Gary Hughbanks Ohio Death Row

Gary Hughbanks

Gary Hughbanks was sentenced to death by the State of Ohio for a double murder. According to court documents Gary Hughbanks broke into the victim’s home and when they confronted him he would murder 55-year-old William Leeman and his wife, 53-year-old Juanita Leeman. Gary Hughbanks would be arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.

Ohio Death Row Inmate List

Gary Hughbanks 2021 Information

Number A362032

DOB 08/29/1966

Gender Male Race White

Admission Date 07/13/1998

Institution Chillicothe Correctional Institution

Status INCARCERATED

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Around 9:00 p.m. on May 13, 1987, William and Juanita Leeman returned to their home in Springfield Township in Hamilton County, Ohio. Once inside, William Leeman confronted a burglar, who proceeded to kill 55-year-old William and 53-year-old Juanita with a knife.

{¶ 3} These murders went unsolved for ten years.   In August 1997, Larry Hughbanks, the defendant’s brother, and Gary Hughbanks Sr., the defendant’s father, informed police that Hughbanks had murdered the Leemans.

{¶ 4} Hughbanks was tried and convicted of the aggravated murders of the Leemans and sentenced to death.   To establish Hughbanks’s guilt, the state introduced a confession, testimony that Hughbanks’s accurately described the layout of the Leeman home and the Leemans’ personal property, and two of Hughbanks’s knives, which were linked to the murders.

{¶ 5} Hughbanks had gone to the Leeman home during the evening of May 13, 1987, to commit burglary.   After looking through the windows to ensure that no one was home, Hughbanks broke in through a back window.   Hughbanks went to the master bedroom and took William’s wallet and jewelry from the dresser.

{¶ 6} When the Leemans came into the house, William confronted Hughbanks in a bedroom.   Hughbanks attacked William with a knife, stabbed him repeatedly, and then slit his throat.   According to Hughbanks’s confession, the attack was over in “a matter of seconds.”   After Hughbanks slit William’s throat, he chased Juanita into the living room, grabbed her, and slit her throat.

{¶ 7} Hughbanks washed in the bathroom and left a bloody hand towel in the sink.   He then left the house through the back door, ran through the back yard into adjoining woods, and traveled along a creek to a nearby school.   Hughbanks was gone by the time police officers arrived.

{¶ 8} After being attacked, Juanita stumbled out the front door of her home.   While bleeding profusely, she somehow moved from the patio to the driveway, then down the driveway, before collapsing near the street.

 {¶ 9} At approximately 9:25 p.m. that evening, Police Officer Pat Kemper was driving his patrol car when he saw someone lying on the driveway at the Leemans’ house “waving [her] arm in a real slow motion * * * to get attention.”   Kemper noticed that the person was covered in blood.   Upon stopping, Kemper asked, “Who did this to you[?]”  Juanita was conscious, but when she started to talk, “blood was gurgling out of her throat, and the whole side of her face just fell open * * *.”   Juanita died of her injuries at the hospital.

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{¶ 10} Police officers entered the Leemans’ house and found William’s body in the master bedroom.   There were signs of a violent struggle;  part of the bedroom wall was bashed in, a lamp was turned over, and blood was smeared on the wall.   There was a pool of blood on the carpet between the bed and the wall and a pool of blood under William’s head.   The telephone cord had been cut, and open dresser drawers appeared to have been searched.

{¶ 11} A “large puddle of blood” on the living room carpet indicated where Juanita had been attacked.   A trail of blood leading out the front door, onto the front porch, and down the driveway showed Juanita’s line of travel after the attack.

{¶ 12} Blood smears on an unlocked back screen door suggested that the killer had left that way.   On the day after the murders, a police bloodhound tracked the killer’s scent using the hand towel Hughbanks had left in the sink.   The bloodhound followed the scent out the back door, down a hill, and into the creek that borders the Leemans’ back yard.   The bloodhound then traveled along the creek for a quarter of a mile before losing the scent near a neighborhood school.

{¶ 13} The police investigation did not uncover any trace evidence, hair fibers, or fingerprints that could identify the killer.   Between May 1987 and August 1997, the police checked out “hundreds of leads,” but the killer remained unidentified.

{¶ 14} During the summer of 1997, Larry Hughbanks told the police that Gary Hughbanks Jr., his brother, had killed the Leemans.   Larry told police that Hughbanks was living in Arizona, but that before leaving, Hughbanks had said, “[I] did it, and * * * threw the knife in some woods.”   Gary Hughbanks Sr., the defendant’s father, soon thereafter went to the police station “to talk * * * about his son murdering the Leemans.”

{¶ 15} In August 1997, Larry and Gary Sr. met with John Jay, an investigator with the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office, and Mark Piepmeier, an assistant county prosecutor.   Larry turned over a survival knife with a ball compass on the end of the handle.   Larry said that Hughbanks “had thrown that knife in a wooded area back in the early part of 1988 out in Amelia, Ohio, when they lived in a trailer.”   Gary Sr. also implicated Hughbanks in the Leeman murders.

