Twenty-five years after a man’s death is ruled suicide, an autopsy reveals he was murdered.

Leroy Drieth

Was Leroy’s death an “auto suicide?”

CASE DETAILS

On Memorial Day, 1968, 18-year old Leroy Drieth had just left his girlfriend’s house in Mead, Colorado, when his car slammed into a tree  He was killed instantly. The coroner’s ruling was suicide. Twenty-five years later, at his family’s request, Leroy’s body was exhumed for an autopsy.  Leroy’s sister, Vickie Mahrling, had always been convinced that her brother was murdered:

“I took a vow that I would do this for my brother. And I don’t feel like I can stop until it’s done, because I would be letting him down. And I already feel like the authorities let him down.  Obviously someone took his life and that someone has to stand up and talk for him.”

Leroy’s sister, Vickie, investigated

Leroy was the oldest of four children. At the age of 17, he fell in love with sixteen-year-old, Patty. A year later, they were engaged.

On the day he died, Leroy went to a party at Patty’s house. He left the party in the late afternoon. A block and a half away, his car smashed head-on into a tree. The first people on the scene were Leroy’s brother and his father, Henry:

“I tried to hug him, and I said, ‘I’m gonna go get you some help.’ So I ran to the truck and told Doug, I said, ‘Run to the grocery store and call the ambulance.’”

When medics arrived, a bystander made a comment that Leroy had fought with his girlfriend and that he had said he was going to kill himself.  Delbert Mikkelson was the ambulance driver:

“The coroner came to the hospital, went over what happened, and then I was the first one to relay the story to him that he had had a fight with his girlfriend and was going to kill himself.”

Leroy’s body was exhumed

Based on that information, the coroner decided no autopsy was necessary. He called Leroy’s death “auto suicide.” Freda Bruce is Leroy’s mother:

“I went to the district attorney in Greeley and I said, “I don’t believe this was a suicide, I believe it was a murder and I need for you to investigate it.’  And he was very rude. He said, ‘You’re just a distraught parent. There’s no reason for us to investigate this. You just go on home and get over it.’  I just cried.  I never got over it.”

For eleven-year-old Vickie, Leroy’s death was the defining moment in her life:

“I remember that my mom was crying for a long time, and even though I was only eleven, I knew there was something wrong. But I had to wait until I was an adult to attempt to solve the problem. I never did believe that Leroy committed suicide.”

In June of 1988, Vickie paid a surprise visit to the coroner’s office. She expected to be stonewalled.  Instead, they told her they thought that Leroy’s death hadn’t been fully investigated. According to Vickie, the coroner suggested that she hire a private investigator:

“I felt like it was a real strange thing for the authorities to bring it to my attention, that something’s wrong here.”

A startling discovery; knife wounds!

Vickie became her own investigator. She knocked on doors, talked to neighbors, and looked for anyone who knew Leroy’s girlfriend , Patty, or remembered the day he died:

“According to the townspeople, there was a party going on at Patty’s house, and there had been a fight, but not between Patty and Leroy. There had been several other family members there that did not like Leroy and that had been drinking all day.”

Vickie placed an ad in the local paper asking Patty to contact her.  It worked. When they met, Patty denied that she ever told anyone that she and Leroy had fought and that he said he was going to take his life. But, according to Vickie, that’s all Patty was willing to say:

“I felt like Patty knew answers, but was reluctant to talk.”

Vickie and her family decided to have Leroy’s body exhumed, hoping an autopsy might provide some answers.  Dr. Patrick Allen, a forensic pathologist and medical examiner, examined the body and made a shocking discovery:

“It was immediately apparent that this young man had sustained, actually, two incised wounds to the neck. And they were very characteristic of what I see all the time in persons who’ve received stab or slash wounds to the neck from a knife.”

Vickie was stunned. Leroy’s neck showed two cuts: a stab wound, nearly two inches long, and a deep, four-inch slash that had severed his windpipe. Based on this information, the cause of Leroy’s death was changed from “auto suicide” to “undetermined