Parents suing Leavenworth County in effort to learn about disappearance of their son 29 years ago
The parents of a child who has been missing since 1988 have filed a lawsuit that seeks to force Leavenworth County and the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Department to release investigation records from the case.
Harold and Alberta Leach have filed the lawsuit in Leavenworth County District Court. The Leaches’ son, then 17-year-old Randy Leach, was last seen April 16, 1988, at a party in Leavenworth County. The case of his disappearance has never been solved. For years, the Leach family has sought to see the investigative records related to Randy’s disappearance, but Leavenworth County officials have declined to release the documents.
Lawrence attorney Max Kautsch has filed the lawsuit on behalf of the Leach family. The lawsuit argues the records should be released under a provision of the Kansas Open Records Act that allows for criminal investigation records to be made public when the records are in the public interest.
“The requested records are indeed in the public interest because the media’s extensive reporting of the matter reveals a plethora of controversies related to the investigation conducted by the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office,” Kautsch said in a written statement. “The requested records would help the Leaches and the public investigate and resolve those controversies.”
Law enforcement officials generally have broad latitude under the law to not release criminal investigation records, upon the premise that the release could interfere with future law enforcement actions.
Kautsch argues that isn’t an issue in this case.
“The Leaches fail to see how records in a public agency’s possession before 1993 has any bearing on any ‘prospective law enforcement action’ when no one has ever been charged in connection with Randy’s disappearance and likely death,” Kautsch said in a written statement.
A spokesman for the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.
A 2014 article by the Journal-World raised multiple questions about the case. Earlier that year, the couple learned that law enforcement officials had a suspect in the case in the 1990s, but law enforcement officials never told the Leaches of that information.
“No one ever said a word about this to us,” Harold Leach said in the 2014 article.
The suspect, Eric Montgomery, also had been a suspect in two 1990 homicides that occurred 7 miles from the Leaches’ home. Montgomery died in prison in 2010.
“We just want to see what’s been done,” Alberta Leach told the Journal-World in 2014. “We have done a lot of stuff to find Randy, and we just want to make sure they did, too. We know they didn’t do some of the things they said they were going to do.”
A hearing date for the motion to release the investigative records hasn’t yet been set, but Kautsch said he was hopeful it would be set quickly.
“Their ultimate goal is to learn what happened to their son,” he said.