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Thursday, March 6, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Leonard Was Shot While Sleeping -- Prosecutors Say Wife Fired At Him

Seattle Times Snohomish County Bureau

EVERETT - According to Snohomish County prosecutors, Teresa Gaethe-Leonard leveled a .45-caliber pistol at her husband as he lay sleeping and started firing. Chuck Leonard took one hit in the arm and two more in the chest, including the one that penetrated his lung and killed him.

But why prosecutors think it was Gaethe-Leonard who killed Leonard, a popular middle-school counselor, remained unclear yesterday at a hearing in Everett District Court, where she has been charged with first-degree murder.

At yesterday's hearing, District Judge Thomas Kelly set March 21 as the date Gaethe-Leonard must be released from jail, where she has been held since her arrest Sunday, if prosecutors fail by then to file the murder charge in Snohomish County Superior Court.

Kelly also reduced Gaethe-Leonard's bail from $500,000 cash only to $200,000 cash only.

Gaethe-Leonard sat silently next to defense lawyer George Cody as he asked for the bail reduction through a video hookup from a room in the jail to Kelly's courtroom.

A former hotel concierge, Gaethe-Leonard moved from New Orleans to Snohomish County to marry Leonard in 1990. She is the owner of a Marysville consignment shop. Her age is uncertain. Divorce records say she's 37; however, her driver's license lists her as 33. She has no criminal record.

Sitting in the courtroom were at least 10 relatives and friends of Leonard, including two women who identified themselves as former girlfriends who had remained close to Leonard after he had ended their romantic relationships.

Leonard was found dead outside his Lake Goodwin home, south of Stanwood, by a fellow North Middle School teacher Feb. 20.

Cody had asked that bail be set at $100,000, arguing that his client, who had voluntarily spoken with police at least four times before she surrendered late Saturday, already would have fled if she were going to do so.

He also said that having a 5-year-old daughter, now staying with Leonard's parents, made her unlikely to flee, and that she was not a threat to the community. Cody added that he doubted she'd be able to raise even that much bail.

Not-guilty plea coming

Cody has said that Gaethe-Leonard will plead not guilty.

Michael Downes, a Snohomish County deputy prosecutor, argued her bail should not be reduced. Because, he said, Gaethe-Leonard had somehow obtained a gun and shot her sleeping husband, she was obviously a community threat.

And, Downes said, she is also a flight risk because she has a wealthy boyfriend in Hawaii who had wanted her to move there, and because she told detectives she had been living "paycheck to paycheck."

"Her ties to this area are tenuous," Downes said.

But Kelly seemed unconvinced and somewhat perplexed.

If the prosecution was so sure of its case, the judge asked, "Why was the complaint filed in District Court?" He also wanted to know on what probable cause Gaethe-Leonard has been held in jail.

Downes explained that the District Court filing, which provides extra time before prosecutors must publicly say what evidence they have against a defendant, was necessary because witness statements had not yet been transcribed.

Detective's statement undisclosed

He said a detective's statement of probable cause, which has not been made public, was the basis for holding Gaethe-Leonard.

The judge shook his head.

After the hearing, Downes said he wasn't sure when charges would be filed against Gaethe-Leonard in Superior Court.

Copyright (c) 1997 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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