Michael Leach had been sleeping for a few hours when a noise startled him awake inside the Old Forge motel room where the former Rochester police captain was staying with his son last summer, according to court documents.
“I woke to something and saw a dark figure at the door,” Leach told police that night, the documents state. “I yelled and discharged my weapon.”
But 59-year-old Leach didn’t know where the bullet went, he told Webb town police Officer Kevin Birtle.
Once Leach discovered that he had shot and killed his son, Matthew Leach, 38, shortly before 1 a.m. July 21, the elder Leach reacted with horror and disbelief, the documents show.
“I killed my own son. Are you (expletive) kidding me?” Leach allegedly told another Webb police officer, Anthony Sege, at the scene inside Room 6 at the Clarks Beach Motel. “This can’t be happening. Oh my God, just kill me now.”
Those remarks to police are among the statements to be reviewed during a pre-trial hearing in Herkimer County Court on Thursday, June 6, to determine whether they can be used as evidence in Leach’s upcoming murder trial.
On Friday, Judge John Crandall scheduled the trial to begin Monday, Aug. 5.
During a brief proceeding to argue pre-trial motions, Leach’s Rochester attorney, Joe Damelio, asked the judge to review the grand jury indictment to see if there was enough evidence to charge Leach with intentionally killing his son.
In particular, Damelio asked Crandall to gauge whether prosecutors appropriately explained the rule of self-defense to grand jurors as it relates to cases of burglary involving an intruder. Because if the grand jury was advised of this justification defense, Damelio said he can’t understand how his client ended up charged with intentional murder.
In response, Herkimer County District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter asked the judge to consider Leach’s own remarks in weighing the sufficiency of the evidence against him, particularly Leach’s description of the lighting inside their motel room.
While Leach had said it was too dark to clearly see who he was shooting at, the documents also reveal how Leach – who now is a part-time police officer in the Rochester area – reacted when police arrived at the scene.
“I don’t have a gun. I don’t have a gun. Look at me. Do I look like I have a gun?” Leach told Sege, the documents state. “Come in and help my son.” Leach then remarked about his weapon: “It’s under the pillow on my bed.”
Finally, Leach told Sege, “I know my rights. I know my rights. You don’t need to read them to me … It’s too late. I already said too much. It doesn’t matter anyway, my son is dead.”