Inside Kim Sue Leggett's Kidnapping

The endless trail of criminal cold cases, sadly, is something that will seemingly never stop. Even in today's world of rampant cybersecurity, it isn't unusual for someone to vanish without a trace. In 2012, aerial photos taken by the FBI were released to, a news station located in Texas' Rio Grande Valley. The photos were related to a lingering investigation geared toward finding Kim Sue Leggett, a 21-year-old wife and mother who'd gone missing decades earlier (via Forensics Colleges). 

It was on October 9, 1984, that Kim Sue Leggett mysteriously disappeared (per Valley Central). She was last seen at her place of work — the Ross Cotton Gin in Mercedes, Texas — in the late afternoon. Leggett's step-father, Lefty Gardner, received an ominous phone call demanding a large sum of money in exchange for the young woman. Unaware that his step-daughter was even missing at that point, Gardner took the phone call for a sick joke and hung up. However, after he and his wife attempted to contact Kim at the Cotton Gin a few minutes later and nobody answered, they started to worry.

Details of the disappearance

Kim Sue Leggett is believed to have been abducted from the Ross Cotton Gin just before 5 p.m. on October 9, 1984 (per Valley Central). It was just after her abduction that Lefty Gardner received the disturbing phone call that he initially took as a prank, though that changed after Leggett failed to answer the phone at work (she was working as the gin mill's secretary, so any and all phone calls would have gone to her desk). He then drove to the Ross Cotton Gin (which was owned by Kim's father-in-law) to check on Leggett, but she was nowhere in sight. 

Authorities believe that the ransom call was placed mere minutes after Kim was abducted. A few days later, the family received a ransom note inscribed in what appeared to be Kim's handwriting demanding $250,000 in exchange for their daughter's safe return. But despite painstaking efforts by police and investigative teams, Leggett was never recovered, and nobody ever ascertained what happened to her. 


Law enforcement has since surmised that Kim Sue Leggett was most likely murdered. A number of different theories have pervaded investigative minds throughout the years, but no conclusive evidence legitimately specifying a culprit ever surfaced. Some viewed her husband as a possible suspect, though his unabashed compliance throughout the investigation coupled with virtually no evidence to support the claim makes it unlikely that he had anything to do with it (via The Charley Project). 

Another theory with little is that Kim Sue Leggett was abducted after Lefty Garnder — who was a pilot and a member of the Confederate Air Force (the Commemorative Air Force) at the time of her abduction — refused to smuggle drugs/contraband into Mexico. In this theory, the kidnapping was carried out in retaliation to his refusal to engage in illegal activity. Again, no tenable evidence could be summoned to substantiate the theory, and the disappearance of Kim Sue Leggett remains an inconclusive mystery 37 years later.