Leah N. Hickman
December 27, 2007
Parkersburg News and Sentinel
Leah Nicole Hickman, 21, of Huntington, W.Va., died Dec. 14, 2007.
She was a junior at Marshall University and a member of Grace Baptist Church in Point Pleasant.
Born Nov. 22, 1986, in Point Pleasant, she was the daughter of Ronald L. Hickman of Point Pleasant and Sherry J. (Sole) Russell of Leon.
She was preceded in death by her grandparents, William and Ollie Hickman; stepgrandparents, Robert and Hazie Dugan; stepgrandfather, Roger Russell; uncle, J. Michael Gandee; and aunt, Patricia Darlene Hickman.
In addition to her parents, she is survived by her stepfather, Brian Russell of Leon; sister, Jessie J. Vickers of Huntington; stepbrothers, Ryan (Jodi) Russell of West Columbia, Nicholas (Lindsay) Russell of Leon and Joshua Russell of Leon; aunts and uncles, Robert and Sue Hickman, Betty and Jerry Watson, Roger and Freda Hickman and Bernard and Lisa Hickman, all of Spencer, and Ann and Douglas Succhi of Parkersburg; and many cousins.
There will be a celebration of Leah's life from 1-7:30 p.m. Saturday at the National Guard Armory near Point Pleasant. Funeral services will be 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the armory with Pastor Jamie Watts and the Revs. Matthew Dotson, Lewis Villers and Shannon Skeen officiating. A private burial will take place at the convenience of the family.
Memorial contributions may be made to a scholarship fund set up in Leah's honor, c/o Huntington Bank, P.O. Box 548, Huntington, WV 25701-0548.
Arrangements are being handled by Deal Funeral Home in Point Pleasant.
HUNTINGTON -- Ron Hickman describes the past three years of his life as a nightmare he lives every day.
Hickman's daughter, Leah, 21, was strangled and her body hidden in a crawl space at her off-campus apartment building at 403 8th Ave. in December 2007. Hickman was a Marshall student who hailed from Mason County. Her case remains unsolved.
"For me, it's been a nightmare every day. I'm still very emotional about it. She was my only child and it's been really, really hard to deal with. I still cry, I see her pictures here in my office every day. She was just a very special person to our entire family," Ron Hickman said.
Investigators with the Huntington Police Department believe Hickman was the victim of a targeted attack carried out by someone familiar with the layout of her 8th Avenue apartment. Lt. John Williams, who stays in regular contact with the family, said information coming in on the case has been limited, but last year indicated they have a working theory about the suspect's identity, but lack the evidence needed to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
"This case is still open. It's not put on a shelf or in a drawer somewhere," Williams said. "Every day, we're all painfully aware that, that was someone's daughter, someone's sister who ended up under that building. I can't imagine the pain that the family goes through.
"I can say, whoever did this did make mistakes. The technology just hasn't allowed us to use those mistakes at this time," he continued. "Somebody out there knows something, suspects something and we hope, in the future, somebody can come forward and shed a light on this for us."
In the meantime, the Hickman family and Leah's mother, Sherry Russell, and the Russell family are left with the memories of the girl Ron remembers always saying, "I love you, Daddy," whenever they spoke.
"Virtually everywhere we go, something will come up that reminds us of Leah. I just remember her smile and those pretty blue eyes and the love for life she had," he said. "She was always happy, always trying to be a little mommy to people younger than her. I just miss her smile so much."
Hickman said the memories of his daughter reinforce his desire to see closure in this case for himself and his family. When asked what he might say to the individual or individuals responsible for his daughter's death, his tone shifted from reflective to resolute.
"We will never stop or ever give up. I've got the attitude that I'll never, ever give up looking for the person who did this. If it takes until my dying day, I'm going to be pursuing justice for my baby. I think any parents worth a grain of salt would be doing the same thing," he said.
Williams appeared equally as determined to solve the case that fills an entire corner of his office with case files, binders and reports before he is eligible to retire in a few years.
"Before I leave, I'd like to see some closure in this case," he said, "and, the sooner, the better."
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