After years of hard work, Brian and Jeannie Legg had earned a well deserved life of leisure in their picture-perfect Phoenix mansion. Until their troubled son showed up with a need for cash--and a thirst for murder. . .
David Legg was an obsessive control freak and an army deserter. After fathering an illegitimate child, he wooed and wed a trusting young woman--only to destroy his marriage with lies and infidelities. But his deceptions were far from over. . .
A Savage Son
In June of 1996, Jeannie and Brian were found shot to death, their bodies sitting next to each other on their living room loveseat. Jeannie's expensive ring and the couple's credit cards were missing. Meanwhile, David, the prime suspect, was living it up in Hawaii with his fifteen-year-old girlfriend, draining his dead parents' savings through ATMs. After a long and costly chase this remorseless killer faced a jury of his peers in 2000, and was locked behind bars for life.
"True crime afficionados will savor this riveting read." --Publishers Weekly on Honeymoon with a Killer
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About the Author
A native Californian, Mr. Lasseter resides in Orange County. He has served as guest lecturer in criminology classes at California State University, Fullerton. Hollywood history is Mr. Lasseter's third major interest. His personal library includes an extensive collection of movie books, and he takes pride in being able to name hundreds of old character actors whose faces are often seen in classic films. One day, Lasseter says, he will write books, both fiction and non-fiction, about the golden era of film production and the people involved.
If you would like more information about his books or his interests in WWII or Old Hollywood, please feel free to write him at 1215 S. Beach Blvd. #323, PMB, Anaheim, CA 92804.
Read an Excerpt
By Don Lasseter
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2011 Don Lasseter
All right reserved.
Chapter OneVisit from a Killer
Nothing in their imaginations, or nightmares, could have been more horrific to Jeannie and Brian Legg. They recoiled in disbelieving shock, eyes wide and mouths open, stunned and bewildered by the assailant who waved a .22-caliber semiautomatic handgun in their faces.
Seated side by side on a blue-and-red—plaid love seat in the family room of their spacious home, the couple, ages fifty-six and fifty-two, had been enjoying a warm spring evening watching television. Casually dressed, Jeannie wore a navy blue short-sleeved blouse and red-plaid shorts, which resembled the upholstery's color scheme. Brian, leaning gently against her left shoulder, also attired himself for the June weather of Phoenix, Arizona, in tan Bermuda shorts and a coral-beige—plaid sport shirt. Tired after a day of shopping and a family dinner, both had slipped off their shoes and had left them lying on the floor close to their bare feet.
Neither Brian nor Jeannie could have conceived the possibility of being violated in this manner. Nor did they grasp the reality of a life-threatening crisis. The overt signals of intention to murder them made no sense at all.
Without any hint of mercy, though, the gun wielder aimed the muzzle toward the right side of Jeannie Legg's head, at nearly point-blank range, and pulled the trigger twice.
Horrified and outraged, Brian started to lunge upward, when he heard another blast from the semiautomatic. A bullet glanced off a magazine lying on a glass-topped end table next to him, tore through a potted plant, and disappeared into the wall. Still in the split-second process of rising, Brian didn't make it, because the pistol struck him hard on the right temple and thudded against his forehead, just above the left eye. Dazed, he sank back onto the couch in a sitting position. A fourth detonation ended Brian's life with a bullet into his temple.
Just to make certain that neither of the victims would survive, the killer delivered coup de grace shots into both of their heads.
Then the plunder began. An expensive, sparkling solitaire-diamond ring, along with a gold wedding band, was pulled from the limp third finger of Jeannie's left hand. With the speed of a hungry scavenger, greedy claws emptied Brian's pockets, taking his wallet and credit cards. Ransacking drawers in other rooms, the thief snatched checkbooks and more credit cards.
Returning to the pair of dead victims, the killer chose for some reason to cover the gruesome work with blankets dragged from an adjacent master bedroom. First a blue-and-pink-flowered comforter was stretched over their legs and laps; then a thick quilt concealed their upper bodies. As blood seeped through the two layers, a gray-striped white blanket was settled over the victims' heads. Two yards of hemp twine was peeled from a roll and used to lash down the improvised shrouds. In addition, the cold-blooded assassin used great care in closing windows, drapes, shutters, and switching off every light inside the house.
