Ash Fork sex offender takes plea

Ash Fork resident Donald Leacock faces 20 to 30 years

Donald Leacock

Donald Leacock

Fifty-two-year-old Ash Fork resident Donald Leacock accepted a plea deal that ensures him no more than 30 years in state prison and no less than 20 years for charges of sex crimes against children in the Ash Fork area. Leacock appeared for a hearing at the Coconino County Courthouse July 22 in relation to the child sexual exploitation charges, where he accepted the plea deal, thus avoiding what could possibly have become a lengthy trial. Leacock could have faced up to 10 to 24 years for each count of sexual exploitation of a minor, according to initial reports.

According to Coconino County Chief Deputy Attorney David Rozema, Leacock pleaded guilty to four counts - the most serious of which includes the sexual exploitation of a minor charge.

"The bottom line to the plea agreement is he is pleading guilty to four counts," Rozema said. "He will be sentenced to a term of imprisonment somewhere between 20 and 30 years and that will be up to the courts. The 20 years is what we call day for day time, if you will, meaning he has to serve every day of the sentence, there's no early release. That's the first count. The sentence for the other counts will be on top of that."

Rozema said the plea deal ensures a lengthy prison term.

"Given the defendant's age and relative poor health, we're confident that this sentence ensures that he won't have the opportunity to get out and potentially harm anyone else," Rozema said. "The other major reason that we think the plea agreement is a great result is that it saves the victims from going through a very lengthy trial process. The victims are in agreement with the deal and this will allow them to get some closure in their lives. This type of trial would be extremely difficult on the victims."

A Coconino County Grand Jury convicted Leacock on 24 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor March 13. The trial had been set for mid-August. Leacock, currently in the Coconino County Jail, was taken into custody March 1. A second Ash Fork resident, Howard Leventhal, was also arrested in connection with the case.

"Howard Leventhal is one of the other defendants. He was arrested and I think he posted bond or was released," Rozema said. "He is not in custody. His case is pending. It's moving through the system. We don't have a trial date for him. We'll see what direction that case is going to take."

A third suspect, Richard Rush, was arrested May 9 in Alaska. Rush has opposed extradition, according to Rozema.

"I believe he is still in Alaska," he said.

Coconino County Sheriff's deputies had said they were also seeking other suspects in relation to the matter.

The arrests came after deputies responded to a civil standby request from a 14-year-old female who lived in Leacock's Kaibab Estates West residence near Ash Fork. The female reported the sex crimes to officers. According to authorities, Leacock lived in the home with his 16-year-old wife and would invite other men to have intercourse with her and take photographs and film the acts, often posting the photographs on the Internet to help arrange meetings between his wife and other people. Child Protective Services, the Safe Child Center of Northern Arizona and the Coconino County Sheriff's Department all participated in the subsequent investigation. A number of photos and movies were recovered from locations in both Ash Fork and Phoenix, where Leacock lived prior to his move to the Ash Fork area, in connection to the investigation. Leacock originally moved to Arizona from St. Louis, Mo., where he lived with his teen wife after consent was given by her mother to marry Leacock. Authorities in Coconino County reported that the minors involved in the investigation had been moved to safe locations.

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