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Leanne Bearden: Remembering missing Denver woman who took her own life

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Update: Earlier this month, we told you about the search for Leanne Bearden, a Denver woman who had disappeared in Texas after returning from a two-year-long trip around the world with her husband. See our previous coverage below. Unfortunately, the story's sad ending is told by an event tomorrow in Texas: a memorial service scheduled after the discovery that she had taken her own life. However, a future get-together in the Denver area will endeavor to celebrate Bearden's spirit, not just mourn her loss. Continue for photos, video and details. As we've reported, Bearden and her husband, Joshua, got back from the globetrotting journey in January. But before heading home to Colorado, they stopped at his family's home in Garden Ridge, Texas. On January 17, Leanne left for a walk and never returned.

Before long, the story of Bearden's mysterious disappearance went national, with plenty of major media outlets putting out alerts about her. But at the time of our post, her loved ones were actively acknowledging that she appeared to have vanished by her own choice.

Then, last week, a terrible development: Bearden's body was found only blocks away from her in-laws' home. By the weekend, preliminary autopsy results were in: CNN notes they indicated "asphyxiation by hanging." She had been found attached to a tree by a rope.

Bearden's Facebook page was quickly transformed into an online memorial. Here's a sampling of messages:

What a bright and encouraging spirit you had, Leanne. No one could come into contact with you and not smile. My prayers remain with you as you fly among the angels in a happier place. You are greatly missed, but you will never be forgotten.

All the love you gave is returned to you 100 fold -- surrounding you and yours today and always.

God Bless you sweet girl!!!

A memorial service for Bearden is slated to take place at 2 p.m. tomorrow, February 22, at Northeast Bible Church in San Antonio, Texas. But those who loved Bearden here in Colorado will have another way to mark her passing.

The Leanne Bearden 5K and Balloon Release will take place on Sunday, March 9 at a Denver location that's yet to be determined.

The page's organizer notes, "I am honored that Leanne's family has asked us to honor Leanne's life" via the event, which had originally been planned as a fundraiser to help continue the search for her. The hope is that the gathering will be "a wonderful, respectful celebration & memorial service for all the friends and family our friend Leanne Hecht Bearden touched with her beautiful spirit throughout her life."

For more information about the event, click here. In the meantime, our sincere condolences to Bearden's friends, family and loved ones.

Here's a report from Texas-based KENS-TV about the discovery of her body.

Continue for our previous coverage about the search for Leanne Bearden. Original post, 11:50 a.m. February 3: Leanne Bearden may have disappeared in Garden Ridge, Texas, a suburb of San Antonio, but the search for her is very much a Colorado story.

Leanne lived in Denver prior to taking off on a round-the-world trip with her husband, Joshua. Their wide-ranging jaunt lasted two years -- and they were days away from returning to the Mile High City when she went for a walk and hasn't been seen since.

Details, photos and videos below.

Here's the description from the "What We Know So Far" section of FindLeanneBearden.com, a website set up by her friends and loved ones:

Leanne Hecht Bearden and her husband Joshua spent the past two years traveling around the world. After returning to the United States, they stopped at her husband's family home in Garden Ridge, TX. They were planning on returning to their home in Denver, Colorado on Tuesday (January 21, 2014). Leanne Hecht Bearden, 33, left her in-laws home in Garden Ridge, TX on Friday (January 17) and never returned. He said his wife told him she was going out for a walk last Friday afternoon. She left her in-laws home with about $60 and some credit cards, according to her husband. Law enforcement officials in Texas have no active searches for her and have no reason to suspect foul play at this point. They say she has been listed as a missing person.

In the wake of Leanne's disappearance, those looking for her created the website linked above, as well as a Facebook page entitled Our Friend Leanne Hecht Bearden. They've also organized search efforts in Texas, with one including a pair of helicopters. Additionally, Bearden's loved ones have reached out to local and national media organizations, which have responded with a great deal of coverage. We've shared clips from ABC's Good Morning America and the Fox outlet in San Antonio below.

Thus far, however, authorities have had no luck. Sightings of a woman who matched Leanne's description briefly raised hopes late last month, but within a day or so, they apparently proved to be false leads. Meanwhile, the family now believes that Leanne may have left voluntarily due to difficulty acclimating to real life after such a lengthy journey.

One possible piece of evidence in favor of this theory: She's thought to have taken her backpack with her. Here's a look at one that fits its description:

Given that Bearden is 33 years old, she has every right to drop off the map if that's her wish. But her loved ones want to make sure she's okay, as is noted in the most recent post on the Facebook page. Continue for more photos, plus additional details and videos, related to the disappearance of Leanne Bearden. The aforementioned post is addressed directly to Leanne. It reads:

Dear Leanne-

We, your family and friends, want you to know that we love you very much. We know that you must be struggling right now and we are just really worried about you. We want you to know that in NO WAY are you in any kind of trouble with anyone and none of us are upset or angry with you about any of this. We love you so much and just want to know if you are ok. We so hope you will reach out to SOMEONE, ANYONE and let them know. We don't need to know where you are if that's not what you want, but we would just really like to hear from you.

We love you Le and are so worried. None of us have stopped thinking about you for even a second since you've been gone.

The support for Leanne in Denver is considerable, despite her extended absence from the city. Late last month, a pair of fundraisers were held here to benefit search efforts: one at the Celtic Tavern, the other at the Hornet. If you have any information about her whereabouts, you're encouraged to phone the Garden Ridge Police Department at 210-651-6441 or the Heidi Search Center, 210-650-0428 or 800-547-4435. Continue to view the aforementioned reports from Good Morning America and San Antonio's Fox affiliate.

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our News archive circa April 2013: "Raven Furlong, missing teen, found -- but she refuses to return home to her family."

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