Cold Case Explorations

Researching Cold and Unsolved Cases from the US and Beyond

The Strange Disappearance of Randy Leach

This case has remained unsolved for 35 years, 7 months, and 22 days.

Randy Leach was a senior at Linwood High School in 1988. He was athletic and well-liked by most accounts, and the only child of his parents, Harold and Alberta. In April, he went out to a pre-graduation party, but didn’t return home. Neither he nor the car he drove were ever seen again.

Over three decades years later, there are still no answers about what really happened to Randy. Rumors have swirled about a possible satanic sacrifice, or the idea that his drink was spiked at the party he went to. However, nothing has ever been found of him: no clothes, no car, no evidence at all. What happened to Randy Leach?

A photograph of Randy Leach.
A photograph of Randy Leach (Facebook).

Table of Contents

About Randy Leach

Randy Leach was born on July 25, 1970 to parents Harold and Alberta Leach. He weighed only 4 lbs. at birth, but managed to survive and grew into a handsome young man. An only child, he loved spending time with his family and friends, as well as the animals on his family’s 10-acre farm.

A photograph of Randy and his mother, Alberta Leach.
A photograph of Randy and his mother, Alberta Leach (Facebook).

In 1988, Randy was a senior at Linwood High School in Linwood, Kansas (KS). He enjoyed outdoor activities, fishing especially, and participated on several sports teams. He played basketball and did track and field, where he one day hoped to break his school’s shotput record.

In addition to being a good athlete, Randy was an excellent student as well. His plans for after graduation weren’t set in stone; he wasn’t sure what he was going to do, but he was thinking of enrolling in a trade school. However, he never got the chance.

The Day of the Disappearance

It was April 15, 1988 and around 6:45 PM when 17-year-old Randy Leach was headed to a high school pre-graduation party in West Bonner Springs, KS. He gave his mother, Alberta, a kiss on the cheek before he went out to tell his father, Harold, goodbye. Alberta recalls that her son seemed happy: “He was in a good mood. His dad had just bought him a new John Deere lawn tractor the day before.” Randy drove that evening in his mother’s gray 1985 Dodge 600 sedan.

Evening Events

After leaving his parents’ home, Randy headed to his cousin’s house around 7 PM, then reportedly drove around Linwood for a while. Randy and a friend then drove to DeSoto to visit a body shop around 8:30 PM. This body shop had a red 1966 Ford Mustang, which was to be Randy’s graduation gift upon graduating from high school. 

At 9:30 PM, Randy stopped at Stout’s Convenience Store convenience store to purchase some items: two candy bars, two bottles of soda, and $3 worth of gas. It’s not clear if he was alone or not, but the fact that he bought two of each food item seems to indicate there was someone else in the car with him — perhaps the same friend he’d visited the DeSoto body shop with.

Headed to the Party

Around 10 PM, Randy was seen at a bonfire party in West Bonner Springs. Reports say that the party had anywhere from 45 to 150 people. Randy was seen walking around at the party, but did not appear drunk or intoxicated. Additionally, no one reported seeing him drinking at the party, although some of his friends mentioned that Randy seemed upset. Others mentioned that he seemed intoxicated later in the night, even though he hadn’t been seen with a drink in hand.

The house where the party was held at.
The house where the party was held at (YouTube).

Early Morning Hours

Around 1:30 AM, a friend called John Burns offered to drive Randy home, perhaps because Randy had drank at the party and it wouldn’t have been safe for him to drive. However, Randy couldn’t find his keys. At one point, it was reported that he was seen sitting in the front seat of his car

While Randy continued looking for the keys, John left, taking some other partygoers home first. Randy was reportedly last seen between 2:05 and 2:15 AM when he was spotted waiting in a line to use the restroom. At 2:30 AM, John returned to the party to pick up Randy and take him home, but both Randy and his Dodge 600 were gone

Randy Missing

At 6 AM, Alberta Leach (Randy’s mother) woke up and realized that Randy had never come home the night before. His curfew was 12:30 AM, but since he usually adhered to it, neither of his parents waited up to make sure he came home on time. 

