March 21st, 2010
Some of the victims’ families find closure, but many questions remain unanswered
By John Aguilar
Camera Staff Writer
“LeAnn had a compassionate heart, especially toward those less fortunate than herself,” Emry said from behind a wooden lectern adorned with a cross, bouquet and two photos of his daughter, forever 24. “If she had lived today, I believe her life would have benefited many people.”
“It helped an awful lot,” Howard Emry said. “It helped me in the fact that I was able to tell people who LeAnn was.”
The FBI has since returned LeAnn’s remains. When the weather gets warmer, the Emrys will scatter her ashes at a secret spot in Wyoming where their animal-loving daughter laid to rest her favorite Dalmatian years ago.
They also plan to leave a heavy stone plaque, with inlaid marble, bearing the phrase “Forever Loved Never Forgotten,” at the spot in the desolate canyon where Scott Kimball killed LeAnn in January 2003.
“We want to change the site from being a murder site to being a memorial site,” Howard Emry said. “I regret she had to go through so much pain up to her death, but she’s in a peaceful place now.”
Kaysi McLeod’s parents buried their daughter last weekend.
The 19-year-old’s headstone had sat above empty ground in Wheat Ridge’s Crown Hill Cemetery for a year and a half, as the family waited for the FBI to return her remains.
Lori McLeod found herself wondering if Kaysi might still be alive. Maybe the FBI wasn’t being truthful, she thought. Maybe the bones found in the northern Colorado mountains in the fall of 2007 belonged to someone else. She found herself looking twice at young women who resembled her daughter.
“Then I had a horrible thought: Would I even recognize her?” McLeod said.
Kaysi’s father, Rob McLeod, said he still feels “broken” by his daughter’s untimely death.
“There isn’t a single day where a part of me isn’t hurt,” he said.
The parents, divorced when Kaysi was a young girl, finally received the remains at the start of this month.
On March 13, about 200 people gathered to watch Kaysi’s wooden casket lowered into the earth.
Pastor Mike Harmon, Kaysi’s uncle, remembered her as a forgiving and spirited person “even in the midst of her rebellious escape.”
“Life was not always easy, but her glass was always half full,” Harmon said. “She knew the Lord. She’s with him today.”
Jennifer’s family has no plans for a memorial service, no headstone to etch and polish.
Their daughter’s body has never been found.
Jennifer’s mother can do little but try to talk to her daughter through her dreams.
“There’s not a day I wake up where I don’t think of Jenny, not a day where I don’t wait for her to call me,” Mary Willis said, sobbing. “I remember how much me and her were alike, how much we loved each other, how much — no matter what — I just want her to come home.”
Theories abound as to why Kimball hasn’t revealed where he left Jennifer’s body.
FBI Special Agent Jonny Grusing said Kimball may be hanging on to the information as leverage, as a way of extracting something of value from someone down the road.
“If he thought giving up Jennifer’s remains would benefit him, he would say where they are,” Grusing said.
Bob Marcum, Jennifer’s father, believes it’s because he and his ex-wife refused to follow Kimball to the Colorado mountains four-and-a-half years ago when he offered to lead them to their daughter’s body.
In a phone conversation recorded by Willis less than two weeks after their 2005 meeting in Broomfield, Kimball told Willis he had already given her the opportunity to find Jennifer.
“You had your chance,” Kimball told the weeping mother.
Kimball, now housed in the maximum-security Sterling Correctional Facility in northeast Colorado, said he wants to help the FBI find Jennifer’s remains, but the bureau won’t provide him resources to do so.
“From day one I told the FBI that finding Jennifer would be the hardest to find,” he wrote in response to written questions sent by the Camera. “I’m willing to keep looking.”
And Bob Marcum is willing to keep waiting — for any sign of Jennifer. Until that day, he said, he takes solace in the belief that his daughter is in heaven. He won’t dwell on the idea that only Kimball knows where she is.
“Scott’s got no hold on me,” Marcum said.
