitute they stopped this February or March near Central and Wyoming.
"She didn't have any drugs on her and she was on her own," Lopez said, adding that she told the family that Leah doesn't seem under someone's control during their trip earlier this week.
That possibility allays some fears for the Peebles family, who've fretted over the idea that their daughter is being hurt by someone who won't let her go.
It also kills a bit of hope. If Leah were under someone's control, then there is a reason she hasn't called her parents. If she's on her own, her unwillingness to communicate becomes more confusing - and heartbreaking.
The search has strained the Peebles family bank account, their bodies and their time. They walk the streets of a foreign city, wondering, wishing, hoping for that one miraculous glance of the girl they love.
"She probably thinks we're better off not knowing, less trouble to us," Sharon Peebles said, rifling through a a new batch of missing persons posters. "But that's not true. Being in the dark is what we can't deal with."
"We're starting to come to terms with that, that she might not want to be found," John Peebles said.
It's a hard fact for him to hear. It's even harder because he's the one saying it.