Police search Warriors Mark hunting grounds, say man confessed to killing Altoona woman

From staff and wire reportsApril 24, 2013 

A remote hunting camp in Warriors Mark Township was again the scene of an intense police search Tuesday for the remains of an Altoona woman who went missing in 1999.

Authorities are investigating the woman’s father-in-law, Kenneth Leighty, 65, of Altoona, who owns the camp, after he allegedly told his son last week that he killed Sherry Jean Leighty and disposed of her body at the site, according to a search warrant.

Kenneth Leighty hasn’t been charged in the death of his daughter-in-law, but he has been jailed since Friday on charges of attacking an officer when police tried to speak with him about the case.

Sherry Leighty was 21 when she was last seen in October 1999, the month that her divorce from Kenneth’s son, Aaron, was finalized and her father got full custody of the couple’s three children, then ages 7, 3 and 1.

Kenneth Leighty had told police he took Sherry Leighty to work the day of her disappearance, then went to work himself. Police have since determined, however, that he was off work at the time.

Cold-case investigators with Altoona police were recently advised of new information in the case, which is spelled out in search warrants for Leighty’s home, computers and his hunting camp, Huntingdon County District Attorney George Zanic told The Associated Press.

Aaron Leighty has cooperated with police and spoke twice to his father Friday in phone calls that were recorded by investigators, according to a search warrant for Leighty’s home and computers that was reported Monday by the Altoona Mirror.

In one of the calls, Kenneth Leighty allegedly made incriminating remarks, including, “I did it ... It was an accident,” according to the warrant. He went on to tell his son that the body likely would be found along a fence row on his property in Warriors Mark.

Police think he has researched “search warrants, disposal of human remains and/or police tactics and techniques related to searching for buried human remains,” the warrant showed.

“There’s an active investigation and active search for the body,” Zanic told the newspaper. “I’m not at liberty to say what we’ve done or if anything’s been found.”

The young couple’s son has told police he recalls his parents fighting a lot and said he had heard his mother’s remains were buried under an unused outhouse on Kenneth Leighty’s property, according to the warrant.

Zanic told the AP the search continued Tuesday with police cadaver dogs. Zanic said he did not anticipate filing any charges in the woman’s disappearance by day’s end.

Kenneth Leighty was scheduled for a preliminary hearing Wednesday on charges of aggravated assault, simple assault and harassment for his alleged confrontation with police at his home. He remained in the Blair County Prison unable to post $250,000 bond.

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