LVMPD Ex-Homicide Detective Tom Dillard’s Partner, Robert Leonard Stars in Reprise of DUMB AND DUMBER

By Steven Barket
Las Vegas, Nevada

tom-dillard-las-vegas-many-facesThis sequel is one of those where one of the original stars doesn’t sign on for the performance. In the case of Roberto Miranda, we have Robert Leonard performing without Tom Dillard, and doing a bang-up job at it, we might add. Looks like Leonard has picked up a few of Dillard’s tricks. (Please read the original DUMB & DUMBER)

After all, a $5 million settlement in favor of Roberto Miranda is a pretty sizable figure.

Roberto Miranda (not to be confused with the case back in the 1960s involving Ernesto Miranda and which established the Miranda rights) was arrested and convicted of stabbing a man to death in 1981. Miranda received a death sentence in 1982. He said, however, that he was framed for the murder, and that someone else did it.

In 1991, nine years after his conviction and death sentence, Miranda had Las Vegas attorney Laura Fitzsimmons appointed to his case. It took years, but she was able to convince a judge in 1996 to grant Miranda a new trial. It was based on the premise that in the original case, the public defender assigned to him did not adequately investigate the case or defend him. In fact, the judge who granted the new trial wrote that, “The lack of pretrial investigation and preparation … cannot be justified.”

Tom Dillard and Robert Leonard — REALLY Dumb and Dumber

By Steven Barket
Las Vegas, Nevada
Yes, the Dynamic Duo of homicide detective-ry have more sequels than the “Dumb and Dumber” comedy movie franchise.

Not only were they partners while they were on the force together at Metro PD as homicide detectives, but they also paired up for a while after they left Metro as private detectives.

They had a longer run together than some of those pairings mentioned in my previous post (see post here) — Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Lewis & Martin, and Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels from Dumb and Dumber.

Dillard & Leonard worked together over several decades — literally partners in crime for years and years.

So a simple, and I think fair, question to ask of this crime duo: Which came first, the chicken or the egg? I ask that because of the “high-profile” cases that the two (and particularly Dillard) have been involved with over the course of their careers. Several were particularly high profile. Were these cases high profile because of the people involved — either victim or perpetrator? Or were they high profile because of how much notoriety they got as a result of mishandled investigations, mishandled evidence, mishandled warrants for arrest and seizure of property, and the crimes getting pinned on the wrong (read, innocent) people?

Let’s face it; the two were homicide detectives. Investigating crimes where a person has died is about as high profile a crime as it gets. Not much rises above that, unless it’s a mass murder or terrorist attack where multiple people die, or a serial killer maybe.

Let’s look at a handful — the highest of the high-profile cases:

LVMPD-EX Homicide Detectives Tom Dillard & Robert Leonard — DUMB & DUMBER

By Steven Barket,
Las Vegas, Nevada

tom-dillard-las-vegas-howard-haupt-victim-slider-400-blueSometimes, when you get two people together, they feed off each other in interesting, unexpected ways. That’s the case with Laurel & Hardy, Abbott & Costello, Lewis & Martin, Dumb & Dumber (had to go there — those two fictional buddies from the comedic movies), Dillard & Leonard.

Yes, Dillard & Leonard. Tom Dillard & Robert Leonard, quite literally, were partners in crime, if not comedy. While they were both working as homicide detectives on the Las Vegas Metro PD, they worked at least a couple hundred cases together. They worked some of the most-publicized murder cases in the area, including that of young Alexander Harris, 7, who was kidnapped from Whiskey Pete’s Casino on Thanksgiving weekend in 1987 and was found murdered a month later under a trailer on the casino grounds.

And when you look in hindsight on some of these cases — especially that one — you wonder how could the two possibly be convinced that the man they arrested for the crime, Howard Lee Haupt, was guilty. Haupt was tried and found not guilty on all counts, and later sued Dillard and Metro PD and won an $800,000 out-of-court settlement as a result.

Yet Dillard supposedly remained convinced that he and partner in crime Leonard pinned the murder on the right man (and “pinned” seems to be the right word here) — even after all the flip-flopping and second-guessing and oversights of identification of possible suspects by witnesses who said they saw a man of varying descriptions walking out of the casino arcade with a young boy, even after viewing poor-quality video surveillance footage

A Tom Dillard, Las Vegas Unsolved Case: Alexander Harris and the Zodiac Serial Killer Theory

By Steven Barket
Las Vegas, Nevada

Here’s one from way out in left field, Detective Tom Dillard. I’m guessing you’ve heard of the Zodiac serial killer, right? He was around while you were a cop with Las Vegas Metro PD. Maybe before, even. Back in the 60s and 70s were when he was at his notorious peak. According to some accounts, he even continued his murdering spree into the 80s. In fact, according the the account I’ll outline below, he may even have been responsible for a murder you investigated in 1987 and 1988, arrested the wrong man for, who then turned around and sued you and your department for $1 million and ended up settling out of court for $800,000. And almost 30 years later, it’s still a murder that has never been solved.


tom-dillard-las-vegas-steven-barket-zodiac-killer-harris-suspect-sketch-400In our research on the case, we found a piece of writing online under the byline of “Goldcatcher” that tied the murder of Alexander Harris, 7, in Stateline, Nevada, to the  Zodiac killer. According to the writings by Goldcatcher, Alexander was one of his last victims. This was a well publicized kidnapping and murder in which Tom Dillard was the lead homicide detective. Alexander’s killer has never been found. And the details connecting Alexander and the Zodiac serial killer are chilling.

