In-depth report on Leigh Occhi

The Criminal Report Daily blog is doing a four-part series on the 1992 disappearance of thirteen-year-old Leigh Marine Occhi. They’re up to part III now, but I just found it today.

Part III says Leigh’s mother flunked three polygraph tests. I have some doubts about the value of polygraphs, but I also have some doubts about Leigh’s mom. Reason: Leigh’s glasses mysteriously arrived in the mail at her house a few weeks after she went missing. There was nothing else in the envelope and no further communications came. That doesn’t make any sense. If someone had abducted and/or killed Leigh and wanted to taunt her family, a letter would have been better. The eyeglasses thing sounds very much like someone close to Leigh harmed her and wanted to throw the police off the scent. John Douglas, in one of his books, talks about a very similar case where a missing girl’s mother received the child’s mitten in the mail. It turned out Mom had killed the child.

I’m not saying I believe Leigh’s mother killed her daughter. I am just wondering. It appears to have been quite a brutal attack, bloodstains everywhere. It doesn’t sound like something a woman would have done, and there’s no mention of any trouble in their relationship, prior abuse incidents, etc. It doesn’t make sense. But nothing about this case makes sense.

28 thoughts on “In-depth report on Leigh Occhi

  1. Cheryl July 29, 2009 / 7:21 pm

    Very sad story. I too find myself wondering about the mother. Seems a little odd that someone tried to clean up in the bathroom. Perhaps they were washing themself?

    Maybe Leigh and her mother got into an argument, Leigh some how got pushed/shoved/slammed into the door frame then fell on the floor in the hall bleeding? Then maybe mom took her body someone where, disposed of it and brought back the stained night gown?

    Im not big on polygraphs either but to fail 3 times? Just seems a wee bit suspicious to me.

  2. Sandra July 30, 2009 / 2:08 am

    When I read the Anatomy of Motive I wasn’t clear on whether or not the Singer case was hypothetical. Still, the glasses are troubling. (And even if the other case was hypothetical, John Douglas most likely drew on past cases to create it). Also, the simple fact that she was polygraphed three times indicates that the results were taken with a grain of salt, so the testing wasn’t grossly mishandled as it sometimes is with people like Tom Cummins.

  3. Emily July 30, 2009 / 2:15 am

    Then again, she took the test 3 times willingly, so maybe she was just dumbfounded that she kept failing it when she knew she was innocent, so she kept trying.
    Not that I’m saying she’s innocent – she could very well be involved, I don’t know – just that I don’t put much stock in polygraphs. I’ve always said I’d probably fail one whether I was innocent or guilty, because I have such a nervous personality. I’m the type of person who over-thinks things and comes up with far-fetched reasons why she’s indirectly responsible for things she had nothing to do with, so I could easily come up guilty.

  4. Sandra July 30, 2009 / 3:33 am

    I would have a hard time believing that the mother personally did the (assumed) killing. The report suggests that the cause of death would have been blunt force trauma, and you rarely, if ever, hear of a mother suddenly lashing out with that kind of force. On the other hand, it strikes me as a bit bizarre that she was apparently killed in her home and the body was then removed. Typically, it seems that victims of strangers are either abducted and then killed elsewhere or killed in the home and left there. Going by these admittedly broad assumptions, I doubt that she actually perpetrated the crime, but wouldn’t rule out the possibility that she was complicit.

    One thing I think could potentially influence my ultimate decision if I were investigating would be the condition of the glasses. (And this may in fact be the evidence they haven’t released.) Assuming for a moment that Leigh’s mother’s story is true, the fact that the glasses were missing from the house suggests that Leigh was wearing them when the intruder removed her from the home and she was therefore probably wearing them during the assault. If this were the case, the glasses would have been pretty mangled and bloodied. (I once fainted while wearing my glasses and one of the handles snapped clean off, so one can imagine what a typical pair of glasses would look like after blunt force trauma sufficient to kill its wearer.) Which is not to say that mangled glasses would exonerate anyone. But if they were in good condition, that would be a definite red flag.

    • Meaghan July 30, 2009 / 10:35 am

      It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to kill Leigh in the house and then hide her body, and this is unusual. It does happen, however. Ted Bundy did this with Lynda Ann Healy — beat her to death in her bed and went away with her body.

