Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Man In Shadows

The Muffler Shop

The first stop for the detectives was Kenny Leighton's muffler shop. They found Leighton inside. After the detectives introduced themselves, Leighton said something that struck both investigators as odd.

"What took you guys so long? I was waiting for you."

Not knowing exactly what to make of Leighton's comment, Szabo and Galeria asked him about Randy.

Leighton hemmed and hawed. He said he barely knew Randy. The detectives' collective antenna went up. Leighton denied that Randy worked for him and claimed not to even know his last name. The cops were skeptical. All Leighton would say about Randy was that he worked at a strip bar down the street from the muffler shop.

"At that point Leighton tried to distance himself from Randy," Szabo recalls.

Good detectives are insatiably inquisitive people. They want to know everything, especially when something or someone has aroused their curiosity. And Kenny Leighton's oddball comment and evasive manner had certainly aroused the curiosity of Szabo and Galeria.

The detectives got Leighton's permission to take a quick look around the shop. Galeria had worked narcotics back in the 1980s, and Leighton's shop had the look of a front, probably for selling dope and the car parts he had been accused of stealing.

In Leighton's office the two detectives peeked inside his desk and made a surprising discovery. Leighton had copies of all of the police reports filed in connection with his August burglary arrest and copies of all of the witness statements. Leighton's collection of police documents included Jamie's and April's statements. Although defense attorneys are entitled to witness statements, under California law it is a misdemeanor to release them to a criminal defendant.

Stapled to the back of the reports was Leighton's rap sheet. Handwritten notations beside some of his arrests had the word "strike," along with numbers and question marks. Under California's "three-strikes" law, a third conviction for certain felony offenses carries a mandatory prison sentence of 25 years to life.

Looking at the notes on the rap sheet, it seemed clear to the detectives that Leighton, or at least someone, thought his burglary charge might be his third strike and possibly expose him to a life sentence.

Szabo and Galeria seized the police paperwork as evidence.

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