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Wednesday, March 12, 1997 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Bloody Clothes, Gun Found In Bag -- Prosecutors: Items May Be Tied To Killing

Seattle Times Snohomish County Bureau

EVERETT - For days, prosecutors say, a woman kept a white bag in the trunk of her car, never looking inside. Until, that is, she moved the bag into her garage and heard a clunk. When she opened the bag, she saw a gun and bloody clothes. The woman broke into tears, then decided to call her lawyer.

Snohomish County prosecutors say the woman was a close friend of Teresa Gaethe-Leonard and that Gaethe-Leonard gave her the bag the morning of Feb. 20, the same day Chuck Leonard was shot to death at his Lake Goodwin home.

Gaethe-Leonard, a 33-year-old small-businesswoman charged with first-degree murder of her estranged husband, is to be arraigned today in Snohomish County Superior Court. She was charged Monday in Superior Court after initially being charged in Everett District Court. She is being held in the county jail on $500,000 cash-only bail. Her attorney, George Cody, said she will plead not guilty.

Gaethe-Leonard's friend, after receiving assurances she would not be charged, apparently helped the Snohomish County police detectives.

The bag she and her lawyer turned in March 1 - the same day Gaethe-Leonard was arrested - contained a polar fleece jacket, a pair of sweat pants, a pair of brown leather boots with a large bloodstain on one toe, bullets and a magazine for a .45-caliber handgun, and the gun itself, according to court papers prosecutors filed.

Cody said he couldn't comment on the state's evidence because he's not seen it.

"I basically have this series of allegations without having seen any evidence," he said. "I know what they say they've got, but I don't know what they have."

The evidence from the white bag, said Michael Downes, the Snohomish County deputy prosecutor assigned to the case, will be sent to the state crime lab for testing, which could determine whether fingerprints, DNA or other trace evidence link Gaethe-Leonard to the killing.

Police also subsequently searched Gaethe-Leonard's home and business, a consignment shop in Marysville. They were looking for evidence, such as receipts, that could detail what Gaethe-Leonard was doing in the days before the shooting. They seized at least one pair of her shoes, to see if they were the same size as the boots from the white bag - size 7 1/2.

Prosecutors theorize in the affidavit of probable cause that Gaethe-Leonard had made an apparent dry run to her estranged husband's home three months before she killed him. According to Leonard's girlfriend, prosecutors say, someone entered the house late one night in November and was chased away by Leonard. The girlfriend told detectives that when she then drove around the neighborhood, she saw Gaethe-Leonard's car driving away with its lights out.

Leonard, 53, a popular counselor at North Middle School, had worked for the Everett School District for 26 years. He had been separated from his wife since the end of 1994, four years after they were married.

Gaethe-Leonard filed for divorce in July 1995, but neither party took action. Cody says Gaethe-Leonard, who filed the papers herself, did not have a divorce attorney. Leonard was represented by attorney Mitchell Cogdill.

Cogdill has not returned phone calls for comment. But two friends of Leonard said he had not moved ahead with the divorce to establish a pattern of caring for his daughter so that if the divorce went to trial, a judge would look more favorably on his sharing custody.

The girl, now 5, had been spending alternate weeks at each parent's home and now is staying with her paternal grandparents.

According to prosecutors, custody had become a larger issue after Gaethe-Leonard decided to move to Hawaii, where her boyfriend lives.

In the prosecution's scenario, Gaethe-Leonard walked into the house she had formerly shared with Leonard and started shooting at her estranged husband as he lay sleeping on his waterbed. Leonard was killed by a .45-caliber bullet that pierced his lung, prosecutors say.

But before he died, prosecutors say, he chased his killer up the stairs and through the door. Leonard collapsed and died just outside his door, where he was found later that day by a co-worker sent to check on why he had not reported to work.

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

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