      I don’t know what condition the glasses were in when they were found, but you are right, they would probably have been broken if she was wearing them when she was attacked.

      • Cheryl August 1, 2009 / 12:15 pm

        Yes but of the mother did do it, it would make sense to move the body. It makes it look like an intruder came in and took her. Had the body been left there the police would have much more eveidence to work with. The “clean up” in the bathroom makes me suspect mom even more. No intruder would take time to clean up.

  5. emma l July 30, 2009 / 11:47 am

    Re: the glasses thing I notice that she does not wear her glasses in any of the photos I have seen and is described as having “lazy eye”- which is what I had as a kid. I hardly ever wore my glasses, so she may not have been wearing them. Its possible that an intruder broke in, attacked her and took her glasses which were lying about, along with her missing undergarments etc as a kind of sick momento. I mean its unlikely, but its possible. Also- if I read the article correctly the police didn’t start looking hard at the mother until AFTER she received the glasses back in the post- so if she was trying to throw them off, it had the opposite effect. Surely anyone who knew Leigh knew she wore glasses? So by that reckoning anyone that knew her could have sent them back in the post and been responsible for her disappearance. Anyone that would do this to a child has to be pretty disturbed anyway, so the fact that it doesnt make any sense is irrelevant.

    Finally- the Detective said it was a small window for the attack- so say an hour, an hour and a half and Leighs mother called the 1st time and didn’t get an answer. First of all I think this is more than enough time to attack a young girl and start to clean up. The Detective is presuming that the attack had taken place in that time. But of course it could have been taking place as she was calling. It didnt need to be over by then. That gives the attacker maybe another 10 minutes- so that takes it to maybe an hour 40 to attack and clean up. The phone ringing may well have been a warning to any attacker to get out of there fast- hence the quick and messy clean up.

    Just playing Devils Advocate. The mother doesn’t feel right to me. I don’t know why. And lie detectors give inaccurate results all the time- thats why they are not admissible in court.

    • Meaghan July 30, 2009 / 12:57 pm

      You do have a point there. However I would like to point out that I am pretty badly nearsighted and need to wear glasses to see in everyday life, but I often take them off in photos as I think I look better without them.

      It’s possible, but only just, that Leigh was attacked wearing the glasses and somehow they were undamaged. The man who attacked me punched me twice in the face and bloodied my nose but didn’t break my glasses or even knock them off. But then again, he was deliberately trying not to really hurt me or leave marks.

      • emma l July 30, 2009 / 3:38 pm

        He punched you in the face? Total scum. A question I ask mysefl everyday “what the h*ll is wrong with people?”

        So many unanswered questions about Leigh. I think we all agree that I do the glasses are a big clue. Why send them back? No idea at all.

  6. emma l July 30, 2009 / 11:50 am

    Also- I am with Cheryl that the attacker was more likely trying to clean themselves up and maybe Leigh (who was possibly still alive, if not badly injured,unconscious) so he could carry her to whatever transport he had waiting and not attract too much attention.

  7. Sandra July 30, 2009 / 10:49 pm

    Now that you mention it, the possibility that the ringing phone frightened the attacker off seems very likely (especially if the light on the garage door opener was still flashing). I will say that nothing about the mother’s story, taken on its own, strikes me as especially suspicious, and it is a definite possibility that her awareness of how chillingly close she came to actually crossing paths with the perpetrator influenced the results of the polygraphs. I must admit, the main reason I’m suspicious of her is the glasses. And even then, part of the reason I’m so interested in them in the first place is that returning the glasses badly damaged could be a sadistic taunt that would probably be more visceral than a letter. But this is, of course, all armchair sleuthing on my part.

  8. Tricia July 31, 2009 / 10:40 am

    I disagree with your statement that a woman could not be that brutal. Christa Pike is just one example of a woman who committed a brutally violent crime. You cannot discount a female suspect just because the crime scene is bloody. You can search you tube and find video after video of girls and women fighting. Too many cold cases from the late 1800s and early 1900s can be attributed to police saying women are too stupid, too weak, incapable of such crimes when in fact the perpetrator was a woman.

