published Tuesday, June 12th, 2012

Auburn killing suspect turns himself in

Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson holds up a photo of Desmonte Leonard, 22, of Montgomery, Ala., the suspect wanted for fatally shooting three people, including two former Auburn University football players, and wounding another three people during a party at an apartment complex near the school, at a news conference Sunday, June 10, 2012, in Auburn, Ala. Dawson said that current football player Eric Mack was among those wounded and was being treated at a hospital. The two slain former players were identified as Edward Christian and Ladarious Phillips. The other person killed was identified as Demario Pitts.
Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson holds up a photo of Desmonte Leonard, 22, of Montgomery, Ala., the suspect wanted for fatally shooting three people, including two former Auburn University football players, and wounding another three people during a party at an apartment complex near the school, at a news conference Sunday, June 10, 2012, in Auburn, Ala. Dawson said that current football player Eric Mack was among those wounded and was being treated at a hospital. The two slain former players were identified as Edward Christian and Ladarious Phillips. The other person killed was identified as Demario Pitts.
Photo by Associated Press.

JAY REEVES, Associated Press

PHILLIP RAWLS, Associated Press

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — A man accused of killing three people at a party near Auburn University turned himself in Tuesday after a three-day manhunt that included a tense but fruitless search of a Montgomery home by police tactical units, a defense attorney said.

Attorney Susan James said that her office arranged for Desmonte Leonard to turn himself in at a Montgomery courthouse around 7:50 p.m. after getting word that his family wanted her help.

She said she contacted U.S. Marshals and then she and her son, who works for her as an investigator, picked up Leonard. She wouldn't say where except that it was about 50 miles from Montgomery. They then drove him to meet investigators.

"He was very calm, very tired and very ready to get this over with and very respectful," she said.

She said they had time to talk while driving to Montgomery: "When the full story is told, it may sound different than the perception now."

James said she has not been retained to represent him.

Leonard, 22, is charged with three counts of capital murder in a shooting Saturday night after a fight over a woman. He is accused of wounding three others. The dead included two former Auburn football players, and a current player was among the injured.

"I've got a team of 120-some-odd players right now that are really just trying to navigate what is a lot of questions that aren't answered," Auburn football coach Gene Chizik said. "We're trying to do that as a coaching staff and I think the entire Auburn community is trying to do the same thing."

Two men already have been charged with misleading authorities during their search for Leonard, and Police Chief Kevin Murphy said the man who ferried Leonard to the home could be arrested on similar charges.

Police surrounded a house in Montgomery Monday afternoon thinking Leonard was inside after they received two solid tips. They swarmed a home with tear gas, spy gear and assault rifles, but after a tense, nine-hour search, they discovered Leonard had fled by the time they arrived. At one point, they believed they heard movement and coughing in the attic, but their search that lasted until early Tuesday turned up nothing.

Believing Leonard was hiding in the attic, officers fired tear gas into the rafters and poked through insulation. Investigators said thermal imaging and other technology showed a person was in the attic area and they had heard coughing and movement.

But after midnight, they acknowledged they hadn't heard those noises for several hours. Officials said officers found nothing in the attic — not even an animal that might have fooled detection devices.

After police left, at least two holes were visible in the ceiling and the floor was littered with pieces of drywall and insulation. Scraps of insulation also littered the walkway outside the house. Officials promised to repay the house's owner for the damage.

Leonard had a connection to the house through someone other than the owner, said the city's public safety director, Chris Murphy. He declined to elaborate. The woman is not accused of any wrongdoing.

AP writer Bob Johnson contributed to this report from Auburn.

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