Police confirm Leshkevich deaths were murder and suicide

Daily Freeman, New York/February 20, 2008

West Hurley - James Leshkevich strangled his wife with his bare hands and then hanged himself, police said on Wednesday, confirming the two deaths were the result of a murder-suicide.

State police Capt. Wayne Olson said an autopsy, conducted late Tuesday, concluded Deborah Leshkevich also suffered blunt-force trauma with some type of object but that the cause of her death was asphyxiation.

Olson said police were working to establish the exact timeline of events but believe both deaths occurred either late Monday or early Tuesday. He did not know how much time passed between the killing and the suicide.

James Leshkevich, 52, and his 55-year-old wife were found dead about 11 a.m. Tuesday in their home on Morgan Hill Road in West Hurley - he in the garage, she in a bedroom - after co-workers of Mrs. Leshkevich called police to express concern about her well-being.

Mrs. Leshkevich was a teaching assistant at Woodstock Elementary School in the Onteora school district. Her husband, a former truck driver, was perhaps best known for his white separatist activities, including his affiliation with the National Alliance, a neo-Nazi organization.

In November 2005, Leshkevich helped organize a white power rally outside Kingston High School at which New Jersey-based white supremacist Hal Turner was the speaker.

"No matter the political affiliation of the parties involved, this is a tragedy because two people are dead and it didn't have to happen," Olson said on Wednesday. "The family and friends here are suffering."

Mary-Sue D'Orazio, a friend of the victim, described Mrs. Leshkevich as a battered woman.

"I don't know about physically, but mentally, spiritually and psychologically, I think she was absolutely abused," D'Orazio said.

Angela Greener, another friend, said: "I believe she was starting to get to the point where she wanted out now that her children were grown. This is what escalated the situation.

"Deep down, I knew this would happen," Greener said.

On Monday, James Leshkevich posted a rambling message on his blog, where he was known as "Yankee James," in which he accused his wife of having an affair. Leshkevich wrote that the posting would be his last "for a while."

Leshkevich also left a suicide note, Olson said, but the captain declined to release it or say whether it made mention of the alleged affair.

The captain declined to comment when asked what Leshkevich used to hang himself or whether he jumped off something in the garage after putting the noose around his neck.

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