It’s been nearly seven years since Dodi Schaak saw her big sister, Heike Leich.
“In the years that have gone by, it’s been very difficult,” Schaak said.
It was August of 2007 when 47-year-old Heike disappeared from the driveway of her home on Fishing Creek Valley Road in West Hanover Township, Dauphin County. Since then, no one close to her has received a single phone call or letter. Instead, they have met with an agonizing and terrifying silence.
“My mom doesn’t want to go away because she thinks Heike might call,” Schaak said. “We stay home for Christmas. We stay home for Thanksgiving because, you never now, Heike might call. You always have that hope. You can’t give up that hope.”
But the circumstances of Heike’s disappearance are certainly suspicious – to her family and the Pennsylvania State Police.
When Heike disappeared, she took nothing with her. She didn’t have her identification, purse, cigarettes or the medication she needed to treat bipolar disorder.
“As long as she would take her medicine, she was fine,” Schaak said. “She was normal as any person.”
Police searched the property Heike shared with her long-time boyfriend, Joseph Hawthorne Sr., and their adult son, Joseph Hawthorne Jr., by land and air. But they found no sign of Heike.
What they did find, police said, were deplorable living conditions.
“Where she slept, it wasn’t even fit for a dog,” Schaak said of her sister’s arrangements.
“It was very cluttered, very dirty,” said Trooper Brent Miller, who is now in charge of the investigation.
Miller said the elder Hawthorne’s relationship with Heike was “unhealthy” and he called his behavior throughout the investigation “unusual.”
“Through all our interviews it has been said that Joe Sr. really was not concerned Heike was missing,” Miller said.
He also said it raises a red flag that Hawthorne Sr. left the state the day after Heike went missing to attend a tractor show in Ohio.
“I believe there’s a lot of unanswered questions, a lot of stones we still haven’t turned over that I believe, as a department, we can do,” Miller said.
Miller said Joseph Hawthorne Sr. took three large plastic tubs with him on that Ohio trip. He’d like to know what was inside.
He would also like to know why Hawthorne Sr. has refused a lie detector test.
Harrisburg attorney Justin McShane represents both Joseph Hawthorne Sr. and Joseph Hawthorne Jr. When reached recently by phone, he offered no comment from either about the investigation or the lingering questions.
Schaak certainly suspects that something terrible happened to her sister.
“When you hear that remains are found, I am instantly ill,” she said.
She describes Heike as caring and generous. She said she was the kind of sister who would give you her last dollar with no strings attached.
“If the worst happened and she is no longer with us, we just hope she didn’t suffer. We don’t want that,” Schaak said.
Heike Leich would now be 54-years-old. She speaks fluent German.
Anyone with information about her disappearance or her whereabouts is asked to call Trooper Miller at 717-671-7537.