Student's Disappearance Baffles Family, Friends

Family and friends describe 21-year-old Leah Hickman as thoughtful, caring and loyal, the type of young woman who has no enemies and would call into work even if she was going to be just five minutes late.

They are all personality characteristics that have her loved ones growing increasingly concerned five days after the West Virginia woman disappeared without a trace.

Hickman, a broadcast journalism major at Marshall University, was reported missing Sunday first by her mother, Sherry Russell, and then by her father, Ronald Hickman, after she failed to show up for her shift at a local Dress Barn Saturday night.

Earlier Saturday, Jessica Vickers, Hickman's 25-year-old half-sister, had stopped by their shared Huntington, W.Va., apartment at her mother's request.

"I came by, her car was here," Vickers told ABC News. "Everything looked normal with the exception of her purse and her keys lying there. At the time, I thought she maybe left with a friend for a couple of minutes."

But calls to the college student's cell phone, Hickman's only noticeably missing item, were rejected. The voice mailbox was full.

Monday, their mother and friends of Hickman went to the state police. They also met again with Huntington detectives, Vickers said, laying out an hour-by-hour fact pattern.

From the telephone company, they received Hickman's cell phone records and they called every number that was unfamiliar — an effort that turned up nothing suspicious, but helped get the word out to Hickman's group of friends that she had disappeared.

The last phone call made by Hickman was to a friend around 5:40 p.m. Friday. There was nothing noteworthy about the call — Hickman said she was going to McDonald's to get some dinner. The wrappings and receipt from her meal were found at the apartment.

Police have since seized Hickman's laptop and have asked to take the woman's car as well to process it for evidence.

Vickers said that her younger sister does not have any enemies that she knows of and has not had any recent boyfriends. Hickman had been on some dates with one man she had met recently, but their family contacted him and "he's absolutely worried sick about all of this."

She also said that Hickman is not a big "party" person and that despite her parents living in different places, everyone in the family gets along well.

Hickman's friends, who have plastered fliers throughout the region, also are trying to elevate the case online, posting messages on her MySpace page and creating a Facebook group devoted to her search.

Roger Parker, a friend of Hickman's, is the administrator of the Facebook group. Parker, who described Hickman as "caring, outgoing and loyal," said that while friends and family are trying to remain optimistic, it's difficult not to think about possible foul play.

"We keep trying to think of good outcomes," Parker told ABC News, "but I don't know what could have happened to her."

Vickers said that her sister's disappearance is just so out of character that something must be wrong. "She would never do anything to make our mother cry," Vickers said. "She's holding it together and she's doing everything she can, but it's getting harder and harder."

Hickman has blue eyes and brown hair. She is described as 5 feet 2 inches tall and 130 pounds.

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