Archive for Thursday, April 8, 2004

Slayings rattle Edwardsville neighborhood

April 8, 2004

When Larry Leihsing went to sleep Friday evening, life was as tranquil as it always had been. When he awoke, the innocence that Leihsing had enjoyed most of his life living in the quiet Edwardsville neighborhood was lost.

Early Saturday morning, sometime around midnight, 37-year-old Matthew Bass entered Fire Station No. 2 and shot medics Tye Brown, 31, and Katherine Malone, 30, to death in an attack authorities described as an ambush. Later that morning, Bass' body was found in Lee's Summit, the apparent victim of a self inflicted gunshot wound.

"That's why I moved out of (Kansas City, Kan.) to get away from this," said Leihsing, who lives just 75 yards east of Fire Station No. 2. "Sometimes I guess it just follows you."

Bass, who Wyandotte County prosecutors charged with two counts of first-degree murder before his body was found across the state line, was Malone's ex-husband. Her M.A.S.T. partner, Brown, leaves behind an 11-year-old son and a 7-year-old daughter.

The two worked 24-hour shifts answering medical emergency calls. They began work at 7 a.m. Friday morning. Eric Dooley, M.A.S.T. spokesman, said there was nothing unusual reported about Brown and Malone's day."It was a typical day at the station for a Friday," Dooley said.

Approximately two hours before the shooting, Brown and Malone examined Edwardsville Police Department detective Alvin Doty for injuries following a narcotics operation. Later, Doty and other officers secured the crime scene at the fire station, where the two medics were found slain after they failed to answer a call.

"I actually didn't realize it was them that were the victims until about 20 minutes later," Doty said. "It was very strange and unusual, very upsetting having just seen them a couple hours before."

Dooley said it appeared Bass was waiting at the fire station for Brown and Malone to return from another call.

"The people that knew him best, they knew that this was going to happen somewhere, somehow," Dooley said. "It's truly hard to stop somebody that is obsessed and out of control."

In what Edwardsville city officials describe as a "huge interlocal effort," officers from the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department were called to handle the investigation while officers from the Bonner Springs and Edwardsville police departments helped canvas the area and control the scene.

Captain Mike Kobe of the Kansas City, Kan., Police Department said Bass' body was found at approximately 7 a.m. Saturday morning.

Between 1 and 3 a.m., Bass made calls admitting his role in the homicides, Dooley said.

"He was very explicit in his statement that he was the one who did it," Dooley said.

Kobe said authorities were not releasing whether the murder weapon was recovered n Lee's Summit with Bass's body. The captain said there would be no further hearings into whether Bass was responsible for the crime.

"Those are usually held in a case where it is unclear as to who is to blame for something," Kobe said. "There is no question in this case."

Brown and Malone will be laid to rest during a joint funeral service at 10 a.m. Thursday, April 8 at the Open Door Baptist Church, 3033 N. 103rd Terrace. Visitation services are from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Maple Hill Funeral Home, 3300 Shawnee Drive.

Edwardsville city officials believe Saturday marked the first time since 1915, when the city was incorporated, that a homicide had taken place. Edwardsville police chief Steve Vaughn could not confirm that statistic nor could officials from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, whose records only date back to the 1960s.

Certainly the homicides were the first of any kind for the neighborhood where Leihsing and his family live. Leihsing, who grew up in the same house he lives in today and whose daughter lives just a quarter-mile away, said there have been few changes in his neighborhood over the years.

"There are new houses across the street but other than that, it's the same people I grew up with," he said.

Leihsing said he did not hear gunfire come from the fire station. He woke at 2 a.m. and saw flashing lights outside but thought "it was a car wreck or something."

A few hours later, when his neighborhood was swarmed by police and news media, Leihsing said he learned of the crime and was stunned.

"It was kind of scary," he said. "At first, no one knew what happened. We thought somebody just broke in, somebody who didn't know them."

When he learned of the facts behind the homicide, that it was not a random act, Leihsing and other Edwardsville residents were left grappling with the same question.

"Why would anyone pick two people that save people's lives?" Leihsing said. "It doesn't make sense."

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