Archive for Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Police renew investigation into missing teen

Investigation a joint operation between Sheriff’s Department and Kansas Bureau of Investigation

December 11, 2002

The probable victim: a 17-year-old male. His name: Randy Wayne Leach.

He left his home at approximately 6:30 p.m. April 15, 1988. His plan for the evening was to attend a high school, pre-graduation party north of Linwood.

Before arriving at the party, he stopped at Stout's Convenience Store in Linwood where he purchased two sodas, two candy bars and $3 worth of gasoline.

He also stopped to talk with friends in Linwood, and made a trip to De Soto where he checked on the restoration of his 1966 Mustang at a local body shop.

Later in the evening, he attended a party, arriving at approximately 10 p.m.

What happened after the party remains a mystery.

Leach's parents, Harold and Alberta Leach, 22029 Linwood Road, reported him missing April 16, 1988.

He nor the gray 1985 Dodge 600 4-door Sedan he drove that night has been seen since the party.

In the 15 years since his disappearance, the Leach case has been a riddle that law enforcement agencies Leavenworth and Wyandotte county sheriff's and the Kansas Bureau of Investigations have been unable to crack.

It has resulted in numerous interviews and interrogations, thousands upon thousands of man-hours and endless amounts of reports, memos and rumors.

But while many have come to believe Leach met with foul play that night, the case was classified in police files as a missing person.

Until now.

"We think he has met with foul play," said Bill Delaney, Kansas Bureau of Investigation special agent in charge of Leavenworth County. "It's reasonable to believe that. A reasonable person would believe that, a reasonable law enforcement officer would believe that.

"I thought it was a homicide for a long-time. If he walks in tomorrow, I'll shake his hand and appreciate that he's alive and doing well. But I don't think he's alive and doing well."

The KBI and Leavenworth County Sheriff's Department announced this week that the Leach case would be reopened. Eight to 10 officers have already begun the investigation, Delaney said.

"There are leads identified that we are going to go out and re-interview or interview people that weren't before," Delaney said.

"Why now? My answer to that is why not now? We've been talking about doing this for a long-time. Yeah, it's 14, almost 15 years old, but cases like these are never closed."

A $5,000 governor's reward has been established and is offered to anyone with information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible for Leach's disappearance.

In addition to the $5,000 reward, the Leach family is offering $25,000 for similar information on their son, and a $5,000 reward for information leading to the Dodge sedan he was driving.

"I have to have hope"

Harold and Alberta Leach met investigators' announcement Monday with part skepticism and part hope.

Over the years, the couple has heard everything there is to hear about the case, from rumors to investigatory incompetence.

But with the announcement also comes hope. Hope that someday someone will learn the truth about what happened to their son, and close the book on what has been a nightmarish chapter in their lives.

"I have to have hope," Alberta said. "It may dim but until I found out any different, I don't want to give up.

"There's no way you can (have closure) until you know something for sure."

Although 15 years has passed since he disappeared, time hasn't and will not dull the pain the Leach's feel for their lost son.

The house Randy lived in has changed, but not that much. His clothes still hang in the same closet, his room is still put together, save for a new computer and desk, and his Mustang is in storage.

"We were married 10 years before we were allowed him," Harold said. "You have hopes for him, of him carrying on your name and that won't happen now."

In the kitchen of the couple's home are two similar, yet distinctively different photographs of Randy.

One is of him at age 17. The other, a digitally enhanced photo of what he would look like now at age 32.

It's almost like a young boy, glancing into a mirror and catching a glimpse of his adult self.

"You scream some days and you cry some days," Alberta said. "It works. If I'm down, Harold is here, and if he's down, I'm here."

A good kid

Randy was ready to graduate in May from the last class ever at Linwood High School. The next year, 1989, the school would consolidate with Basehor.

He wasn't sure about life after high school, but Harold said work and attending a trade school was a possibility.

"I told him don't get too eager to start work," Harold said.

But Randy, a stout 6'3, 220- pound teen-ager, was already an entrepreneur and hard worker.

The morning of his disappearance, Randy and Harold drove to Lawrence and picked up a new riding lawnmower Randy would use to cut grass that summer.

He got home, and after a quick lunch with Harold, he took the new mower out to do some work. When he returned home, he polished his new machine.

He wasn't a saint, his parents concede. He was just a good kid who was courteous to others, respectful to his parents and enjoyed talking to his friends.

All of which makes them dismiss the notion that Randy ran away from home.

"It was just not an option," Harold said. "It just didn't make sense to us."

For now, the Leach family will cling to hope and pray that the telephone will ring one day and the other person on the line will have news, any news about what happened to their son.

"You get to feel helpless sometimes," Alberta said. "Sometimes you don't know which way to turn and you think eventually someone might call and let us know something."

Anyone with information concerning the case should call the KBI at 1 (800) KS-CRIME (800-572-7463).

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