Where is Lelia Faulkner? Young Alabama mother disappears after breakup
05/23/2018 1:43 pm PDT
In Troy, Alabama, a family is wondering what happened to their daughter after she vanished on July 4, 2016, just days after breaking up with a boyfriend.
Now that boyfriend is breaking his silence to Crime Watch Daily in an exclusive interview.
Lelia Faulkner was a smart, pretty, outgoing young woman with a bright future.
"She was a straight-A student, she was valedictorian of her class," said Lelia's mother Susan Faulkner.
Lelia went to away to college in Montgomery, Alabama, but her education got sidetracked. Lelia met a man in Montgomery, got pregnant and had a baby girl.
Lelia and her daughter Madison's father were never married. They split up before Madison was even born. Lelia packed up and went back to her tiny home town of Troy and moved in with her parents. They were more than happy to help the single mom raise Madison.
Back in Troy, Lelia meets a new guy, Blane Gralheer. His parents own the sporting goods store in town. Blane worked for his mom and dad and seemed to be a good fit for Lelia's family too.
Sparks flew and Lelia soon moved in with Blane.
"They only dated for about two months before she moved in with him," said Susan. "At first everything was smooth."
It seemed like a match made in heaven, but over time, her parents say, the relationship turned ugly.
"It had gotten real bad, fighting every day. She would call, crying. We went up there a few times, but there was nothing we could really do," said Lelia's mother Susan Faulkner. "Other than if she would just wanted to come home with us, and she wouldn't."
Two days before July 4, 2016, Lelia finally calls it quits with Blane and reluctantly moves back home with her mom and dad. Shortly after the break-up, Lelia shakes the tiny town of Troy by making a shocking claim about Blane on social media.
"She posted that her boyfriend was leaving her for another man, said he was gay," said Susan.
Just two days after moving back in, on July 4, Lelia's parents take Madison to watch the fireworks, and Lelia goes out with friends. It would be the last time they would see her.
Her mother looks back at a troubling text she got from Lelia back in April: "i'm scared of bj i need you to come get me." Her mom writes back: "Lelia what is going on with you two?" Lelia responds: "if something happens to me its him".
Lelia's parents claim the day she went missing, their daughter and Blane had been in a terrible text war. In addition to accusing him of leaving her for another man, there were also allegations about money and drugs. Lelia's parents admit their daughter was struggling at the time.
"She was having alcohol addiction and she was doing drugs too," said Susan.
At first the Faulkners were worried, but not panicked. They say Lelia had disappeared on short trips before. But after three days and still no word, Lelia's parents began to panic. They rushed to the Pike County Sheriff's Department.
"We went to the sheriff's department to file a missing person's report, and they wouldn't file one," said Lelia's father Ricky. That was on July 7.
"Because of her history and she's done this before, and we told the family to check with her friends, to try and find out and make sure that she's not on one of these binges," said Pike County Sheriff's Lt. Troy Johnson.
After checking with family and friends, the Faulkners came up empty. Nobody had heard from or seen Lelia, now the Pike County Sheriff's Department launches an investigation.
"We started looking into it a little bit more deeply," said Lt. Johnson. "We still have nothing to say that she was abducted, we have no info actually placing her anywhere other than that property at her parents' house."
At that point Lt. Johnson goes back to Lelia's shocking post on social media about her former flame.
"We looked at her Facebook post, and we saw that day she was talking back and forth with her ex-boyfriend that she just moved out from, and they were kind of arguing back and forth basically over money and about drugs," said Lt. Johnson.
Blane Gralheer is now at the center of the investigation.
"When I talked to Blane, he first didn't want to come talk to me, he kept trying to say we need to talk to the last people she was with, and the last people that we knew that she was communicating with was you on it through Facebook Messenger, and I asked him then would he take a polygraph test. And he agreed," said Lt. Johnson.
"The examiner's answer was he didn't pass it, and I don't know the questions that were asked. I never got the report for the polygraph test. I also asked him to take a follow-up polygraph test, and he wouldn't do it," said Lt. Johnson.
There have been several wild stories surrounding Lelia's mysterious disappearance, one claiming she was targeted by another man, murdered and then torched in his truck.
"I went out there and looked at the truck and it's been burned up," said Lt. Johnson. "But as far as any forensic tests on it, the story just didn't pan out."
The Faulkners' frustration fuels their heartbreak.
"All we want is answers. We're so angry because it feels like the sheriff's department is not doing anything, and every time what we think is a tip, they say it's hearsay, they won't even check it out," said Susan Faulkner.
The family believes that you haven't done due diligence regarding this investigation.
"They want to believe everything that is told to them. And if my daughter was missing, I'd want to believe it too," said Lt. Johnson. "I'd like to get this family some closure. We don't know what happened to her."
