Country Singer advocates for missing woman

By on September 28, 2016

Brings focus to Toni Lee Sharpless, missing since 2009

Gina Miller has focused and dedicated her performances to finding Toni Lee Sharpless, who went missing in August 2009 after leaving a party at the home of NBA star Willie Green in Gladwyne, near Philadelphia. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

Gina Miller has focused and dedicated her performances to finding Toni Lee Sharpless, who went missing in August 2009 after leaving a party at the home of NBA star Willie Green in Gladwyne, near Philadelphia. Photo by Kirk Neidermyer

On a dark night in August 2009, Lancaster General Hospital nurse Toni Lee Sharpless left a party, got in her car, and drove off.

She was never seen again.

Sharpless, originally from Chester County, was 29 and left behind a 12-year-old daughter. Seven years later, the case remains unsolved.

Country singer Gina Miller of East Earl is trying to keep Sharpless’ disappearance in the public eye, hoping that someone will remember something, or come forward with information that could crack the case or at least lead to closure for Sharpless’ family.

Before each band performance, Miller tells her audience what is known about Sharpless and uses poster-sized photos to familiarize people with her appearance.

“Somebody’s got to know something,” Miller said recently. “Somebody saw her that night.”

Miller’s band, “Division Highway,” played at the Ephrata Fair Saturday evening and at Downingtown’s Fall Fest Sunday evening

As well as being a singer/songwriter, Miller is also an RN and knew Sharpless’ family, including her parents. Miller even sang at her cousin’s wedding.

Miller met Sharpless when she was one of her CPR students years ago.

Now, Miller is part of a nationwide group of touring bands and performers involved in the “Squeaky Wheel Tour.”

Each performer advocates for a missing person from their state, telling the audience about them, asking for help, and displaying photos.

“Artists all over the country are doing the same thing I’m doing,” Miller said. “We need to get each (missing) person back in the spotlight again. People forget, so we have to get their faces out there again.”

As many as 900,000 people in the United States go missing each year, Miller said.

The local woman is strongly attracted to this particular mystery due to her family connections and has made finding Sharpless, or finding out what happened, her mission.

Miller has gone a step further than most; last year, she worked on a music video to showcase a song she co-wrote about Sharpless, called “Missing Piece.”

“We’re both from Chester County and she was an acquaintance,” Miller said. “I can’t imagine having somebody you love go missing and then, not knowing. It’s such a horrible feeling for the family.”

The night she vanished, Sharpless was at a party in Gladwyne, near Philadelphia, at the home of NBA star Willie Green.

She went to the party with a friend, Miller said, but left alone.

Some players from the ‘Sixers were there, and drinks flowed freely.

It isn’t known if Sharpless was drinking. She was on medication and drinking wasn’t allowed because of possible side effects, Miller said.

The family is concerned that if Sharpless did have alcohol, combined with her medication, that she could have become disoriented, took a wrong turn and became lost.

Sharpless’ car, a black Pontiac Grand Prix, was never found, either, Miller said.

“Her last cell phone message was to her daughter,” Miller said. “But the cell phone was never found, the car was never found, nothing was ever found.”

The police received lots of leads at first, Miller said, but after awhile, it was just like the line went dead.

Information about the Sharpless case can be found on the Internet, including an anonymous letter sent to the police in January, 2013, by a man who claims he was paid $5,000 to take Sharpless’ car to Boston and dispose of it.

Nobody knows if there’s any truth to that, Miller said.

A lake situated near the main route to her home was dredged at the time of her disappearance, as law enforcement looked for her car.

“Can you imagine how the family felt, her mom, standing on the bank, waiting to see if her car was in the lake?” Miller asked.

Other cars were found in the lake, but not Sharpless’ vehicle.

“If she was abducted, is she still alive?” Miller asks. “She had some struggles with bi-polar disorder, but she was on the mend. It is just so odd. How did the car disappear? And the phone? It doesn’t make any sense. She’s got to be somewhere.”

Miller got into music professionally in 2003, and met performer Jannel Rap in Los Angeles.

Rap had a sister — also named Gina — who went missing in Lincoln, Nebraska. That case remains unsolved, too.

“You’re on the news for awhile, hot and heavy, and then, nothing,” Miller said.

Rap wanted to do something for her sister, and suggested a tour where performers could “adopt” a missing person to get their names out in front of the public again.

“It tugs at your heart strings,” Miller said. “You have to be creative, and dedicated…and we just keep hoping and praying.”

Gina Miller can be reached at www.411gina.org.

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