By Dennis Griffin
Randy Wayne Leach and his car, a 1985 gray Dodge 600, disappeared from Linwood, Kansas on the night of April 15/16, 1988, following a pre-graduation party at the home of Kim Erwin in rural Linwood. He was 17 years old.
According to his family, Randy, an only child, wasn’t selfish or self-centered. He was always willing to help others and do what he could for neighbors, friends and family. He was an upbeat, clean-cut and normal boy.
Although Randy never acted like he cared for school, his grades didn’t show it. He was always an honor student, or honorable mention as a B-student. He never had to study much to keep up.
His senior year could have been finished with an early out in January, but his parents, Harold and Alberta, talked to him and he decided to enjoy his last semester of the senior year. For a graduation present, his parents bought him the car of his dreams—a restored 1966, cherry-red Mustang.
Randy planned to earn some money mowing grass the next summer and help around the home doing odd jobs and possibly going to a trade school of some kind. He made no long-range plans, just wanting to enjoy the summer.
The day before Randy disappeared, he and his dad purchased a brand new John Deere lawn tractor for Randy’s summer jobs. Randy took the new mower and mowed four and a half hours on a contracted job in the afternoon. He came home then and mowed the family’s front lawn.
When Randy got ready to go out on April 15, 1988. His dad asked him if he had enough money. He said that he had enough, but if he dropped by Wal-Mart or K-Mart, he would like to get a bottle of water glass wax to put on his new tractor to hold the paint. The cost was around $15. Harold gave him a twenty. That gave Randy a total of approximately $50 to $60. He left in the family car, a gray 1985 Dodge 600, four-door sedan with license plate number LVJ 8721. The time was approximately 6:45 p.m.
Randy eventually went to Linwood and rode around town with Steve Daughtery. When later interviewed, Steve said he bought a six-pack of beer, but Randy declined to have any. The two drove to DeSoto at about 8:30 p.m. They went to the body shop where Randy’s Mustang was being restored. Randy took Steve to show off his car. The man at the body shop said that they were drinking beer and offered some to Randy, but Randy turned it down again.
By 9:30, Randy and Steve were back in Linwood, where Randy dropped Steve off. Randy went to Stout’s Corner, a convenience store. Four or five people reported having talked to Randy there. They all said he was joking and acting normal. He bought two candy bars, two Pepsis, and $3 worth of gas. It was Randy's habit of putting back into the vehicle the gas that he thought he would use in an evening. Therefore, the family didn’t think he planned to travel very far.
Randy went to the party between 9:45 and 10:00. Randy's cousin and others who were at the party said Randy could hardly walk. The cousin later stated that Randy didn't smell of alcohol and he didn't think Randy was drunk.
So what happened to Randy in the 30 or so minutes from when he was acting normal at the convenience store and when he was observed at the party barely to walk? One story that subsequently circulated is that someone put a drug called Thorazine in Randy’s drink at the party. However, it turned out that the person suspected of spiking Randy's drink wasn't at the party.
A friend of Randy who arrived at the party at midnight, later said he was around Randy off and on. He didn’t see him drink anything, but Randy wasn't acting right.. At one point, he said, “Randy, what’s wrong?” Randy said, “Man, I don’t know what’s wrong.”
Another friend, James Burns, reported helping Randy to his car at 1:30 a.m. Unable to find the car keys, Randy laid down in the front seat. James went with his brother, John Burns, to give a girl a ride home who'd had too much to drink. When they returned between 2:00 and 2:10 a.m., Randy and his car were gone.
However, two other people said they saw Randy at the Erwin house as late as 2:15, waiting in line to go to the bathroom. Mrs. Erwin said she told him to go outside, claiming she didn’t want him to fall in the house and hurt himself.
At 6 a.m., Randy’s mom awoke to find Randy missing. The panicked parents were barefoot in the driveway, when Harold spotted Steve Daugherty drive by their house on Highway 32. Harold later said that it seemed odd because it was so early Saturday and Daugherty was only driving, “about 10 miles per hour,'” where the posted speed limit was 55 mph.
After Harold and Alberta reported Randy missing, a massive air, river and ground search was launched. But neither Randy or the car were ever found.
Following Randy's disappearance, rumors swirled. According to one of them, there was another young man with Randy when he stopped at the convenience store at 9:30 p.m. The man was identified by witnesses as Jim Hadle - possibly spelled Hadley - who was Steve Daugherty’s roommate. Hadle was reportedly seen sitting in Randy's car. Word got back to the Leach family that both Daugherty and Hadle were drug users who had spent time in jail. Harold Leach contends that investigators never talked to Hadle. And that when Hadle later came to their house, he denied even knowing Daugherty. Both Hadle and Daugherty subsequently passed away, supposedly of natural causes.
As time went by, Internal police reports about Randy's case began showing up in the Leaches' mailbox. Harold says he doesn't know the source of the documents, but believes they were from sympathetic officers who were convinced the investigation was botched.
In 1993, a man purporting to be a "research journalist" offered his assistance to the Leaches and spent several months without pay interviewing partygoers and others who might have known something about the case. The man went by the names of Terry Martin and Lee Harper. Martin/Harper pooled information with Leavenworth County Sheriff's Detective Dawn Weston, whom had been assigned to review the case.
Executing warrants issued by the assistant Leavenworth County Attorney, Weston arrested three men for the alleged kidnapping and murder of Randy Leach. The men were quickly released. The sheriff explained, "She was a new investigator and overzealous, so to speak. It didn't pan out when the evidence was double-checked by the county attorney."
As of this writing, Randy Wayne Leach remains missing and the case is cold. Someone still alive knows what happened to him on the night of April 15/16, 1988. If you are that person or know who is, it's time to step forward and help bring resolution to the Leach family.
If you have any information about this case please contact Leach family spokesperson Cindy Hutchison at firstname.lastname@example.org.