June 1, 2008 in City

Woman’s 1983 suffocation still unsolved

By The Spokesman-Review
 
Video: Cold Case: Jean McLean
CHRISTOPHER ANDERSON photo

Marcia Ogle has spent the last several summers in Coeur d’Alene near her family members.
(Full-size photo)

When they were girls, Marcia Ogle and her younger sister used to pack a lunch and walk down to Coeur d’Alene’s lakeside for the day – a place Ogle can see from her condominium balcony.

“I think of her when I see kids on the beach,” said Ogle, 90.

Her sister, Jean McLean, was killed in Spokane in August 1983. This summer marks the 25th anniversary of the homicide, but Ogle remembers the day she heard the horrific news like it was yesterday.

McLean was found in her home, at 1812 W. Riverside, apartment 207, with her hands and feet bound. She’d been suffocated and her second-story apartment ransacked, said Spokane police Det. Marty Hill, the most recent detective working on her case.

Although police didn’t disclose it at the time, Hill says the killer used McLean’s typewriter to write a note on a business card and left it sitting on her back. Detectives won’t divulge what the card said, only that it was a menacing note police think was intended to mislead them.

“I don’t know if it was a robbery gone bad or an intentional murder,” Hill said.

McLean, who was 64 and working as a real estate agent at the time of her death, was a Coeur d’Alene native. She had spent most of her adult life in Colorado, where she was a mother of four and homemaker. McLean moved back to Spokane after divorcing her husband, Bob Leach, when she was 59.

“Jean had a very outgoing personality and was quite popular,” Ogle said. “To know her was to love her.”

A change in routine

Every day McLean would read her morning paper, then lay it on her neighbor’s doorstep and ring the doorbell three times. The neighbor would respond in kind with the afternoon paper, The Spokane Chronicle.

But on Aug. 20 the newspaper on McLean’s doorstep stayed put, and phone calls to her apartment went unanswered.”Whoever the person was who did it crawled up over her balcony,” Hill said. The front door was locked.

Only a few items were missing from the apartment and nothing of value, police said.

At the time of the killing the area where McLean lived was considered “sort of a yuppie neighborhood,” Hill said. Even then her 80-something mother would drive by the apartment and say: “I wish she’d close the drapes. You can see right in there,” according to a police report.

Family members and co-workers at the now defunct real estate company were questioned, police said. One of Bob Leach’s nephews was briefly considered a suspect, but police determined he was out of town when she was killed, Hill said.

Recently, Ogle said, she recalled two “odd” women who had befriended her sister. The three of them showed up at a party at Ogle’s Spokane house the night before the killing. “One said she’d been a schoolteacher and the other a nun that had run away from her convent,” Ogle said. “They kept telling everyone they were Jean’s best friends.”

Ogle remembered a “peapod” necklace one of the women had worn. And a couple days after the murder when family members were allowed into McLean’s apartment, she found it in a drawer.

“It spooked me out, so I threw it over the fence as far as I could,” Ogle said. The elder sister couldn’t remember the women’s names, and police said there was no mention of them in reports.

But police say it’s recalled memory like that – which Ogle apparently didn’t think was important at the time of the killing – that sometimes can help solve cases.

Four years ago, detectives submitted evidence to the Washington State Patrol Crime Lab. Hill is working with the lab on processing DNA on four items found at the crime scene.

“With new advances in technology, we are hoping the DNA left behind will help locate the killer,” Hill said.

History

McLean was the second of five children and 14 months younger than Ogle.

The McLeans came from a pioneer family, according to archived Spokane Chronicle articles. John M. McLean, the girls’ grandfather, was the first sheriff of Whitman County.

Jean McLean’s family spent many years moving around the country when their father worked for Standard Oil Co. But when the eldest girls reached high school age, they settled in Coeur d’Alene.

After McLean and Ogle graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School, they roomed together while attending Cheney Normal School, now Eastern Washington University.

“It was against the law to smoke on (the college) campus, so we’d go across the street and sit on the church steps and smoke,” Ogle said.

McLean went to school to be a nurse, but during internships she discovered she became too emotionally involved with patients, Ogle said. Before finishing school, she met and married Bob Leach. The two moved to Colorado where he worked in the hotel supply business. The couple had four children – Marilyn Nelson, Catherine Leach, Scott Leach and the late Sandra Hagen.

Catherine Leach said recently that her mother “was really good in the kitchen. Just about everything she made was good. But the green-tomato pie was not a success.”

After divorcing and moving back to Spokane, “my mom tried a variety of careers,” said Leach, 62.

“She went to school to learn handwriting analysis,” Leach said. “She thought that was something she could do from home. I was in college at the time, and I quit writing to her. I would type my letters.”

But Leach thought if her mother could have been anything, “I think she would have been an artist.”


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