11-year-old Ivy Marie Leinen was a fifth grader at Culbertson School in Poplar, Montana. She loved music and art, and particularly enjoyed drawing caricatures, and was fascinated by the wildlife that lived along the banks of the Missouri River.
She had moved to Poplar with her mother Anita in 2005, where they lived with Anita's parents. Ivy was always surrounded by family, and was known as a kind and funny child. Ivy was autistic, and inspired others with her tenacity and her determination to overcome her challenges. However, she was also a target for bullies at her school, who made fun of Ivy for her condition and her tall stature, and Ivy's last year at school had been particularly hard.
On March 14, 2010, Ivy left the house to take her four family dogs on a walk. But at around 4 pm, the dogs returned home without her. Ivy's family immediately reported her missing, and rescue workers combed the area around her house. Unfortunately, the very next day the search was called off. The rescue workers had discovered footprints leading from an island on the Missouri River onto the main channel, which at the time was iced over.
The footprints, that they believed belonged to Ivy, then disappeared in an open section of water. Based on dog tracks that were also found, it appears that after Ivy fell into the water, the dogs ran back and forth along the edge of the ice, sadly unable to save her. Ivy had always been fascinated by the island, home to the deer, geese, ducks and turkeys that she so loved.
Because of the icy conditions, it was too dangerous to search the river, and to this day Ivy's body has never been found. Seven months after her disappearance, Ivy's mother Anita expressed her frustration that more wasn't being done to recover her daughter's body. The case faced jurisdictional issues, as Ivy's home and the location of her disappearance fall in two different counties.
However, the agencies worked together to organise volunteer search parties, sniffer dogs, four wheelers, helicopters and sonar equipment. Though there were several more searches made of the river once the ice had cleared, none of them brought back any clues.
After Ivy's disappearance, cards written by many of the students at her school expressed regret as to how they had treated her. “I wish we had all been nicer…”, one read. "I wish I would have been your friend…”, said another. Friends had been all Ivy had wanted in life. In death, it seemed, she finally had them.
In 2016, Anita proposed to the Montana Geographic Names Advisor that the island where Ivy vanished be given a commemorative name in honour of her daughter. Today, it is known as Ivy's Island. Though 10 years have now passed since she disappeared, Anita is still hopeful that her body may one day be found, so she can give her the burial she deserves.