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:
- The abduction and murder of 7-year-old Alexander Harris in 1987. Resolution: the wrong man was accused, tried, and found not guilty on all counts. He turned around and sued detectives Dillard and Leonard as well as the Las Vegas Metro PD and Howard Lee Haupt won an out of court settlement of $800,000.
- The brutal sexual assault and 1985 murder of 23-year-old Air Force airman Beth Lynn Jardine. Resolution: John Harrison West was accused, arrested, but never even made it to trial before he was released. Dillard had withheld exculpatory evidence that would have exonerated him. West’s life ruined, he sued the detectives and Metro PD and won an out of court settlement of $650,000.
- The 1998 death of Binion’s casino heir and magnate Ted Binion. Resolution: after initially being convicted and sentenced in Binion’s death, defendants Sandra Murphy and Rick Tabish had the initial decision overturned by the Nevada Supreme Court and were eventually cleared of the homicide charges on appeal; they were convicted of the lesser crimes of conspiracy to commit burglary or larceny, burglary and grand larceny. Both are now out of jail. The evidence in the case that led to the initial conviction was produced by ex-Metro homicide detective, now P.I., Tom Dillard with help from Robert Leonard.
- The stabbing death in 1981 of Manuel Rodriguez Torres. Roberto Miranda was accused, tried and sentenced to death for that homicide. Yet he always proclaimed his innocence. He spent 14 years on death row before he was able to get his case re-opened on appeal, charging that the public defender assigned to him initially did not adequately investigate his 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.” Prosecutors declined to proceed with the new trial, however, and the case was dismissed. Miranda was released from jail and filed a civil rights lawsuit in 1998 against former Las Vegas PD homicide detectives Robert Leonard and Michael Maddock. as well as the Clark County public defender’s office. Miranda won an out of court settlement of $5 million.
Quite a track record on the high-profile crimes, don’t you think?
Perhaps I could get a movie studio interested in getting Jim Carey and Jeff Daniels to reprise their roles and play Tom Dillard and Robert Leonard. Then we just might have yet another sequel on our hands. They could call it “REALLY Dumb and Dumber.”