Advertisement

Accused Wife Killer Left Trail of Bizarre Behavior : Crime: Lt. Cmdr. Leonard Eddington’s wife vanished in 1987. Last week, her remains were found buried behind their home. Eddington had kept people away from the spot and ordered in-laws to leave.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

In the days after his wife’s disappearance from their Jamul home in 1987, an agitated Lt. Cmdr. Leonard Eddington II refused to let family members walk in a ravine behind his home.

Acting “very funny, very uneasy,” he steered them into different directions, one relative told San Diego County sheriff’s detectives at the time.

Days later, the Navy officer said he felt trapped by the presence of his visitors--his wife’s parents, brother, sister and her husband--and said he was being framed in Vickie’s death. He ordered them to leave and never return.

In affidavits filed by sheriff’s detectives in support of authorized searches at Eddington’s home, relatives and neighbors detailed Eddington’s bizarre and seemingly inexplicable behavior before and after Vickie Eddington’s disappearance on July 30, 1987.

Advertisement

Authorities unearthed her remains Saturday and arrested Eddington the same day. Charged with his wife’s murder, Eddington is in County Jail on $400,000 bail, with an arraignment scheduled Monday.

Deputies already have taken his blood, hair and saliva samples, but a prosecutor says that, so far, the case against the North Island Naval Air Station maintenance officer is “strictly circumstantial.”

At a court hearing Tuesday, the prosecutor, Jeff Dusek, said Vickie and Leonard Eddington’s 8-year-old daughter answered the door when detectives served the search warrants Saturday.

“You’re here to find Mommy in the back yard,” Lydia Eddington was quoted as saying.

Advertisement

About a month after Vickie Eddington’s Volvo was found on the side of a highway about 4 miles from their home, Eddington inquired about having a contractor move some brush into a ditch on his property, the records show.

When nobody could do the job quickly enough, Eddington climbed aboard a bulldozer himself and pushed 8 to 10 feet of dirt into the ravine.

One year later, another neighbor recalled, he was back out on the property with leveling equipment after a heavy rain. All the while, he kept everyone away. It was in this area that Vickie Eddington’s skeletal remains were found.

The 43-year-old Navy officer was separated from his 29-year-old wife at the time she disappeared. He lived in a mobile home on his mother’s property one-quarter mile away from the couple’s house.

Advertisement

Although their relationship was considerably strained, and Vickie Eddington had decided on divorce, Leonard Eddington said he often baby-sat for his children, now aged 14, 10 and 8.

The affidavit quotes neighbors and family members as saying Vickie Eddington changed the locks on her home in either March or April of 1987 because her husband had been stealing food from her refrigerator.

The night Vickie Eddington disappeared, her husband said, he arrived at their house at about 6:30 p.m. for dinner with Vickie and two of their children. At 7:30 p.m., she went to bed, setting the clock for 10 p.m., so she could begin her night nursing job at Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa an hour later, he said.

Eddington said he gave showers to the children, put them to bed and then watched television, although he could not remember what he had been watching.

Advertisement

In one interview with detectives, he said he had to wake his wife after she turned off the alarm at 10 p.m., and later she asked him to lock the sliding glass doors after he left. In another interview five days later, he said he was half asleep when his wife, fully dressed, walked by and advised him to go sleep in her water bed.

A unit clerk at Grossmont Hospital told detectives that she phoned Vickie’s home every 10 to 15 minutes between 11:45 p.m. until 3 a.m. The clerk, Debbie Dicke, said she let the phone ring for about six minutes each time. Nobody answered.

The morning after his wife left for Grossmont, Eddington said he rounded up the kids to take them for swimming lessons at the La Mesa YMCA and passed his wife’s Volvo on the way.

During one interview, he said, he spotted the car, with a flat right tire, at 7:30 a.m. At a second interview, he said he had taken the children to his mother’s house to get his car at 7:30 a.m.

Advertisement

A nursing supervisor at Grossmont said a man who did not identify himself called twice inquiring about Vickie’s whereabouts. She said the calls came in at 7 a.m. and 7:10 a.m., according to the affidavits.

Eddington told detectives that he checked his children into the YMCA at “exactly” 8:02 a.m. and phoned Grossmont at 8:30 a.m.

During the interview the day after she disappeared, Eddington, perspiring heavily, referred to his wife in the past tense and asked if he was “under oath.”

At one point, Eddington was asked point-blank if he killed his wife.

Advertisement

“He did not give any direct answer but became very agitated and defensive,” detectives wrote.

Relatives were surprised Vickie’s car was found at the corner of California 94 and Lyons Valley Road. She normally took a different route to Grossmont that got her to work much more quickly.

Although the Volvo belonged to Vickie, her husband once tried to sell it and was seen changing its spark plugs five days before she was reported missing, according to the affidavits. He told detectives he did not recall whether the spare was in the car, even though it was in the same compartment as the tools he had used to install the spark plugs.

He felt sure the spare was inside two to three weeks earlier, he told authorities.

Advertisement

Detectives asked Eddington why his handprints had been found on the flat tire. He said it might have happened when he was changing the oil and “needed a lot more torque” to drain the fluid.

Months before his wife disappeared, Eddington began placing personal ads in local newspapers. “Naval officer would like to meet sincere woman for permanent relationship,” one ad read, said the affidavits.

Karen Field, then a 31-year-old legal secretary with a 6-year-old son, answered. She and Eddington met at an Old Town restaurant in March, 1987. Eddington introduced himself as “Len Edinger” who worked on the “nuclear side” of the military and needed to maintain multiple aliases. He said he had been divorced since October, 1985.

One week after they met, he gave her a yellow-metal “engagement-type” ring with a solitary stone that he said marked his commitment. The day before Vickie was reported missing, Eddington and Field had lunch in downtown San Diego. They agreed that Field would take Eddington to the airport the next day, July 31, for a flight to Seattle that he never took.

Advertisement

The night Vickie disappeared, July 30, Eddington postponed a visit to Field’s home, saying he had to help his brother Larry with a broken-down car. By 7:30 p.m. that night, he called Field and told her he planned to work on his brother’s car the rest of the night. He never mentioned having dinner with his wife.

After Vickie’s disappearance, he spoke to Field every day. His tone became harsher, cruder, she recalled after calling detectives to provide details about Eddington.

“He wasn’t very nice, and I was shocked,” she said.

Eventually, they broke off their relationship.

Advertisement

The day Vickie was reported missing, a neighbor spoke with Leonard Eddington across her fence. Paulette Johnson, the neighbor, quoted Eddington as saying detectives administered “a mental beating” during their questioning.

“I feel like they are going to come and get me at any moment,” Johnson said Eddington told her. “I just know SWAT’s going to come and get me.”

Four days later, Johnson confronted Eddington about his apparent lack of interest in finding his wife.

“Maybe tomorrow I’ll go check for her,” she said Eddington told her.

Advertisement

He told Johnson and another neighbor, Valerie Tallman, that he had called San Diego Sheriff’s detectives four times that day. No calls were every made, according to the lead detective in the case.

Neighbors watched as Eddington pulled a trailer and bulldozer onto his property three to four weeks after his wife disappeared but were told to keep away. Eddington had mentioned that he wanted to cut a pad for his motor home and that’s why he needed the equipment. That work was never done.

Eddington became increasingly nervous about the continuing sheriff’s investigation, which was picked up by a special law enforcement task force in May with renewed vigor, according to the affidavits.

“With the way it’s going,” he told his sister-in-law Nancy Olson, “I couldn’t handle being stuck on the wrong side of those bars and not be able to get out.”

Advertisement


Advertisement
Advertisement