After failing to find Jennifer’s body, Kimball gets two counts, 70 years
By John Aguilar
Camera Staff Writer
A sheriff’s deputy leads LeAnn Emry’s family to the site where investigators found her body in March 2009. (Courtesy of Howard Emry)
A convoy of nine SUVs loaded with FBI agents, sheriff’s deputies, defense attorneys, a Lafayette police detective, two Boulder County prosecutors and Scott Kimball bounced and swayed down rutted roads in Utah’s desolate Book Cliffs country north of Moab.
Driving through pouring rain, the vehicles slid sideways as Kimball guided the cavalcade to the locations where he said he’d buried LeAnn Emry and Jennifer Marcum.
It was February 2009, and law-enforcement officials had pored over maps and satellite photos with Kimball before narrowing down the search area.
“It was huge country, and it was like looking for a needle in a haystack,” remembers Boulder County prosecutor Amy Okubo.
Two days of searching from sunup to sundown yielded nothing.
March 11, 2009
The contingent returned to the same area, and this time, Kimball pointed out a dirt road leading to a box canyon.
There, FBI Special Agent Jonny Grusing found a bone. Then a hair clip.
A bullet fragment discovered at the site would match the ballistics of Kimball’s .40-caliber Firestar handgun, which had been tracked to an acquaintance’s house two years earlier.
Kimball had just led investigators to the remains of LeAnn Emry, six years and 41 days after shooting her in the head.
Investigators ushered Kimball back into a government SUV as the recovery proceeded.
Howard Emry holds a memorial stone that he plans to put at the Utah site where Scott Kimball killed his daughter. (Matthew Cilley / for the Camera)
“We didn’t want him to have any pleasure from reliving anything,” remembers Katharina Booth, Okubo’s colleague in the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office.
As Booth looked up the wash and watched agents and deputies uncover more bones from the cliff face, she was overcome.
She could envision LeAnn, curling into a fetal position in those last, defenseless moments. The memory still brings the prosecutor to tears.
“She knew what was happening to her,” Booth says. “It was incredibly moving.”
Kimball, on the other hand, seemed unfazed by the find.
Later that morning
The convoy rolled west as the search for Jennifer’s remains resumed.
Kimball perked up as he led the crew deeper into the desert.
He told them he had pulled Jennifer’s body from the back of a Jeep and buried her in a creek bed. He described landmarks in the area, the wash where her body lay and the rocks used to bury her.
“Merry Christmas!” Kimball exclaimed, as the group entered Spring Canyon.
“You can take this to the bank,” he shouted, as another indistinguishable wash turned out to be a dead end.
After several hours of searching, officials shut the operation down.
“We went from this canyon to that canyon to this canyon to that canyon,” Okubo remembers. “It felt more like he was messing with us.”
Over the next month, authorities excavated creek beds and used cadaver dogs in the search for Jennifer. They turned up no trace.
“It felt like failure,” Booth says softly.
Scott Kimball is wheled into a Boulder County courtroom before his sentencing hearing on Oct. 8, 2009. (Mark Leffingwell / Camera)
June 29, 2009
The search for “Uncle Terry” went more smoothly.
Scott Kimball drew a map to the spot high in the Colorado Rockies where he’d dumped his uncle’s body. As soon as the snow melted in the mountains, a search team headed to Vail Pass.
“Scott had told us Terry was wrapped up in a gray tarp with 100 feet of white rope,” Lafayette police Detective Gary Thatcher remembers.
The search team pulled off of logging road 713A in Eagle County and spread out to comb through the woods.
Shortly before noon, Thatcher spotted a tarp tucked into some trees in the distance.
“Got you that body, get up here,” Thatcher texted Booth down in Boulder.
An autopsy revealed that Terry Kimball had been shot through the back of the head with a .40-caliber handgun.
Concluding that Scott Kimball had violated the agreement by failing to find Jennifer’s body, prosecutors ripped up their original deal with him.
They hammered out a new one: Plead guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and go to prison for 70 years.
“I’m a gambler. I know a great deal when I see one,” he later wrote in response to questions the Camera sent to him at Sterling Correctional Facility. “I was already doing 48 years for fraud. Why take a chance of receiving four death sentences or life without parole when I could put four potential murder cases to rest?”
Jennifer Marcum’s sister, Tammy Marcum, hugs father Bob Marcum after a Boulder County district judge sentenced Scott Kimball to 70 years in prison on Oct. 8, 2009. (Mark Leffingwell / Camera)
Oct. 8, 2009
In front of a packed Boulder County district courtroom, Kimball pleaded guilty to two counts of murder for the deaths of LeAnn Emry, Jennifer Marcum, Kaysi McLeod and Terry Kimball.
Sitting in a wheelchair and looking much older than his 43 years, Kimball glanced at the standing-room-only crowd as he was wheeled into the courtroom.
The victims’ grief-stricken parents and siblings — most of them facing Kimball for the first time — lambasted the defendant for his crimes.
“He made the deliberate choice to murder, and he made that choice at least four times,” LeAnn’s mother, Darlene Emry, said through tears.
Howard Emry, LeAnn’s father, said his daughter had a bright future that ended with Kimball.
“If LeAnn had lived, I am certain that many people would have benefited from her life,” he said.
Rob McLeod told the court his daughter, Kaysi, had gone through a “prodigal season” in her life, using drugs for a time and running away from home. But he said she was turning her life around when she met Kimball.
“I was present, right there, the very moment that Kaysi took her first breath in this world,” he said. “Scott Kimball was there to take her last.”
Through a cascade of tears, Lori McLeod faced her former husband in court and said God had received her only child.
“I believe that Kaysi has forgiven Scott Kimball,” she said. “I choose to forgive Scott Kimball.”
Bob Marcum, still without a daughter to bury, told the court that Kimball “has destroyed our lives,” and questioned whom else he had hurt.
“How many other people are missing as a result of his life?” he said.
Tammy Marcum demanded that Kimball say where he’d dumped her sister’s body so the family could give Jennifer a Christian burial.
“There is not going to be any place for your soul until you truly repent and you tell me where my sister is,” Tammy Marcum said, her voice strained by anger.
Family members lifted Kleenexes to their faces, as sounds of sobbing swept the courtroom.
Kimball, dressed in a red jail uniform, looked straight ahead in silence.
Click here to read more about Boulder prosecutors Katharina Booth and Amy Okubo »
Click here to read the previous chapter »