1 April 08
State police have charged a repeat sex offender with the murder of 15-year-old April Dawn Pennington, who disappeared from her Montville home in May 1996.
George Leniart, 42, of Montville, was arraigned today in New London Superior Court. He was charged with three counts of capital felony and one count of murder.
Judge Susan Handy set Leniart’s bond at $2 million based on his extensive criminal history. The arrest warrant detailing why Leniart was arrested was sealed for two weeks.
Leniart’s next court date is scheduled for April 15.
Detectives in the Eastern District Major Crime Squad had continued to investigate April Pennington's disappearance, suspecting Leniart murdered her but not able to charge him without recovering her body. New information came to light in the past year that enabled them to obtain an arrest warrant.
more at link
It was a family friend, not a relative. The cops have discounted that sighting.
Affidavit: Man Admitted Murder To Cellmate
Cellmate Says Man Confessed To Killing Teen During Sex
POSTED: 1:17 pm EDT April 17, 2008
UPDATED: 1:41 pm EDT April 17, 2008
NEW HAVEN, Conn. -- Authorities said a man charged with killing a Montville teen who disappeared more than a decade ago told a prison cellmate he killed her and then dumped her body in the ocean in Rhode Island.
Those details are included in an arrest warrant affidavit for George Leniart that was unsealed Thursday. The 42-year-old prisoner at Corrigan Correction Center in Uncasville pleaded not guilty Tuesday to murder and three counts of capial felony.
He was charged earlier this month with killing April Dawn Pennington, who had been missing since 1996.
Leniart was already in prison because he is accused of a sexual assault involving a teenage boy.
Leniart told a cellmate that he choked the girl during sex and then realized she was dead. The affidavit said Leniart told his cellmate he transported the body to a fishing boat in Rhode Island, chopped up her body and dumped her in the water.
http://www.theday.com/article/201001...801/1070/ENT08The trial of accused murderer George M. Leniart is now tentatively set to begin on Feb. 8 in New London Superior Court.
Jury selection, halted last week when Judge Stuart M. Schimelman became ill, will resume tomorrow before Judge Emmet L. Cosgrove. Attorneys have selected 10 jurors to date. They are hoping to seat a panel of 12 jurors and three alternates and begin presenting evidence before Judge Barbara B. Jongbloed on Feb. 8.
Leniart, 43, of Montville, is accused of kidnapping, raping and killing 15-year-old April Dawn Pennington in 1996. He is charged with three counts of capital felony and one count of murder. The state is not seeking the death penalty against Leniart, since Pennington’s body has never been found, but it is seeking a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of release.
Of course, I'd like nothing more than Justice for April, but I feel pretty sure at this time this guy isn't going to be punished for what he did. I just don't see the evidence.
Patrick "PJ" Allain testified this morning that he and George M. Leniart sexually assaulted April Dawn Pennington on May 29, 1996, and that he knew Leniart wanted to kill the 15-year-old girl.
With April sitting in the cab of Leniart's pickup truck, Allain, who was also 15 at the time, said the three of them had been drinking beer and smoking marijuana and that Leniart, who was 30 years old, was kind of "giggly."
"He said he wanted to, to do her," Allain testified. "He said, 'We need a body.' He said he was in a cult and that he wanted a body for an altar."
Allain, now 29, is serving a 10-year prison sentence for an unrelated sexual assault. He was on the witness stand for about two hours this morning at the capital felony trial of Leniart. He admitted he is hoping for leniency from the state when he began testifying.
The state is hoping Allain's testimony will help convince a jury that Leniart kidnapped, raped and sexually assaulted the Montville teen, who was never seen again after the night she disappeared.He said he walked back to the pickup truck and told April they both wanted to have sex with her.
"She said, 'Only you,' '' Allain testified. "She was crying. I said, 'He's going to rape you. We're going to rape you, basically'."
Allain said he whispered to April to "just do it," and that she was quiet and calm. He said he had sex with her first while Leniart watched. Leniart then had sex with April while Allain sat in the driver's seat of the truck.I heard that the Defense really treated April's father bad in Court and hinted to him she wasn't a good child, almost as if she deserved it...I don't know how the dad kept his cool."He asked me if I ever heard of the movie, Eraser," Allain testified. "He said, she's been erased. He said he had put her in a lobster trap. He had dropped her in the mud."
Allain was still on the witness stand when the trial broke for lunch. Defense attorney Noman A. Pattis, noting Allain had given police several differing accounts of the incident, asked him if his memory of the events were "hazy." .Allain admitted that he had been taking a lot of drugs at the time but said he remembers these events clearly.
Whether or not she was a good child or not is besides the point. Yes she should not have snuck out and it sounded like she was up to no good and made a few bad desisions but her and her family in no way deserve this!
Casey Lyons raised his right hand as instructed by a court clerk Tuesday, but said "no" when she asked him to swear he would tell "the whole truth and nothing but the truth."
