'Missing': The mystery of Dr. Sneha Anne Philip - the woman who disappeared on 9/11

ByKristin Thorne and Emily Hartmann via WABC logo
Friday, September 9, 2022
9/11 Mystery: The Disappearance of Dr. Sneha Anne Philip
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One of the listed victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks may not have been at Ground Zero at all. Kristin Thorne examines the mystery of Dr. Sneha Anne Philip.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- The full story of the disappearance of Dr. Sneha Anne Philip has never been covered on television - until now.

The basic details of her disappearance - that she was last seen on September 10, 2001 shopping at a department store in lower Manhattan - have been reported.

However, lots of people who have read about her story studied her case, or who knew her have been skeptical about whether she died in the 9/11 attacks.

It was a question from a Redditor on a recent AMA (Ask Me Anything) that I hosted that got us thinking here at 'Missing' about Sneha's case.

In this episode of 'Missing', we take a deeper look at Sneha's life and whether it's possible that she did not die in the 9/11 attacks as determined by only the New York courts - not by the NYPD, not by the family's private investigator and not by witnesses.

Did something happen to the 31-year-old doctor the night before the event that changed the course of history?

Is it possible that Sneha is still alive?

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Here is a timeline of Sneha's case:

DR. SNEHA ANNE PHILIP TIMELINE
  • October 7, 1969 - Sneha Anne Philip is born in Kerala, India.
  • 1996 - Sneha and Ron Lieberman started dating at Chicago Medical School. Sneha was a year ahead of Ron, but they decided to finish medical school together. Sneha took some time off from school and moved to Tuscany.
  • 1999 - Sneha and Ron graduate from medical school and move to New York City.
  • July 1999 - Sneha started her residency as an internal medicine resident at Cabrini Medical Center and Ron as an emergency medicine resident at Jacobi Medical Center. The couple lived in an apartment building across from Cabrini on East 19th Street. At first, Sneha loved her residency at Cabrini, but Ron testified that later Sneha developed problems with some of the other residents and staff at the medical center. The private investigator later hired by Sneha's family described her as a "complex person" who "could be very friendly with the chief surgeon," but also "fighting with one of her interns."
  • May 13, 2000 - Sneha and Ron got married.
  • May 2001 - Sneha receives notice from Cabrini that her residency contract is not being renewed. Ron later testified that the chair of the department threatened to fire Sneha if she went on vacation, but Sneha explained that she wasn't on call that weekend. Ron said the chair told her to have a nice weekend, but on Monday morning - when Sneha returned from vacation - fired her. "Missing" found that there had been concerns about Sneha's tardiness at work and one former supervisor reported they had to send Sneha home because she had alcohol on her breath and another time because she didn't seem focused. The supervisor said Sneha spoke openly about how she wasn't happy in her marriage and wanted to get away. Sneha continued to finish out her contract working at Cabrini through June.
  • June 2001 - Sneha says that while at a bar in Manhattan with a group of co-workers from Cabrini Medical Center one of her male co-workers sexually abused her, so she hit him. She reported the incident to the police the next morning. The co-worker denied the allegations and told police that Sneha had assaulted him at the bar and then that same night trespassed into his apartment, which was down the hall from Sneha's apartment. Ron says Sneha went into the man's apartment to tell the man's wife what the man had allegedly done to her at the bar. Police conducted an investigation and the Manhattan District Attorney concluded that Sneha had lied about the alleged attack. Sneha was charged with falsely reporting an incident, trespassing, assault, and harassment. Police arrested her and she spent the night in jail. Sneha's family says Sneha became depressed after the alleged assault and began drinking.
  • July 2001 - Sneha and Ron moved to 225 Rector Place in Battery Park City, so Sneha could be closer to her new job at St. Vincent's Hospital on Staten Island. According to court documents, Sneha's employment at St. Vincent's was contingent upon her attending drug and alcohol counseling sessions. Before 9/11, Sneha had been suspended or placed on modified duty because she had not attended a counseling session or sessions.
  • September 8 - 9, 2001 - Sneha and Ron spend the weekend rollerblading, hanging out with their friends, and Sneha taking pictures of some orchids she ordered from Hawaii which had just arrived. Sneha's mother, Ansu, comes to visit and Sneha tells her mother that next week she's going to visit the Windows on the World on the top floors of the North Tower of the World Trade Center because her friend is having a future wedding reception there. Ansu says Sneha talked a lot that weekend about wanting to start a family with Ron. Sneha and her mother have a close relationship and speak every day.
  • September 10, 2001 | Around 9:00 am - Sneha appears in Manhattan Criminal Court on the misdemeanor charges. Sneha's attorney reported that at the court hearing Sneha "was in good spirits and did not appear at all worried or depressed about the potential outcome of her case." Her case was adjourned to October 30, 2001. According to court documents, Ron told police that he and Sneha had gotten in a "'big fight'" at the courthouse because he was upset that Sneha "' was abusing drugs and alcohol and was conducting bi-sexual acts.'" Ron later testified in court that the couple did not fight at the courthouse.
  • September 10, 2001 | 10:30 am - Ron and Sneha arrive back to their apartment and have breakfast.
  • September 10, 2001 | 11:30 am - Ron leaves the apartment for work. He says this is the last time he saw Sneha. "I kissed her goodbye," he testified. "And actually, I forgot my keys and I got to go back in and kissed her again, and then I left." Sneha told Ron she was going to clean the apartment because they were having Sneha's cousin over for dinner the next night.
  • September 10, 2001 | 2:00 - 2:30 pm - Sneha meditates in her apartment.
  • September 10, 2001, | 2:30 pm - Sneha and her mom talk via Instant Messenger for approximately an hour while her mother is at work. Ansu says Sneha filled her in on the rest of her weekend and sounded incredibly happy.
  • September 10, 2001 | 4:00 - 5:00 pm - Sneha tells her mom she's going to run errands.