Jeannie and Brian Legg would repose in the hot, silent, dark room for almost six days before finally being discovered.
Chapter TwoDid They Know They Were Going to Die?
Tightening knots of tension twisted inside George Price's (pseudonym) stomach like a hangman's noose as he tried, for what seemed like the hundredth time, to telephone his mother and stepfather. Usually, the former U.S. Air Force captain, now an executive in a technology firm, had no trouble reaching them on a weekly basis, and he had last connected by telephone on Saturday morning, June 8, 1996. It had been a fun chat. A friend of Price's, planning to celebrate his seventy-fifth birthday, had asked George and his wife if they could teach him to do the cha-cha. They had laughed and said they didn't know that dance, but perhaps George's stepfather, Brian, did.
"Sure," Brian had said, with his usual boisterous laugh. "I'll be glad to show you when we get together next weekend for Father's Day."
Now, with the date rapidly approaching, George wanted to arrange details of the family gathering. He had called Brian and Jeannie Legg's residential line repeatedly, beginning on Tuesday, but reached no one. Several more attempts to make contact through their home business number at least allowed him to leave messages on an answering machine. But they had not responded. Never before had his mom or stepfather failed to return telephone calls; usually, they got back within a matter of hours. And any planned trips were always preceded by advance notification to the offspring.
It did nothing to soothe his anxiety when George called a few hotels his parents might patronize, only to hit more dead ends. Inquiries to other relatives met equally disappointing failure.
Separated from them by about 115 miles, the distance between his Tucson home and the Phoenix suburb where Brian and Jeannie lived, Price thought about making the trip just to satisfy himself that nothing disastrous had happened. First, though, he decided to telephone a cousin, Joe Matise, who lived in a neighborhood not far from the Leggs' upscale home.
"Joe," George said, trying to hide the deep concern in his voice, "I can't reach Mom and Dad. Could you do me a big favor and drive over there to see if they are okay?" Matise readily agreed to see what he could find out. In less than two hours, he called back to say he had gone over to the house on 14th Street, rang the bell, knocked loudly, and walked all around it. But no one appeared to be home.
For two more days, George continued attempts to contact his parents, still without success. At last, on Saturday, June 15, Price, with his wife Diana (pseudonym), drove northwest on Interstate 10 for nearly two hours. Strained with anxiety, he steered into a tract of expensive homes, custom built in the preceding two years. The modern development covered a low slope of dry, rocky desert terrain set against a backdrop of rugged mountains, ten miles outside of Phoenix. Called Ahwatukee, probably from an ancient Native American name meaning "land on the other side of the hill," the community included a string of real estate developments. Each cluster of houses bore picturesque names, such as Desert View, Paradise Valley, and Camelback, which described a humpback mountain near the Gila River Indian Community (GRIC).
On that June afternoon, with the clear sky scorched by desert sun, George and his wife still held out hope their trip would have a happy ending. After turning into the short cul-de-sac of 14th Street at 1:30 P.M., George parked in the driveway situated on an expansive corner lot. He and Diana had been there many times, and they thought Brian and Jeannie had chosen well when they bought the place in the previous year. The tract featured spacious lots and gorgeous homes, many with swimming pools. Xerophilous landscaping, with dry, rocky ground cover and desert plants, would need little watering or maintenance. The backdrop of ragged, boulder-strewn, purple hills fit perfectly with the ancient geographic ambience of Arizona, marred only by several distant communications towers on top of the ridge.
Emerging from the car, George and his wife looked for some signs of life, but they found only eerie, empty silence. Nothing about the two-story, Spanish-style sandy beige structure indicated catastrophic events. No broken windows. No signs of forced entry. Oddly, though, the bulb was illuminated in a lamp fixture on the garage exterior. Brian would never allow that to happen in the daytime.
