KANSAS CITY, Kan. — “I`m not ever going to stop until the day he walks out of the gate. Whether it`s seven years or whether it`s seven weeks, or seven days,” said Angel Leeper.
The metro wife and mother fights for her husband, who has spent 14 years behind bars for a crime she says he didn’t commit. She’s not alone in her fight.
Carl Leeper went to prison in 2003. He was convicted of robbery in Wyandotte County. Leeper was tried for several area robberies, and his 21-year sentence doesn’t end until 2024. However, a former FBI special agent in charge, says there was never enough evidence to put him there in the first place. Now he’s hoping to get his case reopened.
An online petition is collecting signatures, with folks who agree that Leeper deserves a second trial, especially those who miss him the most.
At the dinner table Angel Leeper does things like teach her youngest son how to tell time. Over the year`s she`s learned just how precious time really is.
“I`ve had to work a lot. Raise the kids alone,” she said.
She`s without the love of her life, not because he doesn`t want to be there, but because he can`t be there.
“Thank God I`ve got my wife, and I`ll love her till death,” said Carl Leeper by phone from his jail cell.
Angel talks to her husband each day. She was pregnant just before he was convicted of robbery, but says she miscarried. Now a grandmother, she looks back on the day she first heard police suspected her husband in several metro robberies.
“I’m like, there`s no way. I mean he`s with me all the time if he`s not working, or with his father,” she said.
“Knowing that you`re innocent and to do this time, and to be here around most of these guys that are actually guilty and they`ll all tell you they are. It`s really hard to deal with,” said Carl Leeper.
After several appeals, and with seven years left on his sentence, there`s doubt about whether he should have ever been convicted.
“The investigation was incomplete, and I feel the prosecution was irresponsible and relied on a very questionable witness identification, and the evidence was just not strong enough to warrant a conviction,” said Michael Tabman.
He’s a former FBI special agent in charge, and former police officer. Tabman started a Change.org petition to have Leeper’s case reopened.
For starters, Tabman says the witness who identified Leeper twice, also identified a second man who was previously suspected in the crime by police, and was later cleared. Keep in mind, the witness said the robber was wearing a ski mask.
“She was wrong a night or two after the robbery, how would she pick this out several months later? And the fact that it was a police suspect would indicate that the police intentionally or unintentionally led the witness to pick out on particular person,” said Tabman.
He also says there was surveillance video of the crime that was never shown during trial.
“That is about the most compelling evidence you could have to show a jury. Why would you not show that at the trial?” Tabman asked.
The surveillance tape is missing, and so are fingerprints taken from scene of the robbery Leeper was convicted of committing. Finally, Pat Brake, Carl Leeper’s cousin who initially implicated him in the robbery, confessed on tape to Tabman that he committed the crimes, and that Leeper had no part.
He says he initially said Leeper did it because he was angry about a family dispute involving a fight between Leeper and Brake’s brother. Now it`s up to a new district attorney to decide if this is all enough to give Leeper a second trial.
He has mixed feelings about the probability.
“It gives me hope. I don`t know, there`s still that fear in the back of my mind that they`re just probably going to write it off,” he said.
However, he says he isn`t giving up. Neither is the woman who`s been by his side through it all.
“I`m never going to stop. I`m not going to stop waiting,” said Angel Leeper.
Tabman believes, even though it can’t be used in court, his wife and Pat Brake should be given polygraphs. He says if they all pass, that further supports reopening the trial.
FOX 4 is still working to get in touch with former district attorney Jerome Gorman, whom Leeper was convicted under, to see if he thinks the case deserves a second look. A spokesman for current district attorney, Mark Dupree, said he has not been made aware of the petition, and with three months on the job so far, reopening Leeper’s case would likely not be a priority.
For more on Tabman’s findings about Leeper’s case, and the petition to get him a second trial, click here.