  • September 10, 2001 | 5:15 - 5:30 pm - The doorman at 225 Rector Place reports that he saw Sneha walk out of the apartment building. Ron says he also spotted Sneha on the building's surveillance cameras leaving the building around this time wearing her outfit from her court appearance earlier in the day - "a brown, shirt style dress that came to the knees, short sleeve." The doorman says Sneha did not return by the time he ended his shift at 11 pm.
  • September 10, 2001 | 5:30 pm - Sneha goes to Century 21 located at 22 Cortlandt Street - a 12-minute walk from the couple's apartment. She is spotted on a surveillance camera shopping in the women's coats section. Sneha had been talking about wanting a new coat from Century 21 for her birthday.
  • September 10, 2001 | 6:05 pm - Sneha purchases bed linens and lingerie at Century 21. She uses Ron's American Express card.
  • September 10, 2001 | 7:18 pm - Sneha purchases 3 pairs of shoes at Century 21. A saleswoman reported to police she saw Sneha shopping with another woman, possibly of Indian origin. Later, the saleswoman said she wasn't exactly sure if she saw another woman with Sneha. There is no surveillance video from the shoe department, so investigators have never been able to determine if Sneha was with another woman or anyone else.
  • September 10, 2001 | 11:30 pm - Ron returns home from work to find Sneha is not at the apartment. Ron thought maybe Sneha was at her younger brother John's apartment on Greenwich Street. Ron testified that she and her brother at been in a fight about a week before, so he thought maybe she was over at John's apartment talking to him.
  • September 11, 2001 | 6:30 am - Ron leaves the apartment for work. Sneha is not scheduled to work today.
  • September 11, 2001 | 8:46 am - American Airlines Flight 11 crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
  • September 11, 2001 | 9:03 am - United Airlines Flight 175 crashes into the South Tower of the World Trade Center.
  • September 11, 2001 | Post Attacks - Ron starts calling the couple's apartment. Sneha doesn't answer. Ron assumes Sneha is helping with the emergency response at the World Trade Center or went to work to help.
  • September 11, 2001 | 3:00 pm - With no patients arriving at Jacobi, Ron asks his supervisor if he can go look for his wife. He takes an ambulance to Ground Zero.
  • September 11, 2001 | 3:00 - 4:00 pm - Ron talks to Sneha's mother who says she doesn't know where Sneha stayed the night before. Ron calls the couple's friends who tell him they don't know where Sneha is or where she was the night of September 10.
  • September 11, 2001 | 3:00 - 9:00 pm - Ron tried to get to the couple's apartment building.
  • September 11, 2001 | 9:00 - 10:00 pm - Ron arrives at the apartment building, but the doors are locked. Ron sees a light on the third floor and starts flashing a flashlight at the window. A person comes to the window and Ron asks the person to go to their apartment and knock on the door. The person does and tells Ron no one answered.
  • September 11, 2001 | 10:00 pm - Ron goes to Ground Zero to volunteer with the rescue efforts.
  • September 12, 2001 | 2:00 am - Ron goes to a friend's house in the West Village and stays there for the night.
  • September 12, 2001 | Morning - Ron returns to the couple's apartment building, which is now unlocked. He goes up to their apartment. Sneha isn't there. Ron sees ash all over the apartment and can see footprints from their kittens. He says there were no other footprints and no signs of forced entry. "The apartment was basically exactly the way I had seen it before I left besides all the dust everywhere," he said. Ron says Sneha's driver's license, passport, glasses, and credit cards were in the apartment. He did not see any bags from Century 21.
  • September 13, 2001 - Over the next few months, Ron, Sneha's family, and friends plaster thousands of flyers looking for Sneha all over Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, and New Jersey. They check hospitals, morgues, psychiatric institutions, and shelters. There is no sign of Sneha. Sneha's family members submit DNA samples to the City Medical Examiner, so if they find Sneha's remains they could match the remains to her.
  • December 2001 - Sneha's family hires a private investigator who interviews family members, friends, and colleagues.
  • January 16, 2002 - the court issues an arrest warrant for Sneha since she has not shown up at her court appearances and a death certificate has not been issued.
  • March 19, 2003 - Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge Renee Roth ruled that the evidence presented by the New York City Medical Examiner for a death certificate for Sneha was insufficient. She ruled, "Although Dr. Philip's residence might ordinarily be enough to tie her to the area of the WTC disaster, the evidence that she had not been home at or near the time of the attacks effectively severs such connection for present purposes." The Judge also found that Sneha's "professional problems and social relationships" may have contributed to her absence.
  • Early 2004 - The New York City Medical Examiner removes Sneha's name from the official list of 9/11 victims.
  • January 13, 2004 - Ron petitions the court to have Sneha declared a victim of 9/11.
  • May 27, 2004 - A hearing is held on Ron's petition. No decision is made.
  • July 22, 2004 - The Court approves a follow-up hearing at the request of the court-appointed guardian representing Sneha to allow for testimony from NYPD Detective Richard Stark, who handled Sneha's investigation.
  • September 30, 2004 - A follow-up hearing is held. NYPD Detective Richard Stark testifies.
  • October 15, 2004 - Sneha's court-appointed guardian files a report saying there is not enough evidence to prove that Sneha died on 9/11. "Because the absentee engaged in risky behavior," guardian Ellen Winner wrote, "it is possible that she met some other unfortunate fate."
  • November 1, 2004 - Ron's attorney, Marc Bogatin, writes a letter to the Surrogate's Court challenging the guardian's report. "What Ms. Winner seems to be suggesting is that, as a result of the absentee's 'lifestyle', she met with some form of foul play unrelated to the terrorist attack," he wrote.
  • November 1, 2005 - Manhattan Surrogate Court Judge Renee Roth denies Ron's application to have Sneha declared a victim of 9/11. Ron appeals to the decision.
  • January 31, 2008 - An appellate court reverses Judge Roth's decision and declares that Sneha died on 9/11. "Although it is possible that the decedent met 'some other unfortunate fate,' the evidence made it highly probable that she died in the World Trade Center attack," wrote Judge David Saxe.
  • July 10, 2008 - The application for Sneha to be listed as a victim of 9/11 is approved.
  • September 11, 2008 - Sneha's name is read at the annual 9/11 memorial service at Ground Zero after not being read for several years.
  • --------------------------------------------------------------

