Longform

Shot At Redemption

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MacDonald talked about being afraid of a biker, but never mentioned his name, Townsend says. She asked where he usually shot pool; he told her the name of the bar. She was there a week later and about four other times on pool night, and Townsend would give her a ride home. He once glanced at her journal while she was in the restroom. "She was writing a poem," he says. "It was a real morbid kind of poem, about death and that kind of stuff. And about having no feelings."

Townsend says he told detectives that MacDonald was afraid of a biker when they interviewed him, about a year after her death. "The woman [detective] shook her head like she didn't believe me," he recalls. "They thought I wasn't telling them something, or they thought I was holding something back."

MacDonald had a lot of friends, but they were unusually tight-lipped, Fragoso recalls. "As popular as she was, nobody wanted to say anything," the detective says. "That got me going: Why weren't they saying anything? Were there greater powers? Was it an organized crime deal? Was it a hit? Did she upset someone in an organization?"

Eighteen months after MacDonald's body was found, police put out a Silent Witness television broadcast, a last-resort option when leads run dry. The MacDonald who appears in a home video in the segment is a far cry from the scared-of-her-shadow woman Townsend remembers. She's 16, her face still spotted with freckles. She's performing American Sign Language, which she learned in high school, to contemporary Christian music, smiling and gazing upward as she gestures dramatically. Patton pleaded with viewers to help police, saying punishment wasn't the point.

"I don't know how they live every day without saying something to somebody and wanting help," she says. "I wouldn't even care if they spend a whole lot of time in jail, because I believe they have to be paying for it every day."

She couldn't have known how right she was.


Born and raised in the Valley, Gordon Lee Lederer has been a screw-up for most of his life.

He started smoking pot at 13. He was boozing a year later. At 15, he was admitted to St. Luke's Hospital, where he spent three months in treatment for alcoholism, drug dependency and depression, according to court records. The cure didn't take. He tried living with his dad, a Salt River Project engineer. Then he moved in with his mother, a dental hygienist, and his stepfather, a physician. That didn't work, either. He dropped out of high school in the tenth grade and moved in with a friend who worked as a painter, helping remodel restaurants for living expenses.

"He was wallpapering and doing all these things as a kid, but he fell through on that, too," says Lana Grass, his mother. "He got tired of doing that and had to move on to something else."

"Something else" was the Air Force. Instead of seeing the world, he was stationed at Williams Air Force Base within miles of where he grew up, assigned to maintain aircraft ejection seats. Bored, he occupied his time with liquor and fast motorcycles. After a stint in rehab that ended two years after his enlistment, he was discharged. He was out less than a year before his mother drove him to a VA hospital for inpatient treatment. "I had to literally carry him into the car, one of my girlfriends and I," she recalls. "He was on acid -- just out of it."

Lederer started using cocaine and heroin as soon as he got out of treatment, beginning each day with a bottle of whiskey and draining it dry by the time he went to bed. He was working as a DJ in a strip club, but his salary wasn't nearly enough to pay for his drugs.

Using a note passed to a teller, he robbed a bank and got away with $2,100. The money was gone a week later, so he got a gun, tied a handkerchief around his face and held up a record store, smoothly telling the cashier, "Okay, it's time to give to your local neighborhood charity." It was hardly the work of a professional: A customer tackled him when he put the gun down on the counter to pick up the $628.

That was in 1984. He spent two years in state prison and went back to his old ways, working in topless joints, hanging out with strippers and getting bombed. In 1987, he married a stripper named Marilyn Mance, who has had her own problems with drugs. It was a traditional Catholic church wedding with all the trimmings. Together, the pair embarked on a rocky journey that included God, frequent separations and lots of partying. He never found what he was looking for.

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Bruce Rushton