A grand jury will soon decide whether an off-duty Rochester-area police officer should face criminal charges after fatally shooting his son inside an Old Forge motel over the summer.
Possible charges have been up in the air ever since 59-year-old Michael Leach said he shot his son, Matthew Leach, 37, after mistaking him for an intruder inside their Clarks Beach Motel room shortly before 1 a.m. July 21. But instead of making any immediate arrests by law enforcement, prosecutors with the Herkimer County District Attorney’s Office are planning to present what they know to a grand jury panel and let them decide what charges, if any, might apply.
“We’re moving toward that, to have the grand jury decide how best to proceed — whether we pursue criminal charges or not, and whether or not there is enough evidence to go forward at trial,” said Assistant District Attorney Jeffrey Carpenter.
In some cases, prosecutors can present the grand jury with a specific charge to consider against someone, Carpenter said. But in this case, prosecutors plan to lay out all the evidence in front of the grand jurors and then provide them with potential criminal charges to consider in their deliberations.
“We would go into the grand jury with a possible charge in our own mind, but until the grand jury hears all the evidence, you can’t make that final call,” Carpenter said.
It is unclear when the grand jury would decide whether or not to indict Michael Leach.
Little has been said publicly about this incident over the past two months as investigators probed the shooting death of a Utica school teacher that occurred Aug. 25 in a second nearby Old Forge motel. In the more recent case, prosecutors and state police announced last week Catherine Koestner shot herself in the head, either intentionally or accidentally.
The Leach case, however, has different legal issues to address, such as whether it was reasonable for Michael Leach to believe his son was an intruder, whether he made any efforts to identify the unknown person before shooting and whether he was justified in opening fire on an unidentified person.