FBI: Case a ‘tragedy’
Still, one question remains for all of the victims’ families.
Mary Willis and Lori McLeod are both considering wrongful-death lawsuits against the FBI.
“With all of his prior offenses, why would they let him out to be an informant?” Willis said.
“I just feel that something is being covered up,” she said.
FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis acknowledges that the case is a “tragedy” for the families who lost loved ones.
“But the important thing to remember is that the man responsible is sitting in prison,” Davis said during an interview last month in the bureau’s downtown Denver office.
Davis said he can’t speak about confidential informants or cooperating witnesses involved in specific cases, including Kimball’s, but he said the use of people who have access to certain suspects and situations is vital to investigative work.
“We absolutely need informants to do our business,” he said. “We can’t do it without them.”
Davis said the FBI hasn’t changed its confidential informant program as a result of its experience with Kimball. The bureau, he said, already follows a rigid set of protocols to guard against abuse.
That’s especially true, he said, if an informant is going to be considered for release from prison, a decision made in concert with the U.S. Attorney’s Office and approved by a federal judge.
“We have to ask before they are recruited, ‘Is it worth the risk that this guy could break bad on us?’” Davis said.
Davis said the FBI looks at a potential informant’s criminal history, the “seriousness of the underlying offense” and the remaining prison sentence, then weighs those factors against “the potential benefit of what we hope to accomplish through the release.”
In Kimball’s case, although he already had four felonies on his record, he had never been convicted of a violent crime when he was released as a cooperating witness in 2002.
Once an informant is working for the bureau, an agent is required to contact that individual every 30 days, Davis said. Every 60 to 90 days, a supervisor at the FBI reviews the informant’s case file to determine his or her value as a source.
“Is this a guy we need to continue our relationship with?” Davis said. “We are continually testing our sources.”
Kimball said he saw little oversight from the FBI, and was “amazed” at how easily his plan worked.
“They were completely conned,” he said in a prepared statement read after his sentencing in Boulder last fall. “They released me early as planned.”
While free as an informant, Kimball said, he and his associates — whom he won’t identify — were “free to oversee our own profitable criminal enterprise.”
In his later correspondence with the Camera, Kimball wrote that one particular agent — his handler, Carle Schlaff — allowed him to pursue his own illegal activities right under the bureau’s nose.
“I used the trust the FBI had in me for my own agenda,” he wrote.
Schlaff, who remains with the bureau and is currently working undercover, declined to comment for this story.
Bob Marcum keeps a three-ring binder of news stories about human remains unearthed across several states in the West.
Maybe one of them will be his daughter, Jennifer.
Or maybe one of them will be another victim that investigators end up linking to Kimball.
“I’m just waiting,” Marcum said. “I’m waiting for the fifth person.”
He isn’t alone in suspecting that Kimball was involved in more murders.
“If we got a call today that said we got another case associated with Scott Kimball, I wouldn’t be surprised a bit — not a bit,” Lafayette police Detective Gary Thatcher said.
Kimball spent a lot of time driving through barren stretches of the American West. Thatcher wonders whether others crossed his path, only to be killed and disposed of in the wilderness.
Brett Gamblin, one of Kimball’s former friends, told the detective that he and Kimball once passed a hitchhiker while driving across the desert to California.
Too bad the man wasn’t a woman, whom they could “turn into a sex slave, beat for a few days and then kill,” Kimball told Gamblin.
“There’s a lot of time when Scott was out there that’s unaccounted for,” Thatcher said. “We may have stumbled onto the tail end of what he’s been up to.”
Investigators initially suspected that dozens of suggestive photos found on Kimball’s computers might be of other missing women, but they later determined that Kimball downloaded most of the pictures from the Internet.
The FBI won’t say whether it’s investigating Kimball in connection with any other missing people.
“That being said,” spokeswoman Kathleen Wright wrote in an e-mail, “the book is not closed on Scott Kimball.”