    This conception of the series "Missing" began back in September of 2021, the first day Kristin Thorne covered the disappearance of Gabby Petito and met with her distraught parents on Long Island. The story consumed the next two months of Kristin's life.

    Throughout this time, Kristin spoke routinely with Gabby's father, Joseph Petito. Most of what they spoke about, she has never reported, but one thing he made clear to her is that he wanted the media to cover other missing people. He said they deserved attention, too, and he was right.

    WATCH | Kristin Thorne on the emotional process behind investigative series 'Missing'

    Kristin started to look at databases of missing people across the Tri-State area and as she scrolled through the hundreds of faces, she thought about not only those people but their families and friends and the ripple effect of pain that is caused when they disappeared.

    She thought, "Maybe I can help?"

    She started calling private investigators around New York City looking for cases to profile.

    We first profiled the story of Leanne Marie Hausberg.

    In our second story, we examined the disappearance of Chelsea Michelle Cobo.

    In our third story, we investigated the disappearance of Corinna Paige Slusser.

    In our fourth story, we examine the mystery of Dr. Sneha Anne Philip - the doctor who disappeared on 9/11. Watch the full episode above.

    If you know anything about the disappearance of Dr. Sneha Anne Philip, call the NYPD Missing Persons Squad at 212-694-7781. All tips can be kept anonymous.

    If you want to have a better viewing experience, did you know you can watch 'Missing' on your television set? Just make sure you add the ABC7NY app on Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, and Android TV. To download our app, viewers can search "ABC7 New York" in the app store.

    CREDITS:

    Kristin Thorne | Writer, Producer, Eyewitness News Investigative Reporter

    Emily Hartmann | Senior Digital Producer, Videographer, and Editor

    Stephen Cioffi Photographer

    Josh Hartmann | Photographer

    Rolando Pujol | EP Digital Content, Innovation and Strategy

    Jim Gorham | Vice President, Marketing

    Kim Dillon | Assistant News Director

    Peter Kunz | Assistant News Director

    Yoomi Chong | Creative Director, Design

    Joseph Kollar | Graphic Artist

    Brandon Nelson | Creative Director, Brand

    Toby Hershkowitz | Marketing Producer

    Robert Monek | EP Web and OTV Digital Project Manager

    Brian McLaughlin | Assignment Editor

    Brandon Cook | Media Manager

    Alex George | Desk Assistant

    Luke Richards | Senior Manager, Content Development

    Marilu Galvez | President and General Manager

    Debra OConnell | President, Networks Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution

    SPECIAL THANKS

    Townsend Davis

    WABC Television New York, LLC | 2022