The 19-year-old New York man, one of the jailhouse informants who implicated George M. Leniart in the murder of a girl who went missing from Montville in 1996, refused to testify at Leniart's trial. The state may recall him at a later date and could ask the court to hold him in contempt.http://www.theday.com/article/20100217/NWS02/302179885When its first witness of the day fell through, the state called state police Detective Martin Graham to the witness stand. A longtime member of the Eastern District Major Crime Squad, Graham was the lead investigator in the teen's disappearance for nine years. He said the squad pumped out six wells and a swamp area near the Thames River and excavated areas in Montville, Ledyard and Waterford in an effort to find April's remains. They interviewed "persons of interest," including Leniart and Patrick "PJ" Allain, the teenager who said he was with Leniart and April that night. The detectives publicized the disappearance to the media and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and at the request of April's mother, consulted a visionary.
"It was an open investigation," Graham testified. "I was open to any suggestions. It helped Mrs. Pennington and her family, so I went through with it."
Graham followed up a report that a former friend of April's saw her at a Blockbuster video store in Virginia Beach, Va., in May 1999. April's father, Walter Pennington, was a Navy sailor, and the Pennington family had lived in Virginia Beach for four years before the father was reassigned to the Groton submarine base.
Graham said he talked to the friend, James Adrian Butler, over the phone and that Butler seemed credible. At his request, agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service located and interviewed Butler. After further investigation and hearing that Butler had suffered a traumatic brain injury and had memory loss, state police discounted his reported sighting of April.
Tuesday's session ended with another intense cross-examination by defense attorney Norman A. Pattis. He asked Graham whether, when the detectives spoke to Leniart, he volunteered to take a polygraph examination. Prosecutor John P. Gravalec-Pannone objected to the polygraph question based on earlier court rulings that a polygraph taken by Allain was not admissible in court.
Judge Barbara B. Jongbloed sustained the objection and said, out of the presence of the jury, that she would be reminding the jury that questions asked by attorneys are not evidence in the case.
The trial resumes today.
Poor kid sounds very troubled and possible like a good kid gone bad and paid the ultimate price.
http://www.theday.com/article/201003...303039930/1017Life-without-parole sentence likely; parents of victim still want answers
A guilty verdict in the capital murder trial of George M. Leniart brought some comfort Tuesday to the parents of a teenage girl who went missing from her Montville home 14 years ago.
Walter and Hazel Pennington know now that Leniart, a 44-year-old repeat sex offender, will be spending the rest of his life in a maximum-security prison. The 12-member jury convicted him on three capital-felony counts and one count of murder, so there is no doubt Judge Barbara Bailey Jongbloed will sentence Leniart to life in prison without the possibility of parole on April 27.
But the parents of April Dawn Pennington, who sneaked out a basement window after they had gone to bed on May 29, 1996, would like to know exactly what happened to their 15-year-old daughter that night. They never saw her again.
"I still have plenty of questions, and he (Leniart) is still not talking," Hazel Pennington said in a phone interview from Pleasant Garden, N.C.
Leniart had bragged that state police would never find April's body and would, therefore, never charge him with murder, according to jailhouse informants who testified at the trial. He fished commercially out of Point Judith, R.I., in a boat he had named after his own young daughter, and told a fellow prisoner he had dismembered April's body and put it in lobster pots. Others said Leniart told them April's body was "in the mud" in the Thames River, in Long Island Sound or in a well.
Despite his bravado, the Eastern District Major Crime Squad did charge Leniart in April 2008 after prosecutors agreed to take on the murder case without a body or other physical evidence. They relied heavily on jailhouse witnesses, whom Leniart's attorney called "snitches" and repeatedly attempted to discredit at the trial.
The state had another key witness, however, whose testimony the jury listened to a second time Tuesday before announcing the verdict. A 28-year-old Norwich woman had described being sexually assaulted by Leniart just six months before April Pennington disappeared.
The woman said she is pleased Leniart is locked away.
"I think that he is where he should be, and April's family can have a little closure," she said. "May April rest in peace with the angels."
Leniart, who opted not to testify on his own behalf, shook his head slightly but did not change his facial expression when the jury foreman announced the verdicts. Somebody whispered "Yeah!" from the back of the courtroom.
Prosecutors John P. Gravalec-Pannone and Stephen M. Carney were "psyched."
"We're grateful on behalf of the Pennington family and for the jury's hard work in this difficult task they had," Pannone said as well-wishers congregated in the state's attorney's office.
State troopers who investigated the case hugged and high-fived each other in the courthouse hallway.
"I'm thankful for the state's attorney's office for having the courage to prosecute what was a difficult case, and thankful to the jury for seeing George for what he is," said Sgt. William Bundy, who had supervised the investigation for the past five years.
"I'm proud of all the guys who have investigated this case over the years," Bundy added. "It goes back many, many years."
Bundy said that if April's body is out there to be found, the detectives want to find it.
Defense attorney Norman A. Pattis spoke to Leniart in a holding cell following the verdict and left the courthouse without taking a pile of dress clothes he had provided his client. He could not be reached to comment later in the day, but is expected to be heard at Leniart's sentencing.
The jurors also left quickly after Jongbloed thanked them for their service. Reached later by phone, the foreman said he had no comment.
