Kenneth Leighty, 65, of Altoona, was being investigated in the disappearance and presumed death of Sherry Jean Leighty, search warrants showed, but he hasn’t been charged. He has been jailed since Friday on charges of attacking an officer when police tried to speak with him about the case. Court records don’t list an attorney for Leighty.
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 the Altoona police 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 would likely be found along a fence row on his property in Warriors Mark Township about 25 miles northeast of Altoona.
Police believe 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.