Lesley Herring, the older sister to Grey’s Anatomy and Friday Night Lights actress Aasha Davis, went missing in 2009. Ahead of a Dateline NBC episode about her disappearance, here’s what you need to know about what happened and why she has never been found.
Lesley Has Never Been Found
After disappearing in February 2009 in the Los Angeles area, no one has seen Lesley Herring since. Her sister told CBS News at the time that she was just sure something bad had happened to Lesley.
“I think something terrible might have happened to her, just because I know that my sister would be in contact with us. She would want us to know where she was. She would know that we would worry about her so much,” Davis said. “But my hope is that she’s OK and that she just needs to know that we want her home soon and that we miss her and love her and that she’s safe to come home.”
The family did consider the idea that Lesley went “underground” to get away from her husband, Lyle Stanford Herring Sr., but there was quite a bit of evidence indicated that that was not the case, including the fact that Lesley left behind her purse, phone, and $26,000 in her savings account.
Lesley’s Family Initially Thought Two People Were Missing
When Lesley failed to show up for work for a couple of days in February 2009, Davis and their mother filed a missing persons report. At the time, Lesley’s husband Lyle was also missing and they thought they needed to file two reports.
Davis told CBS News that they didn’t hear from Lyle for two weeks after he and Lesley disappeared.
“We searched for him for almost two weeks after she disappeared. And we could not get any response from him,” she said. “Once he returned, he was very difficult to contact. We could contact him through e-mail, and he would choose what he would answer, what questions, and most of the time they weren’t about my sister. They were only about him.”
Lyle Eventually Showed Back Up and Immediately Became a Suspect
In the two weeks when Lyle was also missing, he was apparently in Mexico, according to a report on the case by True Crime Daily. His story was that he and Lesley had planned to travel there for an upcoming Valentine’s Day trip, so when she disappeared suddenly, he went to Mexico to look for her.
But he came back from the trip having shaved off his hair and goatee, something LAPD detective Chris Gable thought was highly suspicious, especially since Lyle’s story was that some criminals he owed money to caught up to him and shaved it off as a punishment.
“I worked the gang unit for several years and I’ve never ever heard of some gang members holding someone down to shave their head and shave their goatee off, so that was a first,” LAPD detective Chris Gable told True Crime Daily.
Lyle’s Attempt at a Cover-Up Is What Led to His Downfall
Gable said that Lyle tried to make it look as though Lesley had been calling him after she disappeared by placing calls from her cell phone to his. But what he forgot was that the police could “track cell phone tower usage and show that both phones were side by side when they were doing the calls,” said Gable.
The police eventually brought in a cadaver dog — a German shepherd named Indiana Bones — who identified that human remains had been in both Lyle’s Cadillac and his Mitsubishi SUV. Detectives then put a tracker on Lyle’s car and eventually, he led them to a remote area of Griffith Park where the cadaver dog later hit upon the smell of human remains. A search of the area proved fruitless in finding Lesley’s body, but Lyle was charged with second-degree murder in 2010.
Lyle is Serving 15 Years to Life in State Prison
After a three-week trial in 2013, Lyle was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. At the sentencing, the judge in the case said that the circumstantial evidence was “overwhelming” that Lyle killed his wife, according to the City News Service (via Patch).
In September 2013, Lyle was booked into the state prison in Tehachapi, California. He appealed his conviction, arguing that the cadaver dog evidence was improperly admitted in his original trial, but in 2015, a three-judge panel from California’s 2nd District Court of Appeals upheld his conviction. According to Westside Today, the panel found an “abundance” of compelling evidence that Lesley was dead.
“There is no evidence that the couple argued or that Lesley said or did something that provoked Herring. There is no evidence of Herring’s response to any provocation. That Herring killed while in a heat of passion is nothing more than speculation,” the panel found.
Dateline airs Fridays and Saturdays, plus the occasional weekday, on NBC.