 {¶ 16} Subsequent police interviews of Jerry Shaw, Hughbanks’s uncle, and Howard Shaw, Hughbanks’s cousin, resulted in additional information implicating Hughbanks as the Leemans’ killer.   Lisa Leggett, identified as Hughbanks’s “ex-common-law wife,” provided police with another survival knife with a ball compass on the handle that had belonged to Hughbanks.   In May 1987, Leggett and Hughbanks had lived near the Leeman home.   According to Leggett, the knife was “left behind by [Hughbanks] when they split.”

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{¶ 17} In September 1997, Tucson, Arizona police arrested Hughbanks.   During a police interview on September 9, 1997, Hughbanks denied any involvement in the Leeman murders.   Thereafter, Hughbanks remained in police custody in Arizona pending extradition to Ohio.

{¶ 18} Several days later, on September 16, 1997, Tucson police detectives interviewed Hughbanks again.   Hughbanks admitted breaking into the Leemans’ house and said that two accomplices had been with him during the burglary.   Later, Hughbanks said that a fourth man might have also been at the scene.   Hughbanks admitted confronting William in the bedroom after the Leemans arrived home but stated that an accomplice had stabbed William and cut his throat.   Hughbanks stated that he did not know where Juanita had been and said that his accomplice had “probably got her first.”

{¶ 19} As Hughbanks’s interview progressed, Hughbanks acknowledged telling his father, brother, and uncle, “I killed somebody.”   Hughbanks then said, “I went in to commit a burglary.   I got scared.   I fought with the guy.  * * * And I probably ran after the woman and killed her, too.”   Hughbanks also admitted that he was by himself when he broke into the home and killed the Leemans.   Hughbanks said that he had been “completely surprised” by William and had tried to “get away from him in the bedroom.”   Hughbanks indicated that he “probably” tried to get away by getting out the window, but said, “I think he pulled me back.”   Hughbanks stated that he had killed the Leemans with a “military knife,” which he had found in an “ammo box” in the Leemans’ bedroom closet.

{¶ 20} When asked about Juanita’s location during her husband’s murder, Hughbanks replied, “Probably behind me, watching me, and then after I cut his throat, she took off running out of the house and I went after her.”   Hughbanks said that he caught her in the living room and added, “I figured I cut her enough that she-she’d bleed to death.”

{¶ 21} Hughbanks admitted that he had kept the knife with him when he fled the scene.   Hughbanks stated that after he had left the Leemans’ house, he ran towards the woods and creek behind the house.   Hughbanks “got the blood off [himself] in the creek” and then followed the creek to Greener School.   Later, Hughbanks threw away the costume jewelry that he had taken.

 {¶ 22} The grand jury indicted Hughbanks on two counts of aggravated murder.   Count 1 charged Hughbanks with the aggravated murder of William Leeman while committing burglary.   Count 2 charged Hughbanks with the aggravated murder of Juanita Leeman while committing burglary.   The grand jury also indicted Hughbanks for aggravated burglary.

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{¶ 23} Each count of aggravated murder contained three identical death penalty specifications:  murder for the purpose of escaping detection or apprehension pursuant to R.C. 2929.04(A)(3), murder as part of a course of conduct involving the purposeful killing of two or more people pursuant to R.C. 2929.04(A)(5), and, as the principal offender, murder while committing or attempting to commit aggravated burglary pursuant to R.C. 2929.04(A)(7).

{¶ 24} At trial, Leonard Leeman, the victims’ son, testified that to the best of his knowledge, Hughbanks did not know his parents and had never been inside their house prior to the murders.   After reading Hughbanks’s confession, Leonard testified that Hughbanks accurately described the white Formica breakfast bar in the kitchen, the presence of military photographs of the Leemans’ children on the hallway wall, and the location of Afghans in the closet.   Moreover, Hughbanks had accurately described the Leeman back yard, the hill leading to the creek, and the path to Greener Elementary School.   However, Leonard testified that his parents had not kept any survival knives in their home.

{¶ 25} Detective Kemper pointed out that Hughbanks’s confession accurately described the victims’ wounds and where in the house the attacks took place.

{¶ 26} Dr. Lee Lehman, who was a deputy coroner for Hamilton County in 1987, performed autopsies on both victims.   William had been stabbed 17 times.   One stab wound was almost four and one-half inches deep.   William died as the result of multiple stab wounds to his head, neck, thorax, and extremities.

{¶ 27} Juanita had a “nine-inch by four-inch area of criss-crossing cuts across her throat * * * [and] through the voice box, or larynx, which would prevent her from screaming or talking.”   Dr. Lehman concluded that Juanita had died from multiple stab wounds to her head, chest, neck, and extremities.

{¶ 28} Dr. Lehman testified that all of these wounds were caused by a “fairly heavy knife” that was “at least an inch or more in width, and * * * at least four inches in length.”   State’s exhibits 45 and 46, the two knives recovered by police as possible murder weapons, were of a type that could have caused the wounds inflicted on the Leemans.   Serological testing of the knives failed to reveal any trace of blood.

{¶ 29} At trial, the defense did not present any evidence.

{¶ 30} The jury convicted Hughbanks as charged and recommended the death penalty.   The trial court sentenced Hughbanks to death on each count of  aggravated murder and sentenced him to a prison term of 10 to 25 years for aggravated burglary.

{¶ 31} The court of appeals affirmed the convictions and sentences.   The cause is now before this court upon an appeal as of right.

https://caselaw.findlaw.com/oh-supreme-court/1491765.html

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