By New Times
By Connor Radnovich
By Robrt L. Pela and Amy Silverman
By Ray Stern
By Keegan Hamilton
By Matthew Hendley
By Monica Alonzo
By Monica Alonzo
Everything was happening very quickly. By the time Faust and Carpenter reached Tatum and McDonald, Maria Torregrossa already had left her car and been run down by Leckie.
The reason I got out of my car," she says, was that I thought the guy had had a seizure or something. Nobody does something like what he was doing. Then he comes at me, smiling. He didn't care what he left in the way. He just wanted to get out of there."
Someone called the Paradise Valley police, who responded promptly. They were very considerate and professional," Torregrossa says. I was really shook and hurting, but they made me feel better."
Paradise Valley Officer R.J. Eck asked Torregrossa if she wanted to go to the hospital. Her stomach was cramping badly-she figured it was nerves-and her back hurt, but she declined, saying she'd go to her doctor in the morning.
The following day, Eck wrote a report of the hit-and-runs. He listed the case as an aggravated assault, motor vehicle"-a possible felonyÏand sent the paperwork over to detectives.
Detective Brian McFarland then took over the case. His reports indicate he didn't do much work on it until three days later-after, Maria Torregrossa says, she tracked Leckie down through her own sleuthing and informed Paradise Valley by telephone.
McFarland and fellow detective Mark Fischer made contact" with Leckie at his business office, according to reports.
At first McFarland seemed to be doing the right thing. His report indicates he checked out Leckie's Oldsmobile in a parking lot: It had gouges in the right front fender, a scratch running down the right side and a broken side-view mirror.
Leckie told the detectives he had hit Torregrossa's car as he made his aborted U-turn. But he said he couldn't recall hitting the bicyclist or the woman. Leckie said he had fled because he was in fear of a carload of young people that pulled up next to him and started yelling."
Leckie told the cops he had been at a business meeting that night and admitted to drinking four or five glasses of wine with dinner.
The detectives had Leckie's car taken to the Paradise Valley Police Department, where they photographed it. A few days later, Leckie called Detective McFarland with some new information: Now he did remember seeing a bicyclist on Lincoln Drive, but he still did not recall hitting him.
Around this time, John Faust brought his bike to the Paradise Valley Police Department. The detectives matched the paint marks and scratches on Leckie's car to the bike.
Maria Torregrossa gave McFarland photographs of the deep bruises to her abdomen and left hip. The detective noted that the injury was the same height as the right side-view mirror, which is broken... ."
Torregrossa wasn't doing well. Hours after Leckie had hit her, she says she felt great pain in her abdomen-it was distended and discolored. And her back was killing her.
She went to her doctor first thing in the morning. He hospitalized her immediately for internal bleeding. The normal route at this point would have been for the town's public-safety officials to decide whether to submit the case to the County Attorney's Office for consideration as a felony.
If it's pretty obvious, it will go directly to the county attorney without me looking at it," says Town Attorney Ollinger. If there's any doubt, they come and talk to me about it. The rule is: When in doubt, submit it."
That's the general procedure, Ollinger adds, but he says he doesn't recall whether police officials consulted him on the Leckie case.
According to Jim Goodwin, a retired Phoenix police sergeant considered an expert in accident-reconstruction cases, most police agencies follow similar procedures. You submit it, and the county prosecutor decides on the charges," he says.
(New Times asked Goodwin for his opinion of the case, without revealing the names of the suspect or the victims. Goodwin says he doesn't know Brian McFarland but he praises other Paradise Valley cops. I work with Paradise Valley and some of their investigators are super-good friends of mine," Goodwin says.)
After being told the facts of the Leckie case, Goodwin says the first two incidents-hitting the bicyclist and ramming into the woman's car were nothing felonious."
Where I'd have been concerned," he tells New Times, is when he runs down the person after she gets out of the car. In Phoenix, I would have submitted it, based on the information you're giving me."
In real life, however, Detective Brian McFarland cited Leckie for misdemeanors and returned the Oldsmobile to him. Leckie faced two charges each of hit-and-run, failing to render aid, and failing to control his car, and a single count of driving on an expired license.
I have a difficult time accepting that an established law enforcement agency would do what you're telling me they did," ex-cop Goodwin tells New Times. It sounds like there's something missing, whether it's your story or their story. If it could be shown that the guy knew he'd run a second person down, that would start to change things."