Dateline   |  June 08, 2013

‘A Sister’s Search’, Part 1

Actress Aasha Davis and her sister Lesley move to Hollywood. Life is good until one of them goes missing.  Dateline NBC’s Josh Mankiewicz reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> reporter: in the movies and on tv, people can just disappear without a trace, leaving family and friends with nothing more than memories, questions and worry. in real life , vanishing is more a magician's trick than an everyday occurrence, which brings us to that crossroads where magic and entertainment collide -- hollywood . the cops who roll down these streets call it hollyweird because they know anything can happen here and sometimes what does happen makes no sense. hollywood 's a real place, but it's also a myth, and the fantasy of what might be has always drawn the hopeful from every town in america with a bus station . for quite different reasons, it drew these two sisters, lesley and aasha . maybe you recognize aasha davis. she's one of the lucky few for whom that hollywood fantasy came true. within a few years of her move west, aasha 's star was rising, first with small parts on tv, a college student on "the gilmore girls ," a patient on "house," a street-wise girl on "the shield," and in 2007 , her big break on "friday night lights." she was cast as waverly, the sharp as a tack teen aged preacher's daughter.

>> you ask me all your questions and blah, blah, blah, we caught up. go for some gold.

>> reporter: just as aasha 's career was taking off, a real life drama began, one that would test her strength in a way the climb up the hollywood ladder never had.

>> hi, i'm here to plead for help to find my sister lesley .

>> reporter: aasha was used to facing the cameras, but this wasn't on a set or for a publicity tour. the scene was a news conference where aasha begged for help from anyone who would listen.

>> we are heartbroken and extremely concerned for her well-being.

>> reporter: any sister would be frantic with worry, but aasha and her big sister lesley were closer than most despite their gap in age. lesley was how much older?

>> she was nine years older than me.

>> reporter: and so she was sort of a surrogate mom when your mom wasn't around?

>> yeah, she was almost like having another mom because my mom was a single mom so she worked day and night , double shifts, and lesley was in charge of us. she was a mama bear .

>> reporter: lesley always wanted things a certain way, her way. she was definitely type "a." everyone in the family knew that if lesley was in charge, everything would be just right.

>> my sister's the type that, even when we were younger, she would take me on dates with her.

>> reporter: i'm sure they loved that.

>> like my little sister , but that's who she was. she made sure that we were taken care of.

>> reporter: lesley never stopped feeling responsible for aasha , and so a few months after aasha moved west in late '97, lesley followed. she found herself an office job that some of us would call boring, but in it lesley saw material for stories that kept her sister laughing.

>> she's so charismatic and such a great storyteller. she could take a little tiny thing like a tape dispenser and create this amazing story.

>> reporter: the move west had been good for both sisters, especially for lesley , after she met the right guy in an unlikely place -- the 99 cent store .

>> by the time we were checking out, shes was giving him her number. they went to the movies afterwards and inseparable after that.

>> reporter: his name was lyle herring and he had a great job as a recruiter at a local university. he'd grown up in los angeles . and his wooing of lesley was spent introducing her to her new city. a courtship at warp speed .

>> she called me one day and she said, do you want to be a witness at my wedding? and i'm like, you're getting married? yeah.

>> reporter: married less than a year after they met. lesley and lyle were clearly happy together. they seemed a pretty good match.

>> yes.

>> reporter: vivian, lesley and aasha 's mother, thought her eldest daughter had found, for her, the perfect man.

>> lesley and lyle even dressed alike. they had the same jackets, they had the same sweater, they had the same caps.

>> reporter: and they were together all the time?

>> all the time.

>> reporter: it was funny about lyle , after the marriage, he became closer to lesley 's family than he was to his own. vivian felt it.

>> he always told me he loved me more than he loved his own mother, and he told me that my family was better to him than his own family.

>> reporter: you loved him like a son?

>> i loved him like a son.

>> reporter: as for lesley , she was the mama bear , first to aasha and then, after they got together, to her husband lyle , but it was her own mother who lived all the way across the country to whom lesley turned for comfort. and you talked to her almost every day?

>> every day. a quarter of 11:00 every morning on her way to work, and sometimes in the afternoon.

>> reporter: how old was she?

>> 45.

>> reporter: and she's still calling her mom every day?

>> she called me in the morning so we could pray together. and then sometimes i say to her, where are you now? she said, i'm in the elevator. i say you make me pray all the way to the elevator? she said, mm-hmm.

>> reporter: they shared daily prayers and they shared confidences. in fact, lesley would talk to only her mother during those rare times when she was ticked off at lyle .

>> whenever she was unhappy, if i wanted her to laugh, i would always say to her, what do you expect? you met him in the 99 cent store .

>> reporter: soon enough, aasha was married, too, and in 2008 , she and her husband jesse found out she was pregnant with a boy.

>> lesley was so excited so have a nephew, and she was so supportive, she threw my baby shower . she was going to get to see her little sister become a mom.

>> reporter: the little boy named evert joined the family in january of 2009 . though aunt lesley was sick with a cold, she couldn't resist coming by to look through the window at her brand new nephew. those should have been happy times for aasha and her sister, a time of the family bonding with its newest member, but then aasha got a phone call from lesley 's boss that changed everything.

>> he said, lesley didn't show up for work yesterday, and she's not here today. i just went ah. instantly felt wrong.

>> reporter: the joy of new motherhood melted away. it was tuesday, february 10th . lesley had missed two days of work and she hadn't called in sick. together it was completely out of character for the always responsible lesley .

>> i instantly called the two people who would know where she is, that's the one she's always with, lyle herring, a and my mom who she talks to twice a day.

>> reporter: aasha 's mom hadn't heard from lesley . and now, they realized, lyle couldn't be found either. but no one disappears without a trace, do they?