Walter Pennington, a retired Navy sailor who was stationed at the Naval Submarine Base in Groton when his daughter disappeared, flew from North Carolina to testify on the first day of the trial and caught a return flight the same day. Hazel Pennington has been ill and was advised by a doctor not to attend the trial.
The family, who moved back to their hometown of Pleasant Garden in late 1996, has been reading on the Internet of the graphic testimony about the last hours of their daughter's life.
Patrick "PJ" Allain, a friend of April, testified he and Leniart picked her up and raped her that night in May 1996. Allain said Leniart dropped him off at home first and told him the next day that he had killed the girl and disposed of her body.
Hazel Pennington said she would like to have seen Allain prosecuted, though she knows the statute of limitations for rape has expired.
"He's the one who lured April out that night," she said. "April never knew Leniart. She met him that night, and PJ lured her out knowing he was putting her life in danger."
Allain, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence for an unrelated sexual assault, is hoping to have his sentence reduced in exchange for cooperating with the state.
The testimony of the woman who, at age 13, was raped by Leniart had also bolstered the state's case. The judge had ruled the damaging testimony admissible because of similarities between the two cases. The rape victim told the jury she sneaked out to meet her 15-year-old boyfriend, Allain, in November 1995. Leniart, who was 30, picked her up, she said, and they went back to a camper behind Leniart's parents' home on Massapeag Side Road to wait for Allain.
She said Allain never showed up, and when she tried to leave Leniart locked her in and forced her to have sex with him. She said Leniart choked her until she passed out, and that she woke up the next morning and ran for her life when he left to make a phone call.
Leniart was free on bond, awaiting trial for that case, when April Pennington disappeared. He later pleaded guilty in the first matter and was sentenced to four years in prison.
Thomas A. "Tad" DiBiase, a former federal prosecutor in the District of Columbia who tracks "no-body" murder cases, lists two other such convictions in Connecticut on a Web site devoted to the issue.
In the infamous "woodchipper murder," Richard Crafts was convicted in 1989 of killing his wife, Helle, even though Crafts had put her remains through a woodchipper and only fragments were recovered.
In October 2003, Miguel Estrella of Meriden was found guilty of murdering a rival gang member. He suffocated Juan Disla, then dismembered his body with a chain saw and dissolved it in acid.
"It's amazing the lengths some people will go through to dispose of a body," DiBiase said in a phone interview Tuesday.
http://www.norwichbulletin.com/news/...over-yet?img=2Stephanie Poirier has waited nearly 14 years for some type of resolution in the disappearance of 15-year-old April Dawn Pennington, one of her best friends at Montville High School.
The waiting continued Monday when legal wrangling led to a second postponement in the sentencing of George Leniart, the 44-year-old sex offender from Montville convicted earlier this year in Pennington’s 1996 kidnapping, rape and murder.
“It’s upsetting to see it go on and on and on,” said Poirier, 29. “It affects a lot of people. This is ridiculous. It’s been put off for way too long. It just really needs to be done with.”
Poirier was joined in a New London courtroom Monday by a group of restless state police investigators, Leniart’s ex-wife and at least one woman who claims to be one of Leniart’s victims. Pennington’s parents remain in North Carolina.
At the request of Leniart’s attorney, Norman Pattis, Judge Barbara Jongbloed postponed sentencing until June 15.
Convicted of murder and three capital felonies, Leniart’s sentence of life in prison is not in question. Pattis, however, argued that a pre-sentencing report had gone too far in vilifying Leniart and requested documentation used by the probation department in preparing the document. He said he objected to information about Leniart’s past criminal record and relationship with his children. The document is not public.
“The state prefers form over substance,” Pattis said. “They’re not going to get any more blood out of George Leniart.”
State prosecutor Steven Carney objected to Pattis’ request to remove the information from the report and said, “Society does have a right to know about this individual.”
Pattis claims Leniart was convicted in Pennington’s murder in part based on “what he did in another case.” Prosecutors at trial elicited testimony from a Norwich woman who described her own rape by Leniart when she was 13.
Nadene Perry, 41, of Waterford, was in court Monday and said she had been prepared to speak at Leniart’s sentencing.
“He’s not worth the air we breathe,” said Perry, who claimed she was Leniart’s girlfriend in the 1980s and that he had abused her. “I’ve waited 20 years for this. I don’t know what kind of technicality they’re trying.”
Pennington disappeared May 29, 1996, after she sneaked out of her basement bedroom window to meet up with Patrick “PJ” Allain and Leniart, then 30, a man she apparently did not know.
According to Allain, Leniart drove to a secluded area where the two men raped Pennington. Allain said Leniart later admitted he strangled Pennington to death and disposed of her body in a lobster trap.
Pennington’s body has never been found.
I went to school with this guy and I had just left the neighborhood that April lived in, she lived 3 doors up from what was a wonderful neighborhood to grow up in as a kid..He was freaky back in school...Poor April, thinking of her today as we created a memorial to those who have passed to soon in Uncasville Ct on FB
NO CHILD is trash!!