A sense of doom hovered over the worried couple.
Repeating the same steps taken by Matise on Thursday, George and Diana walked under the towering entry arch, knocked, rang the doorbell several times, and yelled his parents' names. Price considered using the spare house key he had brought along, but some deep, fearful intuition blocked him from doing so. Attempts to peer through giant arched windows proved futile, since interior drapes and blinds obscured any possible view. This alarmed George, as he knew the Leggs preferred plenty of light and ventilation.
Using his key to a gate next to the garage, George and Diana entered the backyard. They turned near a sparkling swimming pool and skirted the barbecue pit Brian and Jeannie had built. Under a roofed patio, they cupped hands at the sides of their foreheads in futile attempts to peer through windows. Only one glass pane at the back offered the slightest of views inside, and Diana could barely see blankets on a love seat. She told George that it looked like someone might be asleep under the comforter. That only heightened their fear.
Back at the front entry, George used his cell phone to call Joe Matise and asked him to come over. Later explaining it, George said, "I had a suspicion something had happened, and I wanted Joe there. I contemplated calling the police, but I wanted him there first." Since Matise already had made the inspection on Thursday, Price reasoned, "we wanted to make sure that things looked as they did when he walked around the house."
While they waited for Joe's arrival, events of the past skipped through George's mind in a montage, like in a music video. His mother, Palma Jean, better known as "Jeannie," had given birth to three children with her first husband. A divorce ended that union. Not long after George's seventh birthday, Jeannie married Brian Legg, an officer in the U.S. Air Force. She delivered a fourth child, David, giving Brian a son of his own. Home, at that time, had been several places in Illinois and in Michigan. After the three older kids matured into independent adults, and young David started high school, Brian retired from the military. He, Jeannie, and David relocated to San Ramon, California, then to a country club home near Danville, in the San Francisco Bay Area. Both parents had dabbled with entrepreneurial efforts. David had met a young woman with whom he worked, and taken her as his bride.
By 1995, Brian and Jeannie decided to move from California to the dry, warm Arizona environment. Brian had tackled a part-time second career as head of the family planning division at the Gila River Indian Health Services (IHS). Jeannie turned one room of the new home into an office, where she ran a physician's recruitment service.
Other more troubling images blighted George's mental movie. While the marriage of Brian and Jeannie Legg provided them with apparent happiness, they had struggled with financial security. Several other family problems had created a certain amount of strain. David had found multiple ways to embarrass his parents with strange behavior before marrying his girlfriend, Alicia LaFlesh, and joining the army. Shortly after George's young half brother had left for basic training, Brian Legg had suffered a heart attack and had undergone triple coronary bypass surgery.
Still, as the eldest male sibling, George always enjoyed the close relationship with his mother and her husband. He seldom let more than a few days pass without speaking to them, either by telephone or with a personal visit. Relationships with his sisters had been sporadic, with one of them choosing to have little contact with her family. He hadn't seen his younger half brother, David, since Thanksgiving the previous year, during a celebration of the holiday and David's birthday.
Joe Matise's arrival put an end to George's reverie. The cousin skidded to a halt at the curb and joined his relatives. After a short discussion, he said, "Give me the key. I'll go in and check it out."
As soon as Joe entered the dark house, he immediately had to control the reflexive urge to throw up. An overpowering stench of rotting flesh left him breathless. Before two full minutes had passed, he staggered back outside, with an agitated expression twisting his face. The odor also reached George's nostrils. Even Diana, out in the driveway, could detect it. Tears filled the eyes of all three people. Matise implored George and Diana, "Don't go in the house." Choking back his own emotions, Joe added, "Your parents are dead!"
A few minutes of overwhelming emotion wracked the trio. George finally used his cell phone to call 911. The sequence of people arriving amazed him. He later spoke of it: "Well, I remember the first thing was the newspeople showed up. Following that was the fire people. Then, after that, were the police."
