Two years later, few traces of missing Chesterfield executive

Posted at 10:57 PM, Apr 08, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-08 23:52:04-04

CHESTERFIELD, Va. (WTVR) --What happened to Leyla Namiranian after the Altria executive left work the night of April 4th, 2012?

Two years later, friends, family, and co-workers are still haunted by her sudden disappearance.  Tuesday night, we took a fresh look at the case, the questions, and the mystery surrounding the local woman who vanished without a trace.

"Time flies for everyone but when I first think about when it happened, it seems like it was yesterday,” said Steve Rice.  It has now been two years since he last saw Namiranian, his next-door neighbor.

The Altria research director has not been seen since that night.  Police were called the next day when she failed to show up for work.

"It becomes difficult to trace someone who you have no information about their lifestyle or where they like to go,” said Joan Neff, a University of Richmond professor of sociology.

Namaranian was divorced and living alone off Normandstone Drive in Midlothian.  Officers who were sent to her home after her disappearance found her car parked in the garage, and found no signs of a struggle inside the home.

Shortly after Namaranian’s disappearance, police searched the woods in the cul-de-sac near her home.  That search stretched to the city’s Northside off Chamberlayne Avenue.

Namiranian’s friends told detectives that prior to her disappearance, she feared for her safety, saying that an ex-boyfriend had come to her house uninvited and threatened her.

Police would later tell CBS-6 that man was Michael Anthony Edwards of Richmond , and that he was the primary person of interest in the case.

Still, few details would emerge in the case, until December of 2012.  That is when investigators announced that Edwards' phone records placed him on Robious Road, near Namiranian’s home, the night before she was reported missing.

Detectives later found two cell phones belonging to Namiranian alongside Interstate 95, one on the shoulder of the northbound lanes, near the Henrico-Hanover border, the other in a ditch about a mile north.

Chesterfield police say Edwards worked near the area where the phones were found.

Then, in January 2013, police unsealed court papers that showed blood had been found in the trunk of a car belonging to Edwards, though investigators wouldn’t say whose blood it was.

Court documents show Edwards has a violent criminal record, including assault, abduction, and drug charges.  But detectives say the physical evidence in the Namiranian case does not conclusively tie him to her disappearance and he has never been charged.

“It makes it even more difficult to solve that she didn’t have any close contacts in this area,” said Neff.

Namaranian’s father Mohammed Seyed Hadi Meraji lives in Italy.  He is seen in a photograph we aired Tuesday night talking to CBS-6 anchor Bill Fitzgerald.  He has flown to the US several times since his daughter’s disappearance, dealing with her estate and seeking answers.

Fitzgerald, fluent in Italian, was able to talk to Hadi Meraji and listen to his heartbreaking story.

Neighbors tell us months ago Hadi Meraji made what likely will be his last trip stateside until his daughter is found. Items inside her home were auctioned off and her house itself sold.

“Listen to how he talked about his daughter,” said Rice. “You could just hear the sadness in his voice.”

It has now been fifteen months without a significant development in the case. And while friends and neighbors want to know what happened, they’re dreading the day those answers come.

“It’s an ongoing mystery,” said Rice.  “Whenever we do talk to other neighbors, it seems to come up.  Personally, I’m afraid of closure because as long as she’s out there missing, at least there’s still hope.”

We asked Chesterfield Police to provide us with the case detective for an interview. They declined, issuing a statement saying, “At this time we have nothing further to add to what we’ve already released.”