A judge will review records from the investigation into the 1988 disappearance of a Leavenworth County teen before determining if the documents should be released.
A judge will review records from the investigation into the 1988 disappearance of a Linwood teen before determining if the documents should be released.
Harold and Alberta Leach are seeking records from the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office related to the disappearance of their son.
Randy Wayne Leach disappeared April 15, 1988. He was 17 years old at the time. The case of his disappearance remains unsolved.
Harold and Alberta Leach are seeking the records of the investigation through 1992.
Max Kautsch, attorney for the Leaches, argued during a hearing Tuesday in Leavenworth County District Court that releasing the records would be in the public interest.
He said there is a public dispute regarding how the investigation was handled.
Senior County Counselor David Van Parys argued against the release of the records.
Van Parys argued there may be public curiosity regarding the release of the records. But he argued that Kautsch had not shown that it would be in the public interest.
Van Parys also argued that the release of the records would hinder an ongoing investigation.
District Judge David King said he wanted to review the records in question before determining whether they should be released.
King said he will either schedule another hearing to announce his decision or it will be issued in writing.
The judge said the parties in the case deserve an answer as soon as possible.
“I will certainly give it a priority in my work,” he said.
During Tuesday's hearing, Kautsch asked King to take judicial notice of a number of media reports related to the investigation of the disappearance. But the judge said he would not make a final determination during the hearing regarding how much in the articles he would take judicial notice of.
Kautsch also tried to admit most of the articles as exhibits.
King also did not rule during Tuesday's hearing whether the articles would be admitted.
Kautsch called several witnesses to testify during the hearing including Alberta Leach.
Leach said she had concerns about how the investigation of her son's disappearance was handled.
“We were a little upset with the way they were investigating,” she said.
She and her husband hired a private investigator.
In May 1990, they circulated a petition asking for an investigation.
“We were trying to get more help, trying to get them to investigate more,” she said.
She said about 12,180 people from across Kansas and Missouri signed the petition.
The petition was admitted as evidence.
Lisa McCormick, a producer for WDAF Fox 4, testified about stories she worked on for the television station related to the disappearance of Randy Leach.
She testified the disclosure of the records could help tell the story of what happened in the case.
“Those documents tell the story,” she said.
Van Parys also called one witness, Lt. Josh Patzwald of the Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office.
Patzwald, who is assigned to investigations, said the investigation into the disappearance is ongoing.
He also testified that the release of the records could hinder the investigation.
In response to questions from Van Parys, Patzwald testified that the release of the records also could have a chilling effect in other investigations because witnesses may worry their statements will not remain confidential.
King said Kansas law requires that most public records be disclosed. But records of criminal investigations generally are not released under the law.
He said a judge can order records of investigations released if certain factors are met.
“First of all, the release of the records has to be in the public interest,” he said.
He said five other conditions, such as not interfering with a criminal investigation, also have to be met.
Patzwald said the entire case file for the Sheriff's Office investigation is about 4,000 pages. He estimated that the documentation from 1988-1992 makes up about half of the 4,000 pages.