The trail left by Ulbrich's body along the asphalt marked a brutal end to the life of a young woman who had struggled to beat a drug habit.
``They were very young and very naive, but they fell in love,'' said Joanne Ulbrich, Bob Ulbrich's stepmother.
The next two years, relatives said, were Ulbrich's best because they were largely drug-free. They said Leah Ulbrich was a bright, loving and energetic young woman when she was drug-free. She steered clear of drugs as she cared for her young children in a spacious Wallingford home on Bayberry Drive. But as her marriage fell apart in 1991, Leah Ulbrich's drug dependency resurfaced.
``When things didn't go well in her life, she sought out drugs,'' her father said.
Leah Ulbrich's children were taken from her in June 1993, after police discovered filthy living conditions and drug paraphernalia in her home. Their maternal grandmother and father have joint custody.
Since 1993, she was convicted of larceny, possession of narcotics, driving with a suspended license, and risk of injury to a minor from arrests in Wallingford, North Stratford and New Britain. She served nine months in jail in 1994 for the drug conviction.
But this year, Ulbrich was turning her life around again. Early this summer, she voluntarily entered the Stonehaven Program for Women in Middletown. For a while, she returned to live with her mother and children. Most recently, she had been staying at a halfway house in Springfield for recovering female addicts. But about 10 days before her death, she left the house and was not heard from again.
``She knew the things she needed to do to recover from addiction,'' Baskin said. ``But despite knowing it, she couldn't do the things that could help herself.''
A funeral service was held last week in a Connecticut synagogue with the immediate family, Ulbrich's divorced parents, brother and sister. She was buried in a cemetery in the New Haven area.
Ulbrich's family is striving to protect her children from their mother's disturbing death. The children know their mother is gone but don't know much else, Baskin said.
While discussing Leah Ulbrich's short life, Joanne Ulbrich recalled a poem the young woman left in her former Wallingford home.
``She wrote to her children that she was so sorry that mommy's sick and that she missed her two kids so much,'' Joanne Ulbrich said. ``This woman suffered so much. Drugs had gotten the best of her. She was too far gone, and there was no coming back.''
Police believe the motorist who took Ulbrich on the deadly ride headed south of Hartford. They are focusing on identifying the vehicle. They believe the passenger door of the car must be damaged since it was open during the ride.
``Hopefully, this may make someone who may have seen something have a second thought and come forward,'' Baskin said. ``I hope that they will see that Leah was a real person. I think we all value justice and whoever did this ought to be punished.''
Memo: Anyone with information is asked to call Hartford police at 527-7300, Ext. 5230. The car was described as a newer model, possibly a dark color, with a temporary plate on the rear window.