'Suspicious' death of missing teen remains under investigation in St. Clair County

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Kenockee Township – Police remained tight-lipped Monday about their investigation into the death of a missing teenager whose lifeless body was found near a popular hiking trail on Sunday during a search of the area.

Leah Conner

Leah Conner, 16, of nearby Avoca in St. Clair County, was reported missing by her family about 4:15 p.m. Saturday after not returning from a walk she started several hours earlier. Her body was found Sunday morning by a State Police K9 dog beneath the Trestle Bridge on the Wadhams to Avoca trail, which runs about two miles from Conner’s home.

An autopsy is planned this week, according to Michigan State Police Lt. Lizabeth Rich. A spokesperson for the St. Clair County Medical Examiner said Monday the autopsy was not scheduled.

“Investigators are still at work on this,” Rich said. “We aren’t discussing or releasing other details until after an autopsy. Any death in this manner is considered suspicious until an autopsy is completed. But we don’t feel there is any reason for the community to be alarmed. At this time, law enforcement does not feel there is a threat to the public.”

Rich said investigators have not ruled out the death being accidental. Conner was found near a 60-foot-high bridge that crosses Mill Creek.

Conner was a junior at Yale High School, where students were being counseled following news of her death, school district Superintendent Ken Nicholl said.

“We are a small community and something like this touches everyone — students and staff,” said Nicholl, who said an announcement was made to the 600-student population at the start of the school day.

Nicholl described Conner as a “good kid” who ran cross-country, was on the school robotics team and played the ukulele at a school talent show. She also played piano and was a singer and songwriter.

“We don’t know what happened or why something happened, but that's secondary to helping to address the loss everyone is feeling right now,” Nicholl said. “We spent several hours on Sunday night planning on how to deal with this today. It's been very difficult.”

Friends had set up a GoFundMe account in Conner's memory to help pay funeral and memorial expenses. It had raised more than $19,000 by Monday afternoon, according to the site. On it, Conner was described as “a beautiful blue eyed young lady with an infectious smile who had a bright future ahead of her.” Conner was said to have “loved to dance and attended classes at the dance studio in Emmett.”

Conner is survived by her father, Ian; mother, Tricia McDonald, and four sisters, Hannah, Elizabeth, Keely and Kenzie.

Investigators asked anyone with information about the incident to call the Lapeer State Police post at (810) 664-2905.


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