Part 3: Exclusive Eyewitness News iTeam series, 'A family's search for closure'
In 1983, 20-year-old Leslie Marty was kidnapped and murdered. For 35 years, her ex-boyfriend, Mark Hanna, refused to say where he buried her.
Hanna was true to his word. His directions led investigators to a private roadside park in Ohio, where the long-lost woman was found.
“When the sergeant told me, I was just kind of trying to hold it all together, but over the period of time of the couple of weeks since then I am ultimately very grateful that we do have her back finally,” Marty’s mother, Mary Brown said.
Leslie's sister, Angela Kelly, said she was just very happy "for my mom because I have a daughter and I couldn't imagine going through what she went through and not knowing where she is the past 35 years.”
For years, Leslie's family has dealt with the pain and anguish of having no closure. Although she was declared legally dead in 1991, Leslie's loved ones were never given the chance to say goodbye.
Now, they can.
“Everything's all coming together and I'm so grateful for it. And I'm so grateful that Angela and Joey are never going to have to be faced with this hard thing in the future and everything's going to be, you know, the way it should be,” Brown said.
Kelly said she got off the phone with her mom and was proud of herself because "her baby girl held it together. I did not sob."
"As I hung up the phone from her, I sent a text to my husband and said, 'They found sissy.' And I sent it and I sat there and sobbed. And it wasn't sad. It was sad, but it was more like relief. I mean, it was like finally over,” Kelly said.
Several years ago, her mother purchased a cemetery plot for Leslie, just in case Hanna ever broke his silence. But even with a steadfast faith and belief that they would one day know what happened to their loved one, Brown and Kelly acknowledge the decades of uncertainty took a devastating toll.
“Actually, I had kind of given up the idea that there would be anything there. And down at Sunset I told them down there that there would never be anybody there in the space,” Brown said.
Leslie’s sister said even after 35 years, she did not give up hope.
“That's all you have. How can you give that up? I don't have her anymore. My mom doesn't have her oldest daughter. You've got to keep hope. I mean, hope that somebody saw something weird. You know, hope that God speaks to Mark at some point in time and says you need to do the right thing. My mom and Joey and I, and as far as that goes my sister, never did him any harm. And I can't imagine putting people through the anguish we've been through for the past 35 years if we could rectify it,” Kelly said.
Both women said they are eternally grateful for the efforts of law enforcement officers who never gave up looking for Leslie and who finally found success on a cold November day on the banks of the Ohio River.
“I am just overwhelmed at the amount of dedication that all of these professional people have had to stick with this. I know in the beginning there were police officers out there looking for her, and they were doing it on their own time. It's very humbling that to see that they just keep, they just keep at it,” Brown said.
Kelly agreed that without everyone's work, none of this would have happened.
“And it's true, the police officers even that weren't on the force then, they took up the baton and fought for her,” Kelly said.
A service honoring the memory and the loss of Leslie is scheduled for next week. She will then be taken to her final resting place, where family and friends can visit, grieve and remember a life that was ended tragically, and far, far too young.
“Finally, we get her back. There hasn't been a day that has gone by in the past 35 years that I don't think about her. And I still cry, because I miss her,” Kelly said.
Brown said the family will be able "to put her to rest in her place and we will all be able to go visit with her, you know, whenever we want to."
Thursday night on Eyewitness News at 6, hear from the man who put Hanna behind bars and get his thoughts on the long overdue confession and hear from Gov. Jim Justice, who overruled one of his own cabinet secretaries in order to let Eyewitness News speak with Hanna and try to give Leslie’s family members the closure they so desperately needed.