This is how Goldcatcher tells his story in this online report: Goldcatcher had a long relationship with the Zodiac killer. He identifies the Zodiac killer as Richard J. Gaikowski of South Dakota. “Gyke” for short; he says Gyke died on April 30, 2004.

Image courtesy

Image courtesy

Goldcatcher has a letter he says was written by Gyke, the Zodiac serial killer (seen at right), and sent out in 1987. He’s not clear as to whom the letter was sent. Perhaps to the San Francisco Chronicle, which was covering Zodiac’s activity rather heavily and often received communication from him. In the letter, Zodiac writes in part, “Tell the blue pigs if want me [sic] I will be out driving around on Halloween in my death machine looking for some kiddies to run over. Cars make nice weapons. The pigs can catch me if they can find me out there. Just like in the movie The Car. Tell the kiddies watch before they cross the  streets on halloween nite.” And then he signs it with the symbol he had become well known for using.

Tom Dillard and the Unidentified Latent Fingerprint in the Unsolved Murder of 7-Year-Old Alexander Harris

By Steven Barket,
Las Vegas, Nevada

tom-dillard-las-vegas-steven-barket-fingerprint-evidenceI have a question for Tom Dillard: Of the almost nonexistent physical evidence that was found at the scene of the homicide of 7-year-old Alexander Harris at Whiskey Pete’s Casino back in 1987, whose fingerprint was on the glasses of the young victim?

The fingerprint was about the only real, hard physical evidence found. Detective Dillard, wouldn’t you have searched to the ends of the earth to find out whose print that was, either to exclude it as evidence or include it as evidence in the case of a murdered 7-year-old boy?

Alexander, 7, was found a month after he was abducted, lying dead under a trailer that was on the grounds of the casino at the time. The autopsy found almost no physical evidence and determined the cause of death to be asphyxiation. Police and prosecution forensic experts “surmised that his body was there shortly after the boy disappeared.”

Alexander was wearing the same clothes he had on at the time he went missing, the Friday after Thanksgiving in 1987. The Clark County medical examiner, which had jurisdiction in the case, found no evidence that Alexander was sexually assaulted. He found no evidence of any violent physical trauma.

When Alexander’s body was found, his glasses also were found, apparently placed near his body. There was a “latent” fingerprint found on one of the lenses. The print was checked against Alexander’s prints, and it wasn’t his. The print also was checked against possible suspects, and they were all eliminated.

What we do know about that fingerprint is that it wasn’t Howard Lee Haupt’s, who was charged with the crime but ultimately found not guilty on all counts.

If it wasn’t Haupt’s, or any of the other early suspects, if it wasn’t Alexander’s, whose was it? Was it his mother’s or grandparents? Was it the murderer’s? Was it run through a database of any sort, such as what was available 30 years or so ago? Has it ever been run through a modern database?

John Harrison West, Innocent; Held a Month on Murder Charges as a Result of Tom Dillard Withholding Exculpatory Evidence

By Steven Barket,
Las Vegas, Nevada

Exculpatory Evidence Withheld, Leading to Charges

John Harrison West was an unassuming Las Vegas pharmacist. He lived a good, decent life until he was sent into a tailspin with the accusation and charges that he beat to death with a framing hammer Airman Beth Lynn Jardine on June 3, 1985. Jardine was stationed at Nellis Air Force Base, just northeast of Las Vegas.

Beth-Jardine---John-Harrison-West-comboThe murder was a horrific one. West was accused of picking up Jardine in the at the Whiskey Creek Bar on Charleston Boulevard near Nellis Boulevard and taking her back to her apartment, where she was beaten multiple times with a hammer and sodomized her after she was dead. Her nude body with blood and other body tissue splattered all over the apartment was found by maintenance workers. Ripped pants and panties were found at the scene, as well as a bloody claw hammer – the murder weapon — along with large patches of bloodstained carpet and a bloody trail that investigators say showed that Jardine was dragged through the apartment and into a bedroom.

People said that Jardine was “very outgoing, sweet and friendly, and that she often drank alcohol in excess. Jardine’s neighbor, Dennis Lyon, testified that he heard Jardine come home and then heard banging on the night of the murder. Banging, according to him, like cupboard doors being slammed shut.

Crime scene photos showed blood spatters on the apartment’s floor, walls and ceiling. Jardine had been smashed with the hammer more than 20 times in the head, according to testimony from a Clark County medical examiner.

No one heard Jardine cry out or yell for help. She was 23 at the time of her murder.

The chief investigating officer responsible for digging out the facts of what happened and putting a case together to find a suspect and get a conviction was Las Vegas Metro Police Department Detective Tom Dillard.