http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/topstory/2468569March 26, 2004, 5:11PM
TV show, film play part in man's killing of girlfriend, confession
By ERIC HANSON
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
Fort Bend County
Arrested: Dan R. Leach
RICHMOND -- His devotion to a TV crime show helped Dan Leach II kill his pregnant girlfriend and avoid suspicion, police said Thursday.
But a movie led him to confess, they said.
Overwhelmed after viewing The Passion of the Christ, the 21-year-old Rosenberg man told Fort Bend County detectives that he had strangled his girlfriend and made her death appear to be a suicide after she told him she was pregnant with his child, investigators said.
"The Passion of the Christ moved him spiritually," sheriff's Detective Mike Kubricht said of actor/director Mel Gibson's controversial film. "He wanted redemption."
Leach, who was indicted on a murder charge Monday and arrested Tuesday, is in the county jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
Until he went to detectives earlier this month, Kubricht said, investigators believed Ashley Nicole Wilson, 19, had hanged herself. RESOURCES
• Read the indictment against Dan Randall Leach II
"He felt compelled to come forward with this," Kubricht said. "He didn't really express any remorse for the victim."
Wilson's parents, Renee Wilson Coulter and Dan Wilson, said they never believed she killed herself.
"They apologized profusely," Coulter said of detectives. "However, if this boy had not come forward, we would have never known."
Coulter found her daughter's body Jan. 19 in the woman's Richmond-area apartment. She said she had been concerned because her daughter, a Wharton County Junior College student, had not used her bank account in several days.
All evidence pointed to suicide, Kubricht said.
"We found a letter that could be interpreted as a suicide note," he said. "It didn't actually say that she was going to kill herself, but it did state that she was extremely depressed because she was pregnant and the person she was pregnant by was not going to be there for her to raise the child."
Wilson's body was fully clothed and a pillowcase was over her head. The cord from her high school graduation gown was wrapped around her neck and tied to the headboard.
After the autopsy, the Harris County medical examiner ruled the death a suicide. Then Leach came to detectives March 7.
Kubricht said Leach addressed the congregation at Sunday services at Avenue N Church of Christ in Rosenberg. "He tells them he is about to go on a journey that is going to take him away for a long time, and he wanted the congregation to support him in prayers," the detective said.
Leach's father called the minister and three elders to his house later that day and told them his son had admitted to killing a woman, Kubricht said. They took him to authorities.
Kubricht said Leach told him he had planned the killing from the day he learned that Wilson was pregnant.
"We asked him why he came forward now, and he said first that he had seen the movie The Passion of the Christ, and that moved him," Kubricht said. "Then he spoke with an old family friend that was a preacher and decided to contact police."
The graphic movie depicts the final 12 hours of Jesus' life.
Leach led police step-by-step through his plan, Kubricht said.
"He is an avid CSI watcher," he said, referring to a TV program about crime-scene investigators.
Kubricht said Leach brought gloves to Wilson's apartment and coaxed her into a "pseudo-therapy exercise."
"He told her to write him a letter and `describe everything that is bad in your life right now,' " the detective said. " `And after you finish the letter, we are going to talk about everything that is good in your life.' "
He said Leach told officers that, after she wrote the letter, he asked Wilson to take part in a "trust exercise."
"He asked her to sit on the bed and place a pillowcase over her head and they were going to rely on her other senses besides her sense of sight," he said.
Leach then grabbed the cord and strangled her, Kubricht said. After wiping the room to eliminate fingerprints, he walked out, the detective said.
Dan Wilson said he and Ashley's mother disagreed with the suicide ruling.
"(Police) looked at it as a family member that is in denial over what has happened," he said.
But the fact that their daughter's television, lights and ceiling fan were off when her body was found nagged at them.
"My daughter lived in an apartment by herself," Coulter said. "She always had the TV on, always had the ceiling fan on and always had lights on."
They also found that her apartment key was missing from her key ring.
"To me, that meant that somebody was there and had taken the key," Coulter said.
Although they thought someone killed their daughter, Wilson said, he and Coulter were stunned when they learned Leach was accused. He had known her for several years.
"We never suspected it would be a bad thing for her to be around him," Wilson said.
The confession gives some vindication for him and Ashley's mother, he said, but "it doesn't bring her back."
Coulter said she hopes Leach spends at least 30 years in prison.
"I want him to have a picture of my daughter in his cell to remind him what he did," she said.
The parents also are concerned because the final autopsy report has not been completed and because the doctor who performed the autopsy told them their daughter was not pregnant.
Coulter, however, said her daughter had been seeing a physician and had medical documents saying she was six to eight weeks pregnant.
Detectives plan to meet with medical examiner's officials to determine why no evidence of pregnancy was found.
A call by the Houston Chronicle to the medical examiner's office was not returned Thursday.
But whether the victim was pregnant is irrelevant to police, Kubricht said, because Leach believed she was.
"That was his motive for killing her," he said. "It was because she was pregnant and he was embarrassed of it and he wanted her totally out of his life."
He said he will remember a lesson from this case.
"If a mother tells me, `This is not like my child,' I am going to listen to her a little more carefully."