Leslie Haag was restless on the afternoon of Friday, November 1, 1985. Around 5:00 pm, the 14-year-old asked her mother if she could take a short walk; her mother told her that was fine as long as she returned to their Fort Smith, Arkansas home in time for dinner. Leslie told her mother that she wouldn’t be long; she planned on taking a quick stroll around nearby Bailey Hill Reservoir. Her mom reminded her that dinner would be ready in less than an hour, and Leslie promised she would be back in plenty of time.
It was a mild day in Fort Smith; the temperature was close to 60 degrees that afternoon, so Leslie didn’t bother to grab a jacket before she left the house. She knew that the temperature would start to fall once the sun went down, but she planned to be home before then. She had no idea that she would never make it back to her house.
Leslie’s mother finished cooking dinner and was preparing to put everything on the table when she realized that Leslie still wasn’t home. At first, she was mildly annoyed; she thought perhaps Leslie had met up with some friends and lost track of time. She and Leslie’s stepfather sat down and started eating without the teenager, hoping to hear her come rushing through the front door at any moment.
Once she finished eating, Leslie’s mother starting calling some of her relatives who lived in their Fort Smith neighborhood; none of them had seen Leslie that day. She got the same response when she called some of Leslie’s friends; they hadn’t seen Leslie since they left school earlier that afternoon.
By 7:00 pm, it was dark outside. There was still no sign of Leslie, and her mother and stepfather were growing increasingly concerned. Thinking that Leslie might have fallen and hurt herself, they decided to take a walk around the area to see if they could find her.
Shortly before 8:00 pm, the couple made a horrifying discovery on a path leading away from the Bailey Hill Reservoir. Leslie’s body was lying in a ravine just a few feet off the path; it was immediately apparent that she was dead.
Leslie’s mother made a frantic call to the Fort Smith Police Department, and officers arrived at the scene within minutes. They quickly cordoned off the area, but they could tell that there was nothing they could do to help Leslie. One of the officers made a radio request for homicide detectives to be sent to the location.
Investigators spent hours processing the crime scene, but there was little physical evidence to collect. They thought it was possible that Leslie might have been picked up by someone and ki*lled inside their car, then dumped in the ravine.
Leslie was still fully clothed when she was found, but her clothing was disheveled and investigators weren’t sure if she had been sexually assaulted. It appeared that she had been strangled with a shoelace from one of her own sneakers; both of her sneakers had been removed and were not found at the scene.
Leslie’s shirt was missing several buttons; they had likely been pulled off during a struggle. The buttons were found near her body along with an unopened six-pack of beer. Detectives weren’t sure if the beer had been left there by the k*iller or not, but it was taken into evidence just in case.
Around dawn, Leslie’s body was removed from the scene and taken to the state crime lab in Little Rock, Arkansas. An autopsy was performed there, and the coroner confirmed that Leslie had been strangled to de*ath with a shoelace. Since her sneakers were never found, investigators were unable to determine if her own shoelace had been used to k*ill her, but they believed that was likely the case.
Detectives conducted a door-to-door canvass of the neighborhood surrounding Bailey Hill Reservoir, but none of the residents reported hearing anything unusual on Friday night. They searched for potential witnesses who might have been walking around the reservoir, but no one came forward with any information.
All of Leslie’s family members, friends, and neighbors were interviewed, but none of them were able to offer any information about potential suspects. Leslie, who was an eighth-grade student at Darby Junior High School, was a friendly and popular teenager with no known enemies. No one could imagine why anyone would have wanted to k*ill her.
Leslie was buried in Fort Smith National Cemetery because her father, Fred, was a World War II veteran. Fred had served in the Navy and had been stationed in Japan; he found his daughter’s de*ath to be a much greater hardship than fighting in the war. He was completely devastated when Leslie was kil*led, and spent hours at her gravesite.
Sadly, Leslie’s mur*der received virtually no publicity in 1985, and the case went cold almost immediately. Detectives were never able to develop any potential suspects or persons of interest. There was no movement on the case at all until three decades later, when cold case detectives decided to take another look at Leslie’s mu*rder.
Technology had improved drastically in the thirty years since the mu*rder. Investigators still had the clothing that Leslie had been wearing when she was ki*lled, and they submitted it to the state crime lab in 2015. They were hopeful that the clothing might contain DNA from the ki*ller.
Leslie’s father was pleased when detectives announced that they were taking another look at the case. For the first time in years, Fred felt optimistic; he told reporters that he had never gotten over his daughter’s de*ath and he was haunted by the fact that her kil*ler had never been caught. His greatest fear was that he would die without ever knowing the identity of Leslie’s ki*ller; his father had been 87 when he died, and Fred turned 87 in May 2015.
Unfortunately, the renewed investigation into Leslie’s mu*rder went nowhere. It appears that no additional information was obtained from the crime lab’s 2015 analysis, and the case went cold once more. Fred died at the age of 88 in March 2017 without ever knowing who k*illed his daughter.
Leslie Dawn Haag was just 14 years old when she was mur*dered in 1985. More than 35 years later, her k*iller is still unidentified. Leslie still has family in the Fort Smith, Arkansas area, and they continue to hope that they will one day obtain justice for her. If you have any information about Leslie’s m*urder, please contact the Fort Smith Police Department at 479–709–5100.