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Suspect Arrested in ‘Thrill Killings’ of 6

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

A man described by authorities as a withdrawn loner was arrested Thursday in connection with the killings of six people, who were gunned down at close range at a local convenience store and a pizza parlor.

Sacramento County Sheriff Glen Craig said Eric Royce Leonard, 22, who lives near both shooting scenes, was arrested at his apartment about 9 p.m. after ballistics experts identified a .25-caliber pistol owned by his father as the weapon used in all six of the killings.

Earlier Thursday, investigators interviewed the suspect’s father, who turned over the pistol.

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“The father said he had known for a while that something was not really right,” Sheriff’s Sgt. Lena Derheim said in a telephone interview.

“His reaction was very docile, very staid, very stoic,” Craig said of Leonard’s demeanor. He described the suspect as a loner.

“He was the kind of person who wouldn’t stand out in a crowd. He would be on the fringes of the crowd,” added Sheriff’s Lt. Ray Biondi.

Authorities said they had no motive. Earlier they had described the slayer they were seeking as a “thrill killer,” who apparently murdered for personal satisfaction, because little cash was taken in the incidents.

“The cash registers were not cleaned out. It was almost like it was an afterthought,” Derheim said.

Leonard had been questioned shortly after the first killings Feb. 12 in a convenience store half a block from his apartment north of downtown, Derheim said.

“He was not a super strong suspect, but he was one of those names that was kept on the back burner,” the sergeant said. “He had been identified as being seen near the store, and he didn’t have an alibi for where he was when the shooting occurred.”

“Someone matching Leonard’s description had been seen dressed in a trench coat at both crimes scenes,” Derheim added.

The slayings occurred on Tuesday evenings, with three people shot to death at the suburban Quik Stop convenience store and, a week later, Feb. 19, three more were slain at a nearby Roundtable Pizza parlor.

Investigators interviewed Leonard again on Feb. 25, a Monday, the day before authorities feared additional killings might take place. Craig noted that there were no more “thrill killings.”

Times staff writer John H. Lee in Los Angeles contributed to this story.


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