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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Man Tears Up Town With Big Earth Mover Former Mayor Killed, Water And Phones Out

Robert Weller Associated Press

A part-time snowplow driver on Friday admitted killing the former mayor and using a huge construction vehicle in a demolition run around town, punching holes in four public buildings and knocking out water and phone service.

“I plead guilty to all of it,” Thomas Leask, 50, said in court. Despite his request, the public defender’s office was ordered to appoint an attorney.

Leask was arrested about 4-1/2 hours after the rampage in a grove behind his burning house, which sheriff’s authorities said he had set on fire. He was armed with a .45-caliber pistol and a rifle.

Residents said Leask had been battling with town officials, objecting to being forced to use the town’s water system.

Leask rammed a stolen military surplus front-end loader into the water treatment plant Thursday night, knocking out service and sending thousands of gallons of water into the streets, where it formed sheets of ice.

He also attacked town hall, a fire station and the Post Office in the same way, knocking holes that measured 10 feet high and 15 feet wide.

Residents in this hamlet of 150 people 65 miles southwest of Denver, near the Breckenridge ski resort, were advised to boil drinking water until the plant was repaired. The damage also cut off telephone service.

“He did a pretty good job of shutting the town down,” said Sheriff’s Sgt. Don Anthony.

Leaks was ordered held without bail for investigation of first-degree murder, first-degree arson and criminal mischief. He said he didn’t want a lawyer, but the public defender’s office was ordered to appoint one.

Investigators were trying to determine a motive for the rampage.

A neighbor, David Rowe, 27, was arrested after allegedly trying to thwart officers’ efforts to arrest Leask.

“He opened his window and he was hollering out, letting him know where all our positions are. We decided that wasn’t fair so we arrested him,” Anthony said.

The body of former mayor Willie Morrison was found inside town hall where he had been attending a meeting, said Colorado Bureau of Investigation agent Mark Wilson. He had been shot to death and six Molotov cocktails were found nearby, police said.

Morrison and several town council members had resigned last week in a dispute over a newly hired marshal.

Mac McChesney, who works in a local real estate office, said his son had also been mayor of the town but had quit because he said the situation “is too volatile.”’

“This is like any other place in the mountains,” he said. “People come up here to get away from government.”

At 10,578 feet, Alma touts itself as the highest town in the country.

Pat Pocius, a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, said Morrison, who was in his 40s, was a gifted sculptor who specialized in welding large pieces of art. “He was just starting to do big things as an artist,” she said.

With the town at a standstill, dozens of residents gathered Friday to watch as investigators sifted through debris and workers chipped away at ice covering the streets.

“I think this was just one of those things,” said McChesney. “Somebody just went over the edge. Willie would have been the last person in this town someone would have killed.”

Said Pocius: “This isn’t normal for anywhere.”