Linwood It's 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 Sheriff's 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.
"Although we thought that he might have met with foul play, we never really put it right out there to the public," said Bill Delaney, KBI special agent in charge of the Kansas City area office.
"You can't just walk off the face of the Earth," Undersheriff Dave Zoellner said. "It 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."
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 Leach's 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.
"For several months, we've been talking about doing this," Delaney said. "Why now? Why not now?"
The last time Harold and Alberta Leach saw their son was the morning of his disappearance, just before he left home in his mother's car to run an errand in Lawrence.
The long wait for answers has been "pure hell," Harold Leach said. But the new investigation has heightened his hope that the mystery will be solved.
"We never gave up," Leach said Monday from his Linwood home. "We're grateful for anything we can get. I hope it's a sincere investigation, and I have no reason to believe it isn't."
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 weren't convinced investigators were looking at everything that should be considered, Harold Leach said.
"Hopefully that's all in the past," he said.
Beginning Monday, a team of four KBI agents and four sheriff's officers began reinvestigating the case. They are working out of the sheriff's 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.
"We believe there are people out there who know something that we haven't been told," Delaney said.
Many of the people officers will talk with were teenagers at the time of Leach's disappearance.
"Over time, people tend to look at things a little differently," Delaney said. "People grow up. They get a conscience. We're just hoping somebody has a heart. Or maybe somebody just didn't remember something at the time."
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 governor's reward of $5,000 is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for Leach's disappearance.
Anyone with information can call the KBI at 1-800-KS CRIME. Callers can choose to remain anonymous.
|No angle in the 1988 disappearance of Randy Leach will be ignored, no matter how bizarre it might be, Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Leavenworth County Sheriff's officers said.
"If it comes up, we'll investigate it," KBI agent Bill Delaney said.
There were plenty of bizarre elements to the case during the initial investigation, including rumors that Leach fell victim to a Satanic cult and was sacrificed. In 1988, police said a man reported being abducted by Satanists and held captive in a cave near Linwood for several weeks.
¢ Not long after Leach disappeared, a mysterious fire destroyed the house on the property that was the site of the party Leach attended.
¢ A man claiming to be a "research journalist" interviewed people in the case. The man and a female sheriff's deputy who worked on the case later left the area, reportedly fearful for their lives.
¢ A Topeka man who volunteered to help the Leaches search for their son was found shot to death, along with his wife.