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Archive for Tuesday, December 10, 2002

88 disappearance

December 10, 2002

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— ItâÂÂs been nearly 15 years since a Linwood teenager and the car he was driving vanished without a trace.

Monday, a team of investigators from the Leavenworth County SheriffâÂÂs Office and Kansas Bureau of Investigation began a renewed effort to find out what happened to 17-year-old Randy Leach.

Although they say they have no evidence to support it, investigators now say they think Leach was slain.

âÂÂAlthough we thought that he might have met with foul play, we never really put it right out there to the public,â said Bill Delaney, KBI special agent in charge of the Kansas City area office.

âÂÂYou canâÂÂt just walk off the face of the Earth,â Undersheriff Dave Zoellner said. âÂÂIt is felt by both agencies that due to the amount of time that has passed, including no sightings of him or the vehicle, that foul play is suspected.âÂÂ

Leach was last seen alive the night of April 15, 1988, at a rural residence where he was attending a party just five miles from his Linwood home. As many as 150 people may have been at the party, according to witnesses.

Neither LeachâÂÂs body nor the gray 1985 Dodge 600 four-door sedan he was driving has been found.

Delaney and Zoellner insisted there was no new development in the case that caused them to put together the new investigative team.

âÂÂFor several months, weâÂÂve been talking about doing this,â Delaney said. âÂÂWhy now? Why not now?âÂÂ

The last time Harold and Alberta Leach saw their son was the morning of his disappearance, just before he left home in his motherâÂÂs car to run an errand in Lawrence.

The long wait for answers has been âÂÂpure hell,â Harold Leach said. But the new investigation has heightened his hope that the mystery will be solved.

âÂÂWe never gave up,â Leach said Monday from his Linwood home. âÂÂWeâÂÂre grateful for anything we can get. I hope itâÂÂs a sincere investigation, and I have no reason to believe it isnâÂÂt.âÂÂ

During the early years of the investigation, there was often friction between the Leach family and law enforcement officers about how the case was handled. The Leaches werenâÂÂt convinced investigators were looking at everything that should be considered, Harold Leach said.

âÂÂHopefully thatâÂÂs all in the past,â he said.

Beginning Monday, a team of four KBI agents and four sheriffâÂÂs officers began reinvestigating the case. They are working out of the sheriffâÂÂs annex in Tonganoxie.

The team will be reinterviewing people associated with the case and perhaps interviewing some people for the first time, Delaney said. About 20 people are on a list to be contacted, and he said the list could grow.

âÂÂWe believe there are people out there who know something that we havenâÂÂt been told,â Delaney said.

Many of the people officers will talk with were teenagers at the time of LeachâÂÂs disappearance.

âÂÂOver time, people tend to look at things a little differently,â Delaney said. âÂÂPeople grow up. They get a conscience. WeâÂÂre just hoping somebody has a heart. Or maybe somebody just didnâÂÂt remember something at the time.âÂÂ

There is no time limit to the investigation, Delaney said. After all of the people they need to talk with have been contacted, a decision will be made about how many investigators will continue to work on the case, he said.

A governorâÂÂs reward of $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for LeachâÂÂs disappearance.

Anyone with information can call the KBI at 1-800-KS CRIME. Callers can choose to remain anonymous.

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