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Family missing 'so many little things' two years after Nique Leili's death

In this 2011 file photo, more than 100 people showed up in memory of Dominique Leili during a candle light vigil after her body was found.

In this 2011 file photo, more than 100 people showed up in memory of Dominique Leili during a candle light vigil after her body was found.

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Nique Leili

LAWRENCEVILLE -- She wasn't there.

Amy Robinson never imagined getting married without her big sister. It had never struck her as a possibility.

But on May 11 -- one year, nine months and 25 days after that sister, Nique Leili, was found naked and decomposing in the woods -- it happened.

"There were so many little things that I would've loved to have had her input on, or had her there to share in," Robinson said. "And she wasn't there."

She wasn't there because, on July 11, 2011, she was reported missing and, five days later, found among leaves and twigs near the entrance to her Lawrenceville neighborhood, the cause of death undeterminable but almost undoubtedly homicidal. Amy Robinson's sister was dead -- murdered -- but she would have to carry on with life.

Even if the killer was still out there.

"We missed Nique," the father of both women, Doug Chatham, said of Amy's backyard wedding. "But we didn't let it ruin the day."

'Not close'

It's now been two years since Nique Leili was killed. Aside from her sister's last name, not much has changed.

Matthew Leili, Nique's husband of 13 years, is still the only suspect ever named in the case. Any publicly released leads point to him, mention his strange demeanor and alleged lack of cooperation with authorities. They reference the June 28 911 call, during which Nique told an operator that Matthew refused to let her leave the house; his filing for divorce three days before her body was found; the contentious battle over her remains.

In the court of public opinion, Matthew Leili has been tried, convicted and hanged.

"It feels rather obvious to anybody who has read the stories and looked at the case even from like a 3,000-foot view," Robinson said.

In the real world, there's not enough evidence, against him or anyone else.

"We haven't eliminated (Leili) from suspicion," Gwinnett County police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith said this week. "But we are not close to charging him at this point either."

Lead homicide Det. John Richter declined an interview, issuing a statement instead.

"Investigators continue to follow up on all leads generated, however there is nothing new that they are able to release at this time," he said.

'A whole lot harder'

Last February, Matthew Leili moved to tiny Londonberry, Vt., about 90 minutes northeast of Albany, N.Y. Moving in with his brother, he took his (and Nique's) young daughters with him.

For the 18 months or so since, Robinson said, the trio has been incommunicado. Chatham and his wife initially put up a fight for custody of the girls -- Rebecca, almost 12, and Amanda, who turns 15 in September -- and ultimately won visitation rights.

But they're now 1,000 miles away and seemingly in their father's corner.

"We haven't seen them since," Robinson said. "We haven't heard from any of them at all ... The girls' demeanor was that they didn't want to be here."

"That makes it a whole lot harder," Chatham said.

Matthew Leili has ignored requests for interviews since his wife's death, and attempts to reach him via cellphone this week were unsuccessful. Attempts via Lawrenceville attorney Lyle Porter were also unfruitful.

Over two years, Leili's only public voice has come through a statement Porter released four days after Nique's body was uncovered.

"Contrary to the allegations as reported, Mr. Leili cooperated with the police and provided every known fact and circumstance regarding his wife's disappearance," Porter wrote, in part. "(He) has done nothing wrong, and as such, is refusing to respond to the allegations as reported in the media."

'The end result'

In Gwinnett, life continues.

Robinson has tried to distance herself from the legal side of things, believing it will happen when it happens. Though Chatham still speaks with Richter occasionally, their conversations are brief and irregular.

"I don't want to take up much of his time," Chatham said.

Alexandra Page, the 21-year-old child of Nique Leili's first marriage, also keeps tabs on the investigation. The case is not a cold one, at least in terms of effort. Chatham has faith.

"The indications are that (Richter) has some evidence, and we don't know what that is," he said. "I wouldn't ask him. I don't want him to tell us. I told him I just want to know the end result."

They all know nothing will bring Nique back, that not even a conviction would've put her alongside Robinson as she took her wedding vows. But still there's hope for closure.

"Something could happen tomorrow," she said. "You never know."

Comments

dmchatham 1 year, 4 months ago

Mr. Estep, Thank you for this article. My greatest fear at this point is that it will happen again to somebody else's daughter.

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