But for the Grace of God Go I: The Cold Case of Leah Ulbrich

Leah Ulbrich, cold case murder, Shattered Lives, Donna R. GoreClick to listen to Shattered Lives podcast about the cold case of Leah Ulbrich

When there just isn’t much evidence or many leads to hang your hat on, cold cases can be fraught with speculation, innuendo, false assumptions, “victim guilt by association “and lack of focus.  Cold case investigators are a special breed, in that they are charged with unearthing information that is seemingly “not there” and finding that “golden nugget” that will turn the tide.  Moreover, when a victim has a past filled with struggle and challenges, those struggles often “become the victim” in the eyes of the law rather than the person the family knew.

A vicious and brutal crime took place on October 29, 1995 beginning in Hartford, CT and ending in Wethersfield, CT. Essentially, a dragging by car took place that can only be described in horrendous terms, which brought 24 year old Leah Ulbrich’s young life to an end!  Few specific details are known of the circumstances of the crime.   We know that the victim was a caring single mother who was very intelligent, possessing talents in the arts who got caught up in drugs and proceeded to more hard core drugs. She experienced a downward spiral with many attempts at rehabilitation. Just prior to her death, Leah was proud of her accomplishment of a year benchmark of being clean and sober.

Street Map: http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/ct/wethersfield/jordan-ln/#map

In the location where Leah’s body ended abruptly on the curb, at the Hartford/Wethersfield line, the neighborhood is  described as follows: Jordan Ln / Ridge Rd is a suburban neighborhood (based on population density) located in Wethersfield, Connecticut.

Jordan Ln / Ridge Rd real estate is primarily made up of small (studio to two bedroom) to medium-sized (three or four bedroom) single-family homes and apartment complexes/high-rise apartments. Most of the residential real estate is occupied by a mixture of owners and renters. Many of the residences in the Jordan Ln / Ridge Rd neighborhood are older, well-established, built between 1940 and 1969. A number of residences were also built between 1970 and 1999.

Real estate vacancies in Jordan Ln / Ridge Rd are 5.1%, which is lower than one will find in 75.8% of American neighborhoods. Demand for real estate in Jordan Ln / Ridge Rd is above average for the U.S.,

Notable & Unique: Diversity

Jordan Ln /Ridge Rd neighborhood has more Yugoslav and Italian ancestry people living in it than nearly any neighborhood in America. It’s true! In fact, 8.9% of this neighborhood’s residents have Yugoslav ancestry and 22.2% have Italian ancestry.

Jordan Ln / Ridge Rd is also special linguistically. Significantly, 5.7% of its residents five years old and above primarily speak Italian at home. While this may seem like a small percentage, it is higher than 99.6% of the neighborhoods in America.

Ethnicity or ancestry: Italian -22.2 %; Puerto Rican a 10.6% Yugoslav – 8.9% , Irish 7.4%,, Polish 6.9%,  In addition, 25.2% of the residents of this neighborhood were born in another country!

Wethersfield Avenue is just on block from Franklin Avenue in Hartford known as “Little Italy,” known for its fine restaurants, bakeries and pizza places.

Painting A Picture: Could This be a Possible Scenario?

Leah had been discharged, successfully completing her addiction rehabilitation program at Elmcrest Hospital (now Rushford Center) in Portland, CT. However, her specific place of residence just prior to her death was unknown to her family.   Leah was on the threshold of getting her life together “on the outside” and by all accounts, was a caring mother.  However, could she have relapsed again, left to her own devices? Could she have met up with “an old friend” who sent her in the wrong direction that night?  Did she have the urge to feed her previous habit and been solicited by the mysterious and evil stranger or “former friend “in the car  in which an argument ensued?  Leah tried to flee and exit the car, but part of her body was caught in the seatbelt. The fact that she was in the car with her seatbelt attached, leads me to believe that this probably was not a “chance encounter. Perhaps she felt safe, comfortable with this person.   Have you ever met a stranger who gets you into their car and asks you to fasten the seatbelt?  However, her family believes, as do I, that the murder may have been a “crime of opportunity” i.e. unplanned.  Leah may have turned down advances, or a drug deal gone bad and desperately tried to flee when the perpetrator would not let her go.

According to her father, Robert Baskin of Maryland, Leah was dragged half in, half out of the car for FOUR miles from Hartford to the adjacent town of Wethersfield . Her body was found with extensive injuries at the curb on Jordan Lane in Wethersfield  by a Hartford Police  officer who had been following a car with Leah as occupant after a 911 call.  Can anyone envision such a scene? I cannot!

