Judge demands documents in 30-year-old Randy Leach case, will review before ruling whether to release

Harold Leach, left, and Alberta Leach, center, parents of Randy Leach, who was 17 when he disappeared in April 1988, talked to supporters outside Leavenworth County District Court on Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017, in Leavenworth, Kan. The parents are seeking a court order to open records in the investigation of their son's unsolved death. (Steve Fry/The Capital-Journal via AP)

Before ruling on whether to release publicly some 2,000 pages of documents from the case of a boy who disappeared in 1988, a judge plans to review them himself.

On Tuesday, Leavenworth County District Court Judge David King ordered that the documents be handed over to him, according to attorney Max Kautsch, who filed a lawsuit on behalf of Randy Leach’s parents to compel disclosure of the documents.

Kautsch said the number of pages discussed was around 2,000. The judge did not say how long he expected his review to take, Kautsch said, but he did order that the defendants produce un-redacted copies as soon as possible and “indicated that it was going to be a high priority for him.”

“I’m guardedly optimistic, because certainly the judge could have denied the request outright but decided not to,” Kautsch said. “My ultimate hope is that all the records will be disclosed, and if any portions of them are redacted that those redactions are reasonable.”

Harold and Alberta Leach’s son, then 17, 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.

Earlier this year, the Leaches sued to obtain the documents.

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 has said previously, in a written statement. “The requested records would help the Leaches and the public investigate and resolve those controversies.”

Kautsch is an attorney for the Kansas Press Association and has represented the Journal-World in the past.