Heaven Lashae Ross

Remains believed to be girl missing three years

Authorities believe skeletal remains found in an abandoned house in Tuscaloosa County are those of a Northport girl missing for more than three years.

Sheriff Ted Sexton announced this morning investigators are working to confirm the remains are Heaven Lashae Ross, who vanished on her way to school in August 2003 when she was 11 years old.

In a press release, Sexton said someone alerted authorities to the remains about 5 p.m. Monday. Patrol deputies dispatched to the undisclosed location confirmed the report and brought in homicide investigators.

Based on evidence found at the scene, which Sexton would not reveal, authorities made the tentative identification. An FBI evidence recovery team and the University of Alabama Department of Forensics Anthropology are helping process the scene.

Shae’s parents were notified of the find about midnight, authorities said.

Sexton said the original task force formed to investigate the case has been recalled, and a joint operation center is being established at the Tuscaloosa Municipal Airport.

Shae lived just off McFarland Boulevard. On Aug. 19, 2003, Shae left her trailer at 7 a.m. to walk to the school bus stop a half block away, but she never showed up. Police from Northport and Tuscaloosa, the FBI and volunteers launched a massive search, using tracking dogs and helicopters.

Her case has been featured on national television shows, and sightings of her have spanned the United States, though none were credible.

Authorities in August of this year said they were investigating the possibility that Shae’s disappearance was linked to the disappearance of two other girls, one in Alabama and one in Georgia. Shannon Nicole Paulk, 11, was snatched from her Candlestick Park neighborhood in Prattville on Aug. 16, 2001. Investigators in a task force formed shortly after Shannon disappeared said in August they believed Shannon’s case was linked to those of Shae and Teresa Melissa Dean of Twiggs County, Ga. All three girls were 11 years old. All three were abducted from trailer parks where they lived. All three girls disappeared two years apart — but within days of each other in August.

Carol Robinson
Posted at 12:03 p.m.