Lelia Faulkner been missing for almost two excruciating years.
So Lelia's parents have taken matters into their own hands, putting up billboards, hiring their own private investigators and increasing the reward.
"The reward is up to $10,000 now for any information that leads us to finding Lelia or her remains," said Lelia's mother Susan.
No one has been named an official suspect, but Lelia's ex-boyfriend Blane Gralheer has been at the center of the investigation.
"When Lelia first disappeared, he messaged me on Facebook just about every day," said Susan. "I do believe him, I don't think he had anything to do with it, but I think he knows about it and knows what happened."
"As far as him actually doing it, I don't know, but I do believe he knows about it, 100 percent," said Lelia's father Ricky.
Now in a Crime Watch Daily exclusive, Blane Gralheer sits down for his very first televised interview to set the record straight.
You haven't talked to anyone else. Why talk to us?
"I just know deep down that I have not done anything and I don't know anything, and that's all I really need to say about it," said Gralheer. "I just want the family to get answers."
What type of relationship did you and Lelia have?
"We told each other everything," said Gralheer.
So did Lelia break up with you?
"It was a mutual thing, but it was more me breaking up with her," said Gralheer.
Blane Gralheer says Lelia was a beautiful girl, but claims she was haunted by a dark secret. He says drugs drove them apart.
"Because of the situation or the habits that she was getting into, I didn't really know it was that bad," said Gralheer.
Gralheer says he's now the one haunted by Lelia's disappearance.
What went through your mind when you found out Lelia was missing?
"A bunch of names came to my head, and then I ran them by Ms. Susan, and they checked out one or two, they just don't know who picked her up from the house," said Gralheer.
Ms. Susan is Lelia's mother. Gralheer says he still talks to her regularly, hoping he can help find out what happened to Lelia. But if he's so worried, we had to ask why he hasn't been more active.
Did you participate in any of the searches for Lelia?
"No I didn't. I told Ms. Susan this: I stayed back because I was being considered a suspect," said Gralheer. "So I wanted to just stay my distance so people wouldn't think that I'm trying to be to close to it and trying to figure out what's all going on."
So you took the polygraph, and you were told you lied.
Then they called you back to take another.
"It was inconclusive, the test that I took," said Gralheer.
And you refused because?
"Because there's a discrepancy in what two different people told me," said Gralheer.
And one of the biggest questions hanging over this case: Lelia's shocking post on social media, claiming they broke up because Blane Gralheer ran off with another man?
Why do you think she posted those things on social media talking about you being gay?
"There is nothing I can say, except that I'm not gay," said Gralheer. "The only thing I could think is she was upset and didn't want to be around the house, she just wanted to go. I don't want to speculate but I would think that she was probably wanting to go out and do things she shouldn't be doing."
There are text messages prior to Lelia's disappearance of her texting her mom saying she's afraid of you and if something happens to her, to investigate you.
"It's crazy. I don't know anything about that," said Gralheer.
Did Ms. Susan tell you that?
"No," said Gralheer.
You talk to her every day?
"Just about every day," said Gralheer.
How does that make you feel?
"It hurts my heart a lot. It's awful," said Gralheer. "I would never hurt her, ever."
So you wouldn't have harmed, killed, dismembered or hid Lelia's remains?
Did you have an argument and blow up and something happened?
"No. Not at all."
So you're saying you and God know you didn't do it?
Do you feel you have been convicted in the court of community public opinion?
"I do, but like I told you earlier, I don't care what anybody thinks anymore. God is the only person that knows."
What do you think could have happened to Lelia?
"I don't know. I have no clue. The whole thing comes down to is who picked her up at her parents' house will have some answers, but we don't know who that is."
If Lelia were here right now and you had one more chance to talk to her, what would you say to her?
"I'd tell her I'm sorry. I'm sorry that we broke up because she wouldn't be in the situation missing right now. And I would tell her I love her, and I would take all this back and start from day one," said Blane Gralheer.
Just recently, one of the billboards the Faulkners put up to help find Lelia was stabbed with two butcher knives. Police call it a random act. Lelia's parents believe it's a message.
"I think it's very personal," said Susan Faulkner. "You don't just walk around town with two butcher knives and start stabbing a sign."
Lieutenant Troy Johnson says he continues to track down any and all leads, including a wild story claiming Lelia was murdered and chopped up in the woods.
Have you found anything to lead you to believe that's true?
"No," said Lt. Johnson.
It's been nearly two years since Lelia disappeared, and the Faulkners are coming to grips with the fact that they may never see their daughter again.
"I need closure. I know these people hurt her, and just tell us where she is, that's all we want," said Susan. "Just tell us where she is."
Madison just wants her mom to come home.
What do you talk to God about?
"I just want him to find her," said Madison. "I just want to see her again."