Randy’s parents searched the house and then Alberta called her brother, who was at the time an officer with the Lawrence Police Department (LPD). He went out to the property where the party had been held to search for Randy, but unfortunately, things had already been cleaned up there. He told the Lawrence Journal-World in 1998:

“They wouldn’t do a thing to help me. The ground was swept and raked and everything put away, no cups or cans. You couldn’t even have told there was a party there.”

Alberta’s Brother (Source: InSearchofRandyLeach)

Missing Persons Report Filed

Once Randy’s parents heard back that he wasn’t at the property where the party had been, they contacted the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Department (LCSD). However, they were told to wait 24 hours before they could officially report their son as a missing person. 

Impatiently, Randy’s parents waited for the 24 hours to pass and then called the LCSD back the first minute they were able to, filing a missing persons report about their son. 

The Investigation

After the 24-hour waiting period had passed, the LCSD got to work trying to figure out where Randy Leach had gone. When Randy’s friends were asked if they saw him leaving the party, no one had. The last time anyone had seen him was when he was waiting in line to use the restroom at approximately 2:05 AM on the morning of April 16

The fact that Randy’s car was gone suggested that he’d driven it away from the party sometime after 2:15 AM when he was last seen. However, he also had his friend John coming back to drive him home shortly thereafter, so it’s unclear why Randy would have left.

Alberta and Harold Leach with a picture of their missing son, Randy.
Alberta and Harold Leach with a picture of their missing son, Randy (YouTube).

Randy’s Keys Found?

Some of the people at the party said that a man named Robert had possession of Randy’s car keys. Someone reported this to Harold Leach, explaining: “I don’t know when he got the keys. I just know that Robert said he had the keys, and that was all, all he said.” It’s not clear if the keys were ever recovered.

Key locations in the Randy Leach disappearance.
Key locations in the Randy Leach disappearance (Lawrence Journal-World).

Party Home Burns Down

Later in 1988, the home where the bonfire party was held burned down. I couldn’t find much information about how or why the house burned down, only that it did. 

Car Accident Two Weeks Before Party

There had been rumors that Harold, Randy’s father, had “beaten [Randy] so badly that he couldn’t come to school.” However, upon further investigation, it seemed this rumor was untrue; the real reason Leach hadn’t been in school was because he’d gotten into a car wreck a few days prior and was unable to attend while he was recovering.

Rumors of Drugging

There was a rumor that someone had put something in one of Randy’s drinks. However, there was no corroborating evidence located that suggested Randy had been drugged. It also seems unlikely that someone would choose Randy — a 6’3, 220 lb. athletic young man — as a target to drug. 

A police diagram of the party house and surrounding area in the Randy Leach case.
A police diagram of the party house and surrounding area in the Randy Leach case (YouTube).

A Botched Investigation?

It reportedly took LCSD five weeks to search the property where the pre-graduation party had been held. By that time, any evidence likely had been cleaned up or blown away, regardless if Randy’s disappearance was due to his own volition or foul play. Authorities believe that foul play may have been involved and that Randy didn’t leave the party of his own accord.

Private Investigator Hired

Not seeing enough movement from the LCSD, Randy’s parents hired private investigators in the months after their son’s disappearance to try to learn more. They put up flyers across Kansas and Colorado, another state that Randy enjoyed traveling to, and conducted their own searches for their son.

Sheriff Terry Campbell defended the LCSD’s work, writing in a letter:

“The Attorney General’s office has not found flaws in our investigation, nor has any other professional law enforcement agency found flaws, or a solution, to Randy’s disappearance. Mr. Leach must realize that unlike t.v. [sic] cop shows, all mysteries are not solved.”

Sheriff Terry Campbell (Source: Letters on Leach Case)

However, others agreed that more should’ve been done immediately following Randy’s disappearance. Lieutenant Hank Spellman of the LCSD admitted:

“There are a couple people involved in this thing that definitely should have been talked to a long time ago — should have been brought in, should have been interviewed, statements taken and a lot of other things that have not been done.”