    While polygraphs are not admissible in court because of validity questions, its still admissible in investigation and even probation/parole. A lot of states us a polygraph on sex offenders and that practice has been upheld by the Federal appeals courts.

    But what I question regarding the tests, what were the dates she was tested? If they were spread apart, over a few years and she still failed, that seems fishy to me. If they were all taken, say in the month after her daughter went missing, its reasonable to chalk the unpassing up to strong emotions from her daughter being missing. Or the medication she could have been on after she went missing. I dont know any parent that wouldnt welcome a little mind numbing after coming home to their child’s blood all over the place.

    I think it would make sense to have a crime scene re-constructionist called in, if they haven’t already and try to reenact each blow so they have a better time line of how long it took.

    Also its common for mothers who kill their children to move the body and make up a story about how the child is missing. I dont know specific stats but I’m guessing that’s the case in at least more than half of them.

    The ringing of the phone is an interesting theory. I dont think that someone who could so violently kill a 13 year old could would be scared away by a phone. But I do think the constant ringing would alert the criminal into hurrying his/her cleaning process which might have resulted in them leaving evidence of blood in the bathroom. You might shrug off one phone call but more than one, no doubt their first thought was that someone was going to start noticing that Leigh wasn’t answering the phone and come to check on her.

    Sorry this is so long, I’m a forensic psychology student and I get a little more than into cases like this and I cant seem to shut up so I’ll stop here 😉

    • Meaghan July 31, 2009 / 10:42 am

      You speak most sensibly. I didn’t mean a woman definitely could not be that violent, though, I just meant that it would be very unusual. Most of the child abuse deaths you speak of involve very young children, five or six years old at the most.

    • Sandra July 31, 2009 / 9:52 pm

      I agree with everything you say (and what you have described with the phone is what I meant by saying the attacker was “frightened”), with one exception: while there are a number of women who have killed very, very brutally (Pike, Kelly Ellard, Diane Zamora, Bernadette Protti), it seems like most of them killed people roughly their own age. The number of women who have killed children in that manner appears to be much a smaller one. (The only one who immediately comes to mind is Melissa Huckaby, and the victim was not her own child.) For a woman to beat her own child to death would be considerably more difficult (most men, even, seem to do this mostly to stepchildren), especially if they are acting in a vacuum (and Leigh’s mother would be if we were to assume that the information available to the public at large is complete and correct).

  9. emma l August 3, 2009 / 11:36 am

    It is less the “woman can’t commit violent crime” aspect that I have a problem with- but the motive. What would it be? No evidence of abuse before (or maybe there is and we don’t know). No suggestion that the father even suspects the mother. So why?

  10. n nicole November 17, 2009 / 6:52 pm

    I have thought about this girl soo many times since she dissapeared. She was my cousin’s best friend and she hung out with alot of the same people that I ran with back then. There are alot of things missing from this report. At one time, the mother’s vehicle was searched and there were “odd” things like blood and wads of hair. Also the neiborhood that she lived in was within walking distance of a creek that the city was re-working. The city laid thousands of pounds of huge rocks into the bottom of this creek. Leigh was not as “quiet” as some thought. She was outgoing in every situation that I was around her in. She was at the age of discovering boys (my boyfriend in particular). I still STRONGLY feel like her mother was and is to blame… poor girl.

    • Megan January 31, 2012 / 3:01 pm

      I was seven when this happened. The cul de sac that Leigh lived on was directly behind my house. This story has been the topic of MANY conversations over the years. To get to the creek, all you had to do was walk to the end of the cul de sac, just two houses down. Noone could ever convince me that her mother did not kill her.

    • Lauren September 16, 2013 / 12:56 pm

      Hey, I’m Leigh’s younger half-sister… can you have your cousin contact me?

