Lelia Marie Faulkner was born on September 26, 1986 to Susan and Rick Faulkner. Growing up in Troy, Alabama, she was a smart and outgoing girl who got straight-As and was named valedictorian of her class.
After high school, Lelia moved to Montgomery, Alabama for college. However, her education got sidetracked after she met a man and got pregnant. Nine months later, she gave birth to her daughter, Madison. As Lelia and her boyfriend broke up before Madison was born, the young mother gave primary guardianship of her daughter to her parents and moved back in with them.
Back living in Troy, Lelia met Blane Gralheer Jr., who worked at his parents’ sporting goods store in town. Two months later, the pair moved in together, and while things at first appeared to be going well, their relationship soon soured. This was partly due to Lelia’s alcohol and drug abuse.
LEAD UP TO DISAPPEARANCE:
Lelia moved back in with her parents on July 2, 2016, after she and Gralheer broke up. When moving back in, she told them she was afraid of Gralheer and that “if something happens to me, it’s him”.
On July 4, 2016, the Faulkners attended a barbecue while Lelia stayed home. When her parents arrived home later that evening, she was still there. According to her parents, they last spoke to her around 5:30pm, around the same time she shared her last post on Facebook.
At 7:00pm, Lelia’s parents took Madison to watch an Independence Day fireworks show, while Lelia decided to spend the night with friends. While they didn’t see her leave the residence, they did hear the front door open and close.
Susan and Rick began to worry when Lelia didn’t return home, but they didn’t panic. As the days went on, Susan began to grow more worried, as Lelia hadn’t even sent a text, despite typically keeping in contact with her mother on a daily basis.
On July 7, 2016, Lelia’s parents went to the Pike County Sheriff’s Department to file a missing person’s report, but were barred from doing so. Instead, they were told to contact Lelia’s friends and see if they knew where she was. Undeterred, the Faulkners launched their own investigation, handing out flyers, conducting their own searches and following up on tips. They heard a rumour she’d attended a party in Spring Hill, about 15 minutes from their residence, on the night of July 4, but were unable to confirm the sighting.
After two weeks, Susan and Rick returned to the Pike County Sheriff’s Department. This time, they were allowed to report their daughter as missing.
Lelia had gone missing before for days at a time, but had never been gone for this long. She’d last disappeared a year prior. Her family hadn’t reported her missing, but had called the local authorities and asked them to keep an eye out for her. She returned home a few days later.
The missing woman didn’t take her car with her, but her cellphone, purse and tablet were missing. As her vehicle had been left behind, her family couldn’t be sure if someone had picked her up or if she’d walked somewhere and was then picked up.
On the day of Lelia’s disappearance, she and Gralheer had been arguing on Facebook and over text, after she accused him of stealing money from her and leaving her for another man. Gralheer countered, saying their breakup had been mutual and primarily caused by Lelia’s drug use. He also said he wasn’t gay and hadn’t left her for another man.
Gralheer took a polygraph test, but his results were inconclusive. When asked by investigators to take another one, he refused and has not been interviewed since. He also didn’t participate in any of the searches for Lelia. He is currently considered a person of interest in the case. While her family do believe he knows what happened to her, they don’t think he was involved. Susan also told Dateline NBC that the real reason the two broke up was because Lelia had gotten pregnant by another man.
“We believe that one of the arguments between Blane and Lelia was because she was with Blane and ended up getting pregnant by another guy,” she said. “That’s probably why they had the bad breakup. But I could never get him to tell me that.”
Police searched where Lelia was allegedly seen the night she disappeared, but didn’t believe the claims warranted the use of cadaver dogs. They later searched her parents’ home, as well as her computer and phone records, but found nothing that indicated her plans for that night.
Despite regularly posting on social media, Lelia has has been inactive on all of her accounts since July 4, 2016. She also hasn’t used her credit cards or cellphone, nor has she accessed her bank account.
There are numerous theories floating about regarding what happened to Lelia. One stated she was targeted by a man other than Gralheer, murdered and torched in his truck. Investigators examined the burned out vehicle, but found no evidence that Lelia had ever been inside. Other rumours claimed she was murdered and her body hidden in the woods, and that she’d been buried under one of the fire pits near the party she was allegedly last seen at. Cadaver dogs were taken to the site, but made no indication that human remains were in the area.
Investigators have shared that numerous tips have been called in and followed up on over the course of the investigation. They’ve also spoken with and polygraphed numerous potential persons of interest. At present, there is a $10,000 reward for information leading to Lelia’s whereabouts.
Lelia’s mother believes her daughter is dead, as she would not have abandoned her own child. Believing local authorities haven’t put much effort into the investigation, the family has taken it upon themselves to hire private investigators, raise reward money and put up billboards about the case. One of the billboards was stabbed with two butcher knives, in an event the family believes was someone’s attempt to send a message. Police, on the other hand, say it was likely a random event.
The family has also gotten non-profit Halos Investigations involved. The organization dedicates itself to combatting exploitation and the trafficking of children.
The Help Find Lelia Faulkner Facebook page was created to help raise awareness about her disappearance.
Lelia’s case was featured on The Vanished podcast.
CASE CONTACT INFORMATION:
Lelia Marie Faulkner went missing from Troy, Pike County, Alabama on July 4, 2016. She was 29 years old, and was last seen wearing a white tank top, either a blue denim skirt or shorts, and white flip flops. At the time of her disappearance, she stood at 5’6″ and weighed between 120 and 135 pounds. She had shoulder-length strawberry blonde hair, and blue/grey eyes. Her ears are pierced, and she has the following tattoos: Chinese characters meaning “success” on her foot, cherries on her lower back and “Madison” on the inside of her right wrist. She’d previously fractured the right side her collarbone, which healed crookedly.
She pronounces her name “Layla”, and some sources incorrectly spell her name “Leila”.
Currently, the case is classified as endangered missing. If alive, she would be 35 years old.
Those with information regarding the case are asked to contact either the Pike County Sheriff’s Department at 334-566-4347 or the Alabama Attorney General’s Office 334-242-7300. Tips can also be called into Halos Investigations at 662-664-3057 or 1-803-599-4256.
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