Parents of Linwood, Kansas teen Randy Leach continue to fight for answers in his 1988 disappearance from graduation party

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By Andrea Cavallier

Randy Leach knew exactly what color he wanted his 1969 Mustang to be -- candy apple red. The 17-year-old high school senior was in the process of restoring the vintage car and couldn’t wait to take it out for a spin.

“He loved that car,” Randy’s mother, Alberta Leach, told Dateline. “He was so excited to have it restored. But he never got to see what it looked like all finished. He never got to drive it.”

Randy Leach at age 17 in 1988Kansas Bureau of Investigation

In April 1988, Randy was just a week away from graduating from Linwood High School in Linwood, Kansas when he disappeared from a classmate’s graduation party.

“He had a really bright future,” Alberta said. “But somehow it ended that night. And we still don’t know why.”

Randy is the only child of Harold and Alberta Leach. Born three weeks early, Randy was a “tiny little baby,” according to Alberta. But he grew fast, she said, and was 6’2” by the time he was a teenager.

“He was such a good child,” Alberta said. “Even though he was an only child, he wasn’t selfish or spoiled. He was always kind to everyone he met.”

Randy’s parents also describe him as a hard worker, an entrepreneur and fast learner. Alberta told Dateline that Randy was just five years old when he learned to use a riding lawnmower. Around that time, the family moved to a farm on the outskirts of Linwood, Kansas in rural Leavenworth County, where Harold and Alberta still reside today. Growing up, Randy loved all animals and raised pigs on the farm.

“He just loved being on the farm,” Alberta said. “He was always fishing at our pond with his cousin. And he worked on lawnmowers with Harold. They would take apart lawn mowers and put them back together. He was really smart.”

Randy Leach (Age progressed to 29)Kansas Bureau of Investigation

Two days before Randy disappeared, his parents bought him a lawn mower as a graduation gift.

“His plan was to mow lawns all summer for money and then go to trade school in the fall,” Alberta said. “He mowed a lady’s yard, and ours, that day… the day he disappeared. It was the last time we ever saw him.”

On the evening of April 15, 1988, Randy drove his mother’s 1985 Dodge 600 4-door sedan with Kansas license plate LVJ8721 to Stout’s Convenience Store and then to nearby De Soto, Kansas to check on his Mustang that was being restored, Alberta told Dateline.

Randy then drove to the graduation party which was being held about five miles away from his family’s home. It is not known exactly what time he arrived at the party.

Witnesses told authorities there were approximately 70 to 150 guests at the party and that there was significant alcohol and drug use there. It is unclear if Randy consumed alcohol or did any drugs. Randy’s mother told Dateline she later became aware there was a “bad crowd” at the party, but said she was sure that her son was not into drugs.

Early reports stated Randy possibly left the party around 2 a.m., but it is not known if anyone actually saw him leave, Alberta said. He never made it home.

When Alberta and Harold woke up around 6 a.m. Saturday morning to find Randy wasn’t home, they knew something was wrong. He had a curfew and it was not like him to miss it. They feared he had been in a car accident and called one of his friends. But no one had seen or heard from him since the party.

Randy Leach (Age progressed to 44)Kansas Bureau of Investigation

A missing persons report was filed that day and the search began for Randy and his car. Alberta told Dateline that local authorities initially believed Randy left on his own.

“I didn’t believe that for a second,” Alberta said. “It didn’t make any sense. He wouldn’t have done that. He wouldn’t have left his Mustang behind. And he had a bank account with money in it from selling his pigs. It has never been touched.”

According to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI), an investigation determined that Randy did not leave on his own and that he was a victim of foul play.

The KBI and the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office have since been jointly investigating Randy’s disappearance, according to Leavenworth County Undersheriff Jim Sherley.

“Randy’s case is still open and we follow all tips and information we receive,” Undersheriff Sherley told Dateline. “We’d like to find a conclusion as well as closure for the family.”

Undersheriff Sherley told Dateline the case is a complicated one due to the lack of physical evidence and the fact that several potential witnesses are now deceased.

For years, rumors and stories circulated about what could have happened to Randy. According to Randy’s parents, one of the rumors was that Randy had been abducted and killed by a Satanic cult in the Linwood area. They told Dateline that there was a report that Randy’s body was spotted in a cave nearby. Undersheriff Sherley told Dateline authorities searched the area but no trace of Randy was found.

For years, Randy’s father Harold continued to search the caves for any evidence that Randy had been there.

Undersheriff Sherley told Dateline authorities have followed up on every piece of information having to do with Randy’s disappearance, but nothing has panned out yet.

Even 32 years later, he said they are still receiving new information in Randy’s case.

“If we can just get one good break, it may be the piece we need to solve this case,” Undersheriff Sherley said. “This is the only case like it here in this county and we’re committed to solving it.”

Randy’s parents are in their 70s now, but have never given up the search for their only child.

“We’ve been through a lot,” Alberta told Dateline. “But we don’t know any more now then we knew back then. And that’s frustrating.”

Alberta and Harold have spent three decades trying to get attention for Randy’s case, but said they are frustrated with the lack of development.

“We’ve tried so many different things over the past 32 years,” Alberta said. “We’ve fought with the KBI and Leavenworth County. We went to court to get the records and were denied. It just feels like we’re not getting anywhere.”

In 2019, Alberta and Harold requested that Kansas’s new governor, Laura Kelly, appoint an out-of-state “special master” to lead a cold-case task force formed specifically to re-investigate Randy’s disappearance.

Kelly’s communications director, Ashley All, told the Lawrence Journal-World that the governor couldn’t grant such a request.

“While Governor Kelly’s thoughts are with the Leach family, she does not have the legal authority to require a new investigation or appoint a special master,” All said in an email.

Alberta said that while she feels defeated, she vows to never give up on her son.

With the help of media coverage and social media, Alberta hopes someone who knows something about Randy’s whereabouts will come forward.

A Facebook page In Search of Randy Leach was created to share memories of the teen and to bring in tips and information that may solve the case.

“After this many years, we’d hope that someone would come forward,” Alberta said. “But we think they’re scared. And we just want them to know that any kind of information would make a difference. They don’t need to be scared.”

As the 32nd anniversary of Randy’s disappearance came and went and April, and his 50th birthday nears, Alberta and Harold strive to keep his memory alive at that same house on their farm in Linwood.

The suit Randy never got to wear at graduation still hangs in the closet. His prized 1969 Mustang is now fully restored - a vibrant candy apple red. Just how he wanted. His father takes it out for a spin now and then, as a way to remember Randy.

“Randy would have turned 50 years old this July,” Alberta said. “We know he’s gone, but we still want to know where he is. We want to bury our son and finally have peace. We’re still fighting for him.”

Randy’s family is offering a $25,000 reward for information leading to Randy’s whereabouts. A Governor's Reward is also being offered in the amount of $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) responsible for the crime.

Anyone with information on Randy’s case is asked to call the Leavenworth County Sheriff’s Office at 913-682-5724 or the Kansas Bureau of Investigation at 1-800 KS CRIME.