  11. liz January 20, 2010 / 3:20 pm

    hi everyone. i live close to tupelo when this happened and now. its amazing to me that she could be only home a few minutes alone and this happen to her. i dont rememeber a lot about this, but have been reading about it lately. i have a theory about what could have happened to Leigh. Does anyone remember if we had a lot of people who evacuated Andrew come to this area? We did have lots for Katrina, some just headed to Tupelo, some headed to Memphis, ect. Anyway, with the time frame and reading several places that the mother found the shed door open/unlocked i was thinking that someone could have just been looking for a house to rob. Maybe saw the mother leave thought the house was empty and went in, was startled by Leigh and then ……. Leigh could have actually opened the door for a stranger without realizing it if she thought it was her mother or grandmother. The person(s) could have also already been in the shed and heard the car leave or just been driving down that street and thought the house would be empty. Maybe she wasnt dead, maybe they thought there would be less evidence if they took the body. But if it was someone passing through that may explain why the body has never been found or identified as her, they could have put her anywhere. Anyway, just a theory running through my head since reading about this lately.

  12. sherry July 12, 2012 / 10:46 pm

    i have a theory, the mother killed her and buried her body in the dirt under what is now the new Tupelo High School… At the time of Lee’s death, construction was going on for the new high school. Lee’s mother could have buried her body there, and when the foundation was complete and the buildings erected, Lee’s grave was never to be found.

    • Nicole July 25, 2012 / 7:02 pm

      Ive heard this as well, but its just what ive heard and also that they were pouring concrete at the new high school and Ive heard that they were laying rocks in the ditch at the end of her road and that the rocks could have eaisly been dumped over her body. Im very interested in this case and I dont see how they(investigaters) can just “give up” unless they know something that no one else knows. Does anyone know if her mother is still around here or has she moved off?

  13. michael September 27, 2012 / 2:50 am

    The mother’s story doesn’t make any sense. I can understand a little girl being afraid of the lightening, but you mean to tell me that a THIRTEEN YEAR OLD was so terrified of the lightening to the point that she SLEEPS IN HER MOTHER’S BED and sleeps with her face in her mother’s feet breathing in her raunchy foot odor? Christ, the mother makes it seem like Leigh was more terrified of the lightening than, you know, A BIG-ASS HURRICANE that could kill people and wipe out your home.

    The failing 3 polygraphs bothers me. One could be written off as a fluke, but 3, plus the other shady goings on make me think the mother was involved.

  14. Jess November 3, 2015 / 12:17 am

    Definitely believe the mother killed her, I believe Bart Aguirre, chief, should question the mother again! Extensively!!!!!

  15. Katie January 22, 2016 / 1:05 pm

    Leigh’s classmates have said that she would frequently come to school bruised and even once claimed she was kicked by a horse when she came in with black eyes…
    I think the most likely scenario is that her mother or step father unintentialy killed her in a fit of rage. Could have even been in the evening. They put the clothes in the hamper and cleaned up some in the bathroom. They then realized that the best option was to fake an intrusion into the home. They disposed of the body and mother left for work the next morning. Called the home phone and came home and pretended to be surprised when faced with the bloody scene. The glasses were an added touch to make the intruder or serial killer theory more likely.
    While polygraphs are inadmissible they can be very damning.

  16. Shir April 2, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    Yeah it makes no sense that a burglar or other intruder would stay there to clean the house of blood. They would leave as fast as possible to avoid getting caught. It´s pretty obvious the mother is guilty. Report says she had recently split from Leigh´s stepfather prior to Leigh´s disappearance. Maybe she was angry about the break up and blamed her teen daughter for it somehow. And since she was in the army, she isn´t necessarily your average woman, but stronger and more capable of using force.

  17. Mary April 23, 2016 / 6:14 pm

    What intruder takes the time to clean up, and take the body. And not only take the glasses but mail them back, really. The mom totally did it. Put her in jail were she belongs. She is getting away witH murder. She is a killer.

  18. Mary April 23, 2016 / 6:18 pm

    What intruder takes the time to clean up, and take the body. And not only take the glasses but mail them back, really. The mom totally did it. Put her in jail were she belongs. She is getting away witH murder. She is a killer. Justice for Leigh. The dad deserves to know what happened to his child. And the mom needs to tell what she did. She will have to answer to the big man one day.

  19. JLU April 12, 2017 / 3:08 pm

    Meaghan, or anyone connected to Leigh who is still following this thread… Tupelo’s WTVA 9 News is taking a fresh, hard look at this case. I’m personally thrilled to see the case reopened. We’re in need of someone who knew Leigh personally. Please contact me at Or call the station and ask for Jason. 662-842-7620.

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