Linwood — ItÃ¢ÂÂs 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 SheriffÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
Ã¢ÂÂAlthough we thought that he might have met with foul play, we never really put it right out there to the public,Ã¢ÂÂ said Bill Delaney, KBI special agent in charge of the Kansas City area office.
Ã¢ÂÂYou canÃ¢ÂÂt just walk off the face of the Earth,Ã¢ÂÂ Undersheriff Dave Zoellner said. Ã¢ÂÂIt 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.Ã¢ÂÂ
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 LeachÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
Ã¢ÂÂFor several months, weÃ¢ÂÂve been talking about doing this,Ã¢ÂÂ Delaney said. Ã¢ÂÂWhy now? Why not now?Ã¢ÂÂ
The last time Harold and Alberta Leach saw their son was the morning of his disappearance, just before he left home in his motherÃ¢ÂÂs car to run an errand in Lawrence.
The long wait for answers has been Ã¢ÂÂpure hell,Ã¢ÂÂ Harold Leach said. But the new investigation has heightened his hope that the mystery will be solved.
Ã¢ÂÂWe never gave up,Ã¢ÂÂ Leach said Monday from his Linwood home. Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂre grateful for anything we can get. I hope itÃ¢ÂÂs a sincere investigation, and I have no reason to believe it isnÃ¢ÂÂt.Ã¢ÂÂ
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 werenÃ¢ÂÂt convinced investigators were looking at everything that should be considered, Harold Leach said.
Ã¢ÂÂHopefully thatÃ¢ÂÂs all in the past,Ã¢ÂÂ he said.
Beginning Monday, a team of four KBI agents and four sheriffÃ¢ÂÂs officers began reinvestigating the case. They are working out of the sheriffÃ¢ÂÂs 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.
Ã¢ÂÂWe believe there are people out there who know something that we havenÃ¢ÂÂt been told,Ã¢ÂÂ Delaney said.
Many of the people officers will talk with were teenagers at the time of LeachÃ¢ÂÂs disappearance.
Ã¢ÂÂOver time, people tend to look at things a little differently,Ã¢ÂÂ Delaney said. Ã¢ÂÂPeople grow up. They get a conscience. WeÃ¢ÂÂre just hoping somebody has a heart. Or maybe somebody just didnÃ¢ÂÂt remember something at the time.Ã¢ÂÂ
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 governorÃ¢ÂÂs reward of $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for LeachÃ¢ÂÂs disappearance.
Anyone with information can call the KBI at 1-800-KS CRIME. Callers can choose to remain anonymous.