 For the Record: Known Facts:

  • Hartford Police received a 911 call on Sunday at approximately 4:49am on Sunday, October 29, 1995.  This was following Saturday night activities in the neighborhood.  The weather would have been  a cool, fall temperature;
  • Two witnesses/callers, one from an emergency fire-box, made 911 calls regarding the dragging of Leah and the direction of the vehicle south toward the town of Wethersfield.
  • The initial witness/caller described the car used as possibly a 1995 Nissan Maxima, brown or dark in color with headlights off
  • Ryan Ulbrich, son of Leah told us his conversations with police indicated that a partial New York license plate was noted;
  • The female caller was never identified;
  • The Hartford Police officer in pursuit of the car was able to “follow a “trail of liquid” to the area of Jordan Lane. Leah’s family speculated that it was most likely bodily fluids;
  • Leah’s family indicated that Leah was found holding an object “with wires” and indicated that initial DNA testing was done up to two times over a period of years. However, the samples  under her fingernails were too small to yield results at the time;
  • The Medical Examiner ruled that the manner of death was a homicide caused by “extensive blunt force trauma”
  • The Hartford and Wethersfield Police Department’s worked collaboratively from the beginning. In November 2001 Leah’s Case was assigned to the Cold Case Unit  of the Office of the Chief State’s Attorney;
  • Documents say that “extensive interviews were conducted and that forensic evidence was analyzed”
  • Chief State’s Attorney John M. Bailey (Tenure 1993-2002) requested that then Governor John G. Roland authorize a $50,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons responsible for the death of Leah Ulbrich. This reward still stands.


  • The area in which Leah was killed is near “Little Italy” in Hartford…and very   ethnically diverse – – lots of Italian speaking people, Slavics, those of Puerto Rican descent; Someone speaking a foreign language had to have heard or witnessed something. Did the police thoroughly interview other ethnic residents in their primary language with trained language interpreters?
  • Were all late night/all night business owners interviewed?
  • What was the result of license plate analysis with the New York DMV?
  • Has the one identifiable witness been re-interviewed in later years in hopes that more information could be gleaned?
  • As this murder was so unspeakably brutal, a push for more advanced DNA analysis would be a future goal
  • Ryan revealed that Leah underwent another severe attack years earlier in which she was in a coma and was traumatically brain injured, receiving Rehabilitation from Gaylord Hospital in Wallingford. Did the police investigate the initial attack in relation to the October 1995 murder?
  • Have her peers enrolled in addiction Rehabilitation between 1994 and 1995 been re-interviewed in 2014?
  • Were other similar crimes reviewed in 1995, 2001 and later to try to establish links?
  • Putting on my “speech- language pathology hat” it appears that Leah having experienced a brain injury may have had some residual deficits from her first severe attack. (Date unknown). It may have affected her behavior and judgment and some cognitive skills.  Would police have known this history and tried to learn what her behavior patterns or challenges were after her brain injury?  Of course not!
  • Please excuse my blunt language.  Most likely, if she had such challenges they would have incorrectly assumed she was “crazy” and/or “Just another drug addict.”
  • No one knows for sure how Leah’s behavior may have changed after her first attack, combined with damage from repeated drug use, her ability to sustain a clean and sober life long-term and function independently.   However, her father stated that she had a high general intelligence quotient of 183.  Rating Scale: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_is_considered_a_high_IQ

FYI: Cognitive abilities are often categorized as different kinds of intelligence depending upon the part of the brain used.  In general, cognitive skills are brain-based skills we need to carry out any task from the simplest to the most complex. They have more to do with the mechanisms of how we learn, remember, problem-solve, and pay attention rather than with any actual knowledge.

There is great debate among psychologists regarding how intelligence is analyzed and categorized.
Cognitive Intelligence is what is usually being referred to when talking about IQ. It is the ability to think and reason logically without using the part of the brain concerned with feelings or emotions. Cognitive intelligence does not involve social skills but rather analytical, reading and writing skills. Emotional Intelligence involves the ability to perceive accurately, appraise, and express emotion; the ability to access and/or generate feelings when they facilitate thought; the ability to understand emotion and emotional knowledge; and the ability to regulate emotions to promote emotional and intellectual growth. http://www.studymode.com/essays/Cognitive-Intelligence-Vs-Emotional-Intelligtence-In-932567.html

Areas of cognition which can be impaired after brain injury include: Perception, attention, memory, motor skills, language stills, visual &spatial processing, goal oriented behaviors called executive functioning enabling a person to plan (i.e. flexibility, insight, anticipation, problem solving,  working memory, emotional self- regulation, the ability to sequence a task, action and inhibition (of distractions) See: http://sharpbrains.com/blog/2006/12/18/what-are-cognitive-abilities/

Questions, questions and more questions, leading to the need for more answers. I do not profess to hold the key to this crime. However, perhaps collectively, we can assist the Ulbrich family!

Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.” George Elliot.   

Ryan Ulbrich and his family are a testament that Leah is not forgotten!

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Disclaimer: The comments expressed on this website or on the broadcasts of Shattered Lives do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of the hosts, producers, or other guests.

But for the Grace of God Go I: The Cold Case of Leah Ulbrich

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