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Leach pleads guilty to criminal negligent homicide in son's death

By Joleen Ferris

(WKTV) - The Rochester-area police officer who shot and killed his son in an Old Forge hotel room in July 2012 entered a plea Wednesday in Herkimer County Court.

Michael Leach shot and killed his son, Matthew, 37, when he entered the hotel room the two were sharing in the middle of the night.  Leach was originally charged with murder. He pleaded guilty Wednesday to the reduced charge of criminally negligent homicide.

"We knew from the very beginning that this was not an intentional murder case; that there was no intent to cause his son's death," says Leach's attorney, Joseph Damelio.

On Monday, the prosecutor, Herkimer County District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter, received a report from a prosecution psychiatrist who reviewed the findings of a defense-hired psychiatrist who'd examined Leach and concurred with his findings -- that Leach suffered post-traumatic stress disorder.  The reason: Leach, in his early days as a police officer in 1979, shot and killed a teen-aged girl after responding to a domestic violence call. Since then, Leach has had recurring nightmares of an intruder, dressed in black, invading his home. He fired his gun during one such nightmare. Leach also said Wednesday that he has to sleep on the couch so he can see the front door. He was examined not only by psychiatrists, but sleep experts, who verified his sleeping disorders, including parasomnia.

"Very soon after our investigation started, it started revealing that my client was having this recurrent dream and the more that our experts delved into this....they found out in fact this was real. This is what was really happening to my client on that day. The day of his son's death," says Damelio, adding that there's little anyone can do to punish Leach that would hurt him more than he hurt himself the night he killed his son.

"It's that survivor guilt that really compounds this. This kid was his flesh and blood. It was his best friend...you couldn't put him in jail for the amount of time or enough time in his eyes. You know, he's put himself, when I said earlier he's been in jail since this happened, he's put himself in his own personal jail.. There's not much else that can be done to him."

Leach will be sentenced on Aug. 11 to six months in the Herkimer County Jail. The District Attorney says Matthew Leach's widow approved of the disposition.

 

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