March 19, 1982

There had been untold searches for a prominent St. Agnes Academy student who disappeared from her East Memphis home, but this news baffled not just police investigators but also the community:

Leslie Maria Gattas, 15-year-old daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Gattas, was found alive late last night at Christ United Methodist Church where she had apparently been held in the sanctuary attic during a 119-day kidnapping ordeal.

She was in good health, said Chief Inspector A.L. Williams, who was in charge of the investigation at the church.

She had apparently been kept in a remote portion of the attic, where her captor had stored food, canned goods, clothes and other items for survival.

Sgt. Rick Roby and Captain T.C. Hasty search a crawlspace area under a balcony. (Thomas Bustler/The Commercial Appeal)

Many of the notes Gattas tucked into Bibles, slipped onto desks and tossed under pews were dismissed as pranks. (The Commercial Appeal)