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Evidence in missing Midlothian woman's case examined in Richmond
Search for woman continues as father arrives from Italy
Details emerge on missing Midlothian woman
Midlothian woman's disappearance suspicious, police say
UPDATE: Chesterfield police search for missing woman
By: MARK BOWES, REED WILLIAMS | Richmond Times-Dispatch
Published: June 07, 2012 Updated: June 07, 2012 - 1:48 PM
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CHESTERFIELD, Va. --
Chesterfield County investigators have developed a person of interest in the disappearance of Altria research director Leyla Namiranian and have searched his Richmond apartment and seized his car as part of their investigation, authorities confirmed Thursday.
"We did identify a person of interest who we have interviewed, and we have seized a vehicle connected to that person," Chesterfield police Lt. Randy Horowitz said in response to questions raised about the missing person case, now two months old.
The person of interest, whose identity police declined to confirm, lives in the same apartment complex where a man was fatally shot Monday afternoon in an unrelated homicide in the 3800 block of Chamberlayne Avenue in Richmond's North Side.
Investigators identified a person of interest early in the case and they searched the man's apartment and seized his car within about a week of Namiranian's April 4 disappearance. Police still have the vehicle and "we are looking at it forensically," Horowitz said.
Police declined to say how the man was developed as a person of interest or what his connection is to Namiranian, 41, who lives in the Midlothian area.
Police also confirmed they have recovered two of Namiranian's cellphones one for personal use and another she used for work as director of marketing and consumer research for Altria Client Services, a subsidiary of Altria Group.
One of the phones recovered was found damaged in a roadway, and the other was found intact off the side of a road, Horowitz said. Police declined to identify the specific locations but said neither was found near Namiranian's residence in the 2000 block of Normandstone Drive or near the person of interest's apartment in Richmond.
Leyla Namiranian's ex-husband, Babak Namiranian, said last month that police found one of her phones in some woods and another on a street. He said the one found on the street apparently had been run over.
"Without them, I'm not really sure how else they can find her," Namiranian said in a phone interview.
Horowitz said investigators have been unable to confirm a report that Leyla Namiranian had met a man online and was planning to meet him in person before she disappeared. That's what Namiranian's brother, who lives in Italy, told her ex-husband, who lives in the Seattle area, when the two talked shortly after her disappearance, Babak Namiranian told the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
"We have looked at her computer records and we don't see anything showing that she had some meeting set up," Horowitz said. "But again, that doesn't mean she didn't. We just can't independently confirm it."
The warrants investigators used to search Namiranian's Chesterfield home and the person of interest's apartment and car remain sealed in Chesterfield and Richmond circuit courts.
Horowitz said police are still investigating Namiranian's disappearance as a missing person case and not as a death investigation. "We're still unable to find her," he said.
Namiranian was last seen about 6:30 p.m. April 4 leaving Altria Group Inc. in Henrico County, where she works. Investigators believe she returned to her home that evening but did not go to work the following day.
Those who know Namiranian have described her as a driven career woman and said that it would be out of character for her to purposely miss work without giving notice.
Leyla Namiranian, who was born in Italy to an Italian mother and an Iranian father, married Babak more than 10 years ago. They lived in Texas before moving to Virginia, where Leyla had gotten a job. They were divorced about three years ago.
Namiranian's vehicle was found at her residence, but there was no indication that she planned to leave. There was no sign of a break-in to her home, and Horowitz on Thursday affirmed earlier police statements there was no sign of a struggle inside.
Namiranian's luggage appeared to be in place inside her home, and it didn't appear anything was packed for a trip. The keys to her car were found in the house, police said.
Babak Namiranian said his ex-wife's disappearance has taken such a toll on him that he had taken a leave of absence from work. "I couldn't really concentrate on work," he said.
"I'm trying to kind of put this to a closure," he added. "Otherwise, I think I'm just going to go crazy."