Fire department personnel entered the house before anyone else. Neither George, nor Joe, nor Diana went inside with them. Paramedics, who are trained to cope with the odor of human decay, located the bodies of Brian and Jeannie Legg, who had died in a sitting position on a love seat, shot to death, and covered with blankets. Their remains, decomposing in the smothering heat, had been there at least five or six days.
Phoenix police officers arrived soon afterward. Sheriff's coroners showed up to perform a cursory examination of the deceased couple and make the official pronouncement of death.
One of the coroner's technicians peeled back the gray-striped white blanket to reveal the victims' heads. The killer had shot the woman three times, once above the right ear, another at the hairline, and the final blast above her eyebrow. Two lethal bullets had entered the male victim's head, one in the forehead and the second near his temple.
George Price controlled his emotions enough to identify the couple as his mother and stepfather.
No doubt remained that they had met their savage deaths at the hands of someone else. It had not been a murder-suicide. So the attending officers and specialists left everything intact, pending the arrival of detectives.
Later speaking of the horror, Joe Matise said, "When I first walked in, I thought it was a suicide. There was no sign of a struggle." He would later change his opinion after learning of the multiple gunshot wounds. Pondering the horror, he turned philosophical. "They were sitting side by side.... I wonder now, did they know they were going to die? Did they know who was going to kill them?"
The crime scene remained under investigation through the night into the next day, Sunday, the sixteenth day of June. Happy Father's Day.
Chapter ThreeTrail of Greed
Detective Ronald Jones arrived at the murder scene Saturday afternoon, at about four o'clock, along with Detectives Bob Mills and Ken Hansen. Jones had been an integral part of the three-man team, members of the Phoenix Police Department's (PPD) Homicide Unit, for nearly three years. When called out to crime scenes, the trio rotated duty as "case agent," meaning taking on responsibility for overseeing most aspects of the investigation. He later explained, "One time you'll get the case, one time you'll do the scene, and one time you'll fill in, based on the complexity of the case." They divided the work equitably, including witness interviews, searching for evidence, keeping records, or tagging along with the case agent to assist him. For this double killing, it would be Bob Mills's turn to be the case agent.
Tall and lean, Ron Jones brought to mind cowboy actors from old movies in which Gary Cooper or Randolph Scott tracked the bad guys and brought them to justice. His deep-set, intense brown eyes, confident expression, and calm demeanor fit this image perfectly. When he was deep in thought, creases appeared on Jones's forehead, and the dimple in his chin seemed even more pronounced. Graying, neatly trimmed hair, middle-parted and combed back, gave him an aura of respectable maturity.
A twenty-one-year veteran of the department, Jones had joined the force in 1975. He had excelled in the fourteen-week academy and graduated with honors. The first field assignment as a uniformed patrolman took him to the Squaw Peak Precinct, where he roamed the eastern-central portion of the city for two years. Superior performance led to an assignment as a training officer, showing new recruits the ropes, from 1978 to 1980, in the west side of town, called the Maryvale Precinct. The next eight years, Jones motored throughout the region as a solo traffic officer. He often found himself conducting security measures at special events, protecting dignitaries, or pulling over speeders and DUI offenders. In 1988, Jones shed the uniform to become a plainclothes detective. For several years, he investigated missing persons, assaults, and domestic violence. In 1993, he reached his goal to join the homicide squad.
Excerpted from Deadly Deceit by Don Lasseter Copyright © 2011 by Don Lasseter. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
While I did feel this book was a little draggy at times with unnecessary details it was still worth reading. As with alot of true crime books, you don't feel at the end you have a real sense of closure on the details of the crime but that isn't the authors fault. It was certainly not the worst read but I just can't rate it one of the best either.
Very good book, but very sad. Writer told a story without using foul language and that was a plus, it made the book enjoyable to read.
Solid middle of the pack read. Good detail on the crime and some on motivation. Some filler material I scanned over. Trial portion of book mostly repeated earlier material, but did offer a few new insights. Ended up skimming that as well.
Good read for true crime buffs like me. Hard to fathom anyone would do something like this. Well researched and written.
Well written.....very well researched, Bn
Well written and researched to give alot of good background info