LEAVENWORTH COUNTY, Kan. — When 17-year-old Randy Leach vanished during a high school party in 1988, just weeks from graduation, Leavenworth County Sheriff’s deputies and detectives began an investigation. Now, nearly 30 years later, Leach is still missing, and the department faces a lawsuit demanding it release case records.
Harold and Alberta Leach filed the suit in Leavenworth County District Court against the county and its sheriff’s department. Attorney Max Kautch of Lawrence filed it under the Kansas Open Records Act.
“While a public agency has discretion to release records defined to be ‘criminal investigation records’ under KORA, the court still may order the disclosure of the requested records if the records are in the public interest,” Kautch said in a statement.
He goes on to say the records are in the public interest “because of 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.
Some of that reporting mentioned in the petition filed today is reporting done by Fox 4 News as part of the “Where’s Randy?” investigation into how the case was handled. The teen’s parents told Fox 4 News they believe the investigation was mishandled from the beginning, with detectives not taking it seriously, believing their son might just be a runaway. They also argue many leads weren’t properly followed up on, including rumors of satanic cult sacrifices in some nearby caves.
They have said they just want to know what really happened to their son before they die, admitting he likely was killed.
The Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office has refused to release all of its records, citing an exception to the state open records law that allows for “ongoing investigations” to remain sealed. They say they are still looking into the disappearance, and welcome any tips.
Kautch says the Leachs’ want a hearing set on the matter as soon as possible.
Legislative efforts to pass a bill that would free up records after a certain passage of time fell short during the last session. Law enforcement opposed any changes to the current law that would allow for automatic opening of records.
The lawsuit also seeks costs and attorneys fees.
When reached today, the interim Leavenworth County Counselor says he won’t comment on pending litigation.