Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Who killed Heaven Ross?

Heaven LaShae Ross disappeared while walking to the bus stop in Northport, Alabama, on August 19, 2003. Known to her family as "Shae", she was 11 years old at the time and enjoyed going on rides with her dad, playing basketball at church, eating, and watching TV. She had just started sixth grade two weeks earlier.
It was a stormy morning. Heaven's mother's common-law husband, who was like a father to Heaven, left a few minutes after she did, so that she and her sister would not have to walk in the rain. Heaven's sister had left at 6:55; Heaven left at 7. The bus came at 7:25. Somehow, in those few minutes, Heaven vanished so close to home.
Because there was no immediate evidence of an abduction, an Amber Alert was not issued, but Heaven's disappearance was investigated by the FBI. Five weeks after she went missing, someone started a fire in her bedroom. Heaven's story was featured on national television, such as America's Most Wanted and The Early Show. Her picture was included in an issue of Family Circle magazine and on an episode of Oprah. A $65,000 reward was established. Possible sightings in other parts of the state turned out to be of someone else.
Heaven's remains and her backpack were finally found on December 18, 2006, in an abandoned house in Holt, Alabama. Her identity was confirmed by DNA tests done at Louisiana State University. The questions remain: How did she end up eight miles from home? Was the fire related to her apparent abduction? Most important of all, who did this to her?
Before Heaven's body was found, police had wondered if her disappearance was related to those of other 11-year-old girls. Teresa Dean, who also lived in a trailer park and was walking to a friend's house, disappeared from Macon, Georgia, in August 1999. Shannon Paulk, who also lived in a trailer park, disappeared from Prattville, Alabama, in August 2001. Tabitha Tuders, who had a similar physical appearance, disappeared from Nashville, Tennessee, in April 2003. She had also missed the bus and was probably kidnapped. Shannon's remains were found by hunters in October 2001, 17 miles from her home. Both Teresa and Tabitha are still missing.
Police now believe that Heaven's murder is not related to any other crimes. Heaven's mother believes that her daughter may have accepted a ride from someone she knew that fateful morning, as she was afraid of thunderstorms.
If you know anything about the murder of Heaven LaShae Ross, please call the Northport Police Department at (205) 339-6600.

Photo of Heaven from her website.

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