In Atlanta, a young woman on the right path in life appears to have fallen for the wrong person. Now police are trying to determine if that ill-fated relationship cost her her life.
On a Sunday in September 2011, McLeod left for work as usual. But she never clocked in.
"It's like she just dropped off the face of the Earth," said DeKalb County Police Detective H. Guest.
Police soon realize this is no ordinary missing-person case. They say Shawndell McLeod was being stalked by an obsessed former lover right up to the day she disappeared.
"Shawndell was afraid," said Det. Guest.
"She said 'Mommy, I never begged so much for my life," said Shawnell's mother Badicea McLeod.
Shawndell, 35, was the special sixth of Badicea McLeod's nine children.
Shawndell loved to cook, and she turned it into a good-paying career, working as the head chef at an Atlanta nursing home.
"She had bought a house and bought a new car," said Badicea.
That car disappeared, along with Shawndell, when she left her home to drive to work early one Sunday morning.
"As soon as I hear she didn't show up to work, know something's wrong," said Badicea.
Shawndell's mother became even more concerned when her daughter also failed to turn up later at the family's weekly Sunday night dinner.
"I did not sleep that night," said Badicea.
Nobody else who knew Shawndell had seen her or heard from her either. And after she was reported missing, police learned Shawndell McLeod hadn't used any debit or credit cards, nor made any texts or calls.
"Her phone wasn't even pinging. I even pinged her phone," said Det. Guest.
And everything points to foul play when that phone isn't in Shawndell's car, which had been found abandoned about 40 miles from her home.
"I knew within a few days this was more than just a missing-person case," said Det. Guest.
DeKalb County Police Detective H. Guest theorizes Shawndell McLeod was snatched as she left her house.
"It was somebody that abducted her right there," Guest tells Crime Watch Daily.
It wasn't long before detectives have a main person of interest.
"That would be Joyce," said Det. Guest.
Joyce Pelzer is a fellow nursing home employee they say had a frightening obsession with Shawndell.
"I interviewed a lot of people," said Det. Guest. "Between three or four of them told me that Shawndell was very afraid of this lady."
Detective Guest says Pelzer had reportedly fallen in love with Shawndell at first sight. And Shawndell entered into what's believed to have been her first romantic relationship with a woman.
"She said she wanted to try a gay lifestyle," said Det. Guest.
Pelzer eventually moved into Shawndell's home with her.
"It was going good for a few years," said Guest.
But Shawndell's mom says her daughter had grown unhappy.
"She said 'Mommy, I wanted to have children,'" said Badicea.
Joyce Pelzer is said to have been furious when Shawndell McLeod told her she wanted to break up.
"She didn't take it nice," said Badicea.
"She didn't want to give her up," said Guest.
And Pelzer is said to have told friends she wouldn't let Shawndell go without a fight.
"That she /was hers. She'll do anything to keep her," said Guest.
It culminated with Pelzer allegedly threatening to end both their lives in a murder-suicide.
"Shawndell tell me that Joyce tell her she's going to kill her," said Badicea.
Police say Pelzer had fled before they arrived at the scene, but warrants were issued for her arrest for allegedly assaulting Shawndell.
"This was a few weeks before she went missing," said Det. Guest.
Police say Pelzer continued to stalk Shawndell, even staking out her home late at night.
Guest says Shawndell had a new boyfriend who was spending nights at her house for protection.
"And she was so afraid the guy bought her a gun," said Det. Guest.
And when Shawndell suddenly went missing, Joyce Pelzer was among the first brought in for questioning.
"She denied everything," said Det. Guest.
Detectives, however, arrested Joyce Pelzer on that outstanding assault warrant and also charged her with lying to them about her alibi for the day Shawndell McLeod vanished.
"She said she was at work, and she wasn't," said Det. Guest.
But now, almost seven years since Shawndell McLeod disappeared, police still haven't found enough evidence to prove, or disprove, that Joyce Pelzer had any role, and her status in the case remains unchanged.
"I'm not going to leave out the other people, but Ms. Pelzer is my main person," said Det. Guest. "I don't think Shawndell is alive. I think Shawndell was murdered."
And if she was murdered, Guest is confident her killer will ultimately trip up.
"I don't believe in 'the perfect murder,'" said Det. Guest.
While the search for Shawndell McLeod continues, no news is good news to her desperate, grieving mother.
"I hope one day she could come back home," said Badicea McLeod.
Crime Watch Daily reached out to Joyce Pelzer for comment on our story, but she never responded.
If you know anything about Shawndell McLeod's disappearance, call Detective H. Guest at (770) 724-7866.