Lt. Hank Spellman (Source: YouTube)

Sonar Utilized

Sonar was used to help search bodies of water in several areas, including Bonner Springs, the Kansas River, and Stranger Creek. Despite extensive searches, neither Randy nor the car he drove have ever been located.

Severed Foot Discovered

In March 1989, a severed foot in a tennis shoe was found on the banks of the Kansas River by someone Randy had known and a friend who’d been at the bonfire party. This was about a year after Randy had gone missing. Authorities scoured the area for other remains, but didn’t find anything else. Eventually, it was concluded that the foot wasn’t Randy’s, nor was it connected to his disappearance.

Age progression photos of Randy Leach.
Age progression photos of Randy Leach (NBC News).

Many Rumors Spread Over the Years

According to the website, a site set up by Randy’s parents in an effort to find him, there have been many hoaxes and rumors that have come out regarding what happened to their beloved missing son. 

Despite all their efforts to learn the truth, some people continue to lie and deceive, perhaps in an attempt to garner attention. The Leaches wrote on their site, “It seems, if there is a lack of evidence or facts to solve a situation, then it’s easy to invent the solution, regardless of the absurdity.”

And That’s It

That’s about all we know in the case of Randy Leach for over three decades now. He’s never been located, nor have his remains or the car he was driving that night ever been found. 

Theories on What Happened

Unfortunately, there are a ton of rumors and flat-out lies in the case of missing Randy Leach. Some of the rumors have included things like satanic sacrifices, a possible drugging, and a body hanging in a cave. Thus far, none of those rumors have been proven true, so as usual, I’ll focus on the more plausible explanations about what might’ve happened to Randy that night.

Randy’s Parents Did Something to Him

There have been many rumors floating around that Randy’s parents had something to do with his disappearance. However, there no evidence has been found that suggests the Leaches did anything to hurt their son. Most of these rumors seem to stem from the fact that Randy missed some days of school in the weeks leading up to his disappearance. As stated before though, he didn’t miss school due to abuse but rather because he was in a car accident and was recovering.

Randy Left and Started a New Life

Another theory is that Randy ran off to start a new life. Again though, there’s no evidence pointing to the idea that this was the case. It’s not clear if Randy had a bank account or if it was ever used after his disappearance. He also reportedly had some plans for the future, further suggesting that he wasn’t planning on leaving town.

A photograph of Randy Leach.
A photograph of Randy Leach (YouTube).

Something Happened to Randy at the Party or Shortly After He Left

Another theory is that something happened to Randy, either at the party or shortly after he left. The fact that he was seen on the property waiting in line to use the restroom at 2:15 AM seems to indicate that he was more or less okay while still there. He may have been a bit intoxicated still, but he wasn’t so drunk that he was urinating on himself or falling over. 

When John returned to the property to pick Randy up at around 2:30 AM, Randy and his car were gone. That gives a roughly 15-minute window in which something could have happened to Randy either on the property or that he was forced into his car and driven elsewhere. 

Randy Had an Accident

The last theory is that Randy, in an intoxicated state, ended up driving away from the party, crashed his car in a body of water, and died. Unfortunately, this happens sometimes with new, intoxicated, or inexperienced drivers. Each year in the United States, about 400 people die from drowning in submerged cars. It’s uncommon, but it does happen.

What Do I Think Happened?

In this case, I think there really are only two serious explanations for Randy’s disappearance: he had an accident while driving home or there was foul play involved. The other explanations are possible, but not probable in my opinion. 

Doubtful that Randy Ran Off

Randy’s graduation present was going to be the restored 1966 Ford Mustang. Why wouldn’t he graduate first, get the car, and then take off to start a new life? He also was close to graduating from Linwood High School, so why not finish the year out, get his degree, then start fresh with his diploma and new car?

Foul Play Possible

It’s also possible that Randy met with foul play, as some authorities have suggested. However, there has been no evidence found that suggests anything nefarious happened to Randy aside from some rumors that couldn’t be substantiated.

A 1988 Dodge 600 sedan — only a few years newer than the car that Randy Leach had been driving the night he disappeared.
A 1988 Dodge 600 sedan — only a few years newer than the car that Randy Leach had been driving the night he disappeared (Wikipedia).

Car Accident More Likely

An intoxicated teenager driving home from a party could easily end up driving off the road into a body of water, and such tragic things have happened many times before. Take the more recent case of Kiely Rodni, a California teen who drove away from a party and was later found in her car in a reservoir. Her cause of death was ruled to be accidental drowning. It’s possible that something similar happened to Randy in this case.

The fact that the Dodge 600 has never been found further pushes me towards this theory. A body can be buried far out in the woods or tossed into the ocean and never found; a car is a different story as it’s much harder to get rid of. If Randy and his car disappeared at the same time and in the same place — like accidentally driving into a body of water and drowning — then that would explain why neither of them have ever been found.

Case Outlook

Regardless of what happened to Randy, the fact that his family have gone so long with no answers is heartbreaking. His loved ones deserve to know what happened to him, whatever the case may be. If you have any information about the disappearance of Randy Leach, please reach out to the relevant authorities listed at the bottom of this article. Three decades is long enough to wait. 

Case Updates

There have been a number of case updates for the disappearance of Randy Leach. Despite these updates, there are still few answers about what happened to him that night.

1993: Three Men Arrested, Released

For a brief moment in 1993, three men were arrested on suspicion of kidnapping and murdering Randy. Ultimately, they were released and the charges were dropped. There wasn’t any concrete evidence pointing to the idea that any of the three men had been involved, according to the sheriff at the time.

2002: Harold Takes a Polygraph

Because some suspicions still weighed on Randy’s parents, his father, Harold, agreed to take a polygraph examination. According to Harold, he “passed with no problem.”

A photograph of Randy Leach.
A photograph of Randy Leach (Uncovered).

January 2018: Judge Denies Release of Records

Because of the amount of time spent searching for Randy with no answers, his parents filed for access to LCSD records in the case regarding their missing son. However, this request was denied by a judge in January 2018. It had been over 30 years at that point since Randy went missing. 

February 2018: GoFundMe Established

In February 2018, Randy’s parents set up a GoFundMe to help raise funds to find their missing son. They’re asking for $10,000 to continue their search, with the funds going toward hiring cadaver dog teams, search divers, radar equipment, etc.

2019: Letters to the Governor’s Office

In 2019, Randy’s parents reached out to the governor’s office, requesting additional help in the search for their missing son. The Office of Governor Laura Kelly responded:

“Finding missing persons is crucial to the emotional well-being of family and friends affected. Governor Kelly has received letters and her office has spoken with members of the Leach family, who have offered suggestions for finding Randy. The Governor’s Office has explored those suggestions, which are determined to exceed the office’s purview.”

Office of the Governor (Source: KSNT)

October 2020: Adventures With Purpose Searches for Randy

In October 2020, the organization Adventures With Purpose went out to the Linwood area to conduct some searches for Randy. Unfortunately, they were not able to locate him or the missing car.

January 2021: Harold Passes Away

In January 2021, Harold Leach passed away without ever learning what happened to his missing son.

April 28, 2022: “Help Find Randy” Rally Held

On April 28, 2022, a “Help Find Randy” rally was held at the Topeka, KS statehouse. The goal was to try and get a cold case task force established to help review cases like Randy Leach’s.

A flyer for the “Help Find Randy” rally held in April 2022.
A flyer for the “Help Find Randy” rally held in April 2022 (WIBW).

Do You Have Information?

There is a $25,000 reward for information leading to the the successful resolution of this case. At the time of his disappearance, Randy Leach was 6’3, 220 lbs. with blue eyes and brown hair. If you have information about the disappearance of Randy Leach, contact the Leavensworth County Sheriff’s Department at (913) 724–1313 or the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at 1 (800) KS CRIME.

A missing poster for Randy Leach.
A missing poster for Randy Leach (NBC News).

Cold Case Questions

  • Do you think authorities were lacking in their investigation into what happened to Randy Leach?
  • What do you think happened to Leach?
  • Do you think Leach is still out there somewhere?

Let me know your thoughts in the comment section below!

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