Teen Randy Leach's 1988 disappearance remains a mystery as car pulled from lake is not his

Tim Hrenchir
Topeka Capital-Journal
Authorities on Wednesday pulled out a vehicle found submerged near the Slough Creek Public Use area at the southeast part of Lake Perry.
A car was pulled out of Perry Lake by the Slough Creek area Wednesday afternoon after sonar discovered the vehicle the night prior. Nobody was found in the vehicle nor was it registered as stolen or missing, according to Jefferson County sheriff Jeff Herrig.

Harold Leach died last week at age 79 not knowing the fate of his son, Randy Leach, whose disappearance nearly 33 years ago remains a mystery.

Media accounts published after 17-year-old Randy Leach vanished with his mother's car in April 1988 suggested he'd been killed by members of a Satanic cult after attending a graduation party in rural Leavenworth County.

Other accounts shared theories that Leach accidentally drove off a single-lane bridge into a creek or died of a drug overdose and was then dismembered.

Leavenworth County teenager Randy Leach, shown here, has been missing since 1988.

Relatives and friends hoped the mystery would be solved Wednesday as they watched live video on The Capital-Journal's Facebook page showing a submerged car being pulled out of Lake Perry.

"Please let this be Randy's car God," Julie Jack-Spencer wrote in a comment on that page. "This is my step cousin. Family needs some kind of closure."

But the car turned out to be a 1980s Oldsmobile Cutlass instead of the 1985 Dodge that  Leach was driving when he vanished early April 16, 1988.

Sonar from a fishing boat had detected the Cutlass Tuesday evening near the Devil's Gap Boat Ramp at the Slough Creek Public Use Area in the southeast part of the lake, said Jefferson County Sheriff Jeff Herrig.

No bodies were found in the Cutlass, which had last been registered in 1995 in Shawnee County, he said.

Randy Leach, who would be 50 now, owned a cherry red 1966 Ford Mustang but borrowed his mother's car on the night he vanished because he was having his Mustang restored.

Since Randy Leach vanished, his father had "devoted his life" to the search for his son, said the obituary published after Harold Leach died Jan. 28.

Alberta Leach, the wife of Harold Leach and mother of Randy Leach, survives.

Relatives and friends of Randy Leach maintain a Facebook page, "In Search of Randy Leach," where scores of people shared their condolences after Harold Leach's death.

Harold and Alberta Leach in 2017 had filed a civil lawsuit seeking the release of confidential law enforcement records linked to the case regarding their son, but a judge denied their request the following year.

Witnesses told authorities the 6-foot-3, 220-pound Randy Lynch appeared to be either drunk or high as he attended a bonfire party the night he vanished about five miles from his home at Linwood in Leavenworth County.

A man told police later that year he'd been abducted by Satanists and held in a cave near Linwood, where he saw the hanging corpse of someone who may have been Leach. But investigators concluded that man had been hallucinating while under the influence of drugs.

The Leavenworth County Sheriff's Office in 1992 formally classified Leach's death as a homicide. It remains unsolved.

Retired Kansas Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Timothy Dennis said in 2018 that he thought Leach likely accidentally drove his mother's car off a bridge into a creek, which swept it away.

The bridge involved, which was later torn down, stood along a quiet back road. Dennis suggested Leach took that route because police were less likely to be patrolling there. Authorities found a vehicle in the creek involved, but it wasn’t Alberta Leach's.

Divers with Overland Park police helped secure a car to be towed out of Lake Perry Wednesday afternoon.
A Kansas license plate on a car that was pulled from Lake Perry was confirmed to be expired in 1995.
The inside of a car pulled from Lake Perry by the Slough Creek area shows years of deterioration and mud.
Jefferson County sheriff Jeff Herrig peers in to a car that was pulled from Lake Perry Wednesday afternoon.