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Lancaster man accused of killing Ephrata woman at Schuylkill County campground in January

SCHUYLKILL COUNTY — A 44-year-old Lancaster man has been charged with first- and third-degree murder and related offenses in connection to the death of a ...
Robert Leonard_graphic
Robert Leonard

SCHUYLKILL COUNTY — A 44-year-old Lancaster man has been charged with first- and third-degree murder and related offenses in connection to the death of a 53-year-old Ephrata woman who was allegedly attacked at a Schuylkill County campground in January.

Robert George Leonard III, of the 2000 block of Old Lancaster Pike, was charged Tuesday by Pennsylvania State Police investigating the death of Terri Lynn Gee, who died Jan. 9 of injuries sustained in an attack at the Rausch Creek Trail Riders campground in Hegins Township, Schuylkill County on the night of Jan. 5.

Leonard is also charged with two counts of aggravated assault, possessing the instruments of crime (a folding knife), strangulation, simple assault, and recklessly endangering another person, according to the criminal complaint affidavit filed by State Police Trooper Vincent Laselva.

According to the criminal complaint, troopers from the State Police barracks in Schuylkill County were dispatched to Rausch Creek Trail Riders at 11:19 a.m. on Jan. 6 for a welfare check. When they arrived at the scene, police immediately encountered Leonard, whom they say was acting in an erratic manner and was unable to provide any information on what happened to Gee, who had been found in the passenger seat of a white Dodge Ram 1500 pickup truck. She was suffering from severe head trauma and blood loss, police say.

Gee was taken to Penn State Milton Hershey Hospital for treatment, according to police. Staff members at the hospital later told police they had found two stab wounds on Gee’s neck, and there were signs of strangulation, according to the complaint.

Leonard appeared to be under the influence of a controlled substance, and was not making sense, police say in the complaint. He received treatment from members of the Hegins Ambulance and taken from the scene to an area hospital for further treatment, police say.

Troopers observed blood on Leonard’s pants and shoes while speaking to him at the scene, the complaint states. Leonard allegedly told police the blood was from a cut on his leg and pulled up his pant leg to expose it, but the scar he showed police was not bleeding, the complaint states.

When they put Leonard into a patrol car to transport him from the scene, police say, he was found to be in possession of a black and silver Sheffield folding knife, which was found in his front pants pocket. Police say there appeared to be blood on the blade of the knife, which was seized as evidence.

Police say they confirmed that the pickup truck at the campsite where Gee was found belonged to Leonard. A large amount of blood was found on the passenger seat and floor where Gee was found, according to police. The victim’s blue Toyota Rav-4 was also found at the scene, parked next to the pickup truck. The Toyota’s driver’s side door was open, and the keys were in the ignition, police say. A spare tire, lug wrench, jack, and other tools were found on the ground next to the vehicle, accorrding to police. There was also a white Sandpiper camper at the scene, police say, and the front door was found open.

Workers at the campground told police Leonard approached them at about 7:55 a.m., acting in an erratic manner and showing signs of being under the influence of something. A staff member drove to the campsite at about 10 a.m. and found Leonard pacing back and forth in the bed of his pickup truck while holding his head. When questioned about Gee, Leonard allegedly told the worker “I don’t know where she’s at,” police say.

Police attempted to interview Leonard at about 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 6, but he still appeared to be under the influence and provided “erratic” responses to questions from police. He allegedly admitted he and Gee had been smoking meth the night before, police say.

Investigators viewed surveillance video to confirm Leonard had entered the campground in a pickup truck with another person inside. Surveillance footage from Jan. 6 also showed Leonard walking around the park office “holding a knife and yelling into the air,” police say in the complaint. He appeared to be “in a very agitated state” while walking around, police say.

Paperwork at the campground indicated Gee and Leonard had signed into the park on Dec. 30, 2018, the complaint states.

Gee died of her injuries on Jan. 9. An autopsy indicated that Gee had hemorrhaging in her throat area and signs of strangulation. There were two stab wounds, one of which pierced her left carotid artery. Her death was ruled a homicide, police say in the complaint.

Police submitted the clothes Leonard was wearing at the time of the incident and blood taken from the blade of the folding knife to DNA testing, the complaint states. Results stated that the blood found on Leonard’s shirt and sneaker matched Gee’s DNA profile. Analysis could not match the DNA found from the blood on the knife to Gee, because of an “insufficient quantity” of DNA, police say.

Leonard was questioned by police five times after the incident, according to the complaint. Each time he claimed to be unable to remember what happened on the night of Gee’s death. The only statement he gave when asked if he had committed the alleged crime was “I don’t know, I’d like to believe it wasn’t me,” police say.