Cold Case Spotlight

No Answers as Anniversary of Alabama Teen’s Disappearance Approaches

Carla Corley was just 14 years old when she disappeared.

Carla Corley National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

And for the past 37 years, her family has no real idea of what may have become of her.

“It’s really terrifying to think about. To think about what happened to her and where she might be. All you can think of is that she’s been probably buried somewhere,” Cheryl Ledbetter, Carla’s older sister, told local NBC affiliate WVTM in 2015.

Carla was last seen in the evening hours of August 12, 1980 at her family’s apartment in the Eastwood public housing projects on Airport Highway in Birmingham, Alabama. Her mother would later tell police the two had been watching TV, but when she decided to go to bed, Carla stayed up.

Then, around 4:30 a.m., her mother got up and discovered their front door open and signs of a struggle inside the apartment.

“I know that she was in a struggle and a fight because there was chairs knocked down in the kitchen, my mother had told me about,” Carla’s sister Cheryl said.

As troubling as the alleged scene that night, is what happened to Carla just a month earlier, according to family members. It is rumored Carla was attacked and sexually assaulted by three men near Lake Purdy in Alabama that July, just weeks before she vanished.

No official police report was filed, however, and police didn’t learn of the alleged assault until 18 years after Carla disappeared.

Over the years, tips have poured in to the Birmingham Police Department, but none has led to any persons of interest or suspects being named. Detectives continue to investigate the case.

Carla was declared legally dead several years after she disappeared, but her family continues to search. Dateline was unable to reach Carla’s family for comment, but her sister Cheryl told WVTM, on what would have been Carla’s 50th birthday in 2015, that she hopes whoever has the information to crack the case will come forward.

“I wish I could see her now. I wish I could see her,” Cheryl told the station. “But I know there is no way that I possibly can. If she was out there, I wish she -- I wish she could find us.”

Anyone with information regarding Carla’s disappearance is urged to call the Birmingham Police Department at (205) 254-1764 or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1 (800) THE-LOST.