Old Forge: Investigation continues in tragic motel shooting

Funeral Mass held Thursday for Matthew Leach; no charges yet, but grand jury certain to hear case, according to source

As of Thursday, no charges had been filed in the shooting death of Matthew Leach, 37, which occurred last weekend in Room 6 at Clark’s Beach Motel in Old Forge.

The State Police are still conducting their investigation, which includes additional examination of evidence and the results of an autopsy that was performed earlier in the week, according to Herkimer County acting District Attorney Jeffery Carpenter.

Carpenter’s office has been coordinating with law enforcement from the start and he was in Old Forge Wednesday for a walk-through of the scene, according to Town of Webb Police Chief John Russell.

Matthew Leach’s death happened on Saturday, July 21 at about 12:50 a.m., when he was shot by his father, Michael Leach, 59, who told police he thought his son to be an intruder in the room they were sharing.The father had retired to the room earlier and, according to a New York State Police report, the son was arriving when the incident occurred.

Reportedly the father had been startled from his sleep by the entrance of his son, who he mistook for an intruder.

Michael Leach, a former Rochester Police Captain, and his son, both of Rochester, were in Old Forge on a motorcycle trip with riders affiliated with the law enforcement community.

The weapon used in the shooting was the father’s service weapon, a Glock .45-caliber handgun, which was issued for his current job as a part-time officer in the Village of Perry.

Dan Rivet, owner of Clark’s Beach Motel, responded for the Old Forge Fire Department and served as lead paramedic.

According to Rivet, the victim sustained a single bullet wound in the back, just below the right shoulder.

He was transported by ambulance to Utica where he was pronounced dead.

Webb Police Chief Russell said he was away when the shooting occurred but that he was notified by his Officer in Charge, Kevin Birtle. Birtile contacted the State Police to inform them of the investigation.

“With any significant crime we always call the State Police—they have resources the Town of Webb doesn’t have. We become the responding agency in the investigation,” Russell said.

The decision on whether to bring charges will be made on completion of the investigation, according to District Attorney Carpenter.

“At this point…it is an active homicide investigation,” he said.

A Rochester news station has reported that Matthew Perry, after being admitted to St. Luke’s hospital for his own well being following the incident, had been released as of Tuesday.

It was also reported that a source close to the investigation said they “guarantee this case will go to a grand jury” for a final determination on what, if any, charges Leach could or should face.

Herkimer County Acting District Attorney Jeff Carpenter was scheduled to review evidence in the case, including an autopsy report, with investigators late Thursday afternoon, July 26.

In the days following the shooting, due to its intriguing aspects, the story has picked up national steam on the internet, including on the ABC News website which listed it among their top news items.

Other heavily-trafficked sites, Yahoo among them, are also featuring the story.

And user comments are accompanying the story as well.

The shooting report is serving to fuel public discussion of national gun laws, proper police training, stand-your-ground implications, and nearly anything else, related or otherwise.

Meanwhile, the Rochester community is mourning the loss of one of local law enforcement’s more prominent families.

Matthew’s grandfather was former Rochester Police Chief Delmar Leach.

Matthew worked as a security guard for RDG Security. He coached wrestling and enjoyed motorcycles.

He leaves his wife of two years, Theresa.

Calling hours for the family of Matthew Leach were held Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, with thousands of visitors expected.

A Funeral Mass was celebrated Thursday at Rochester’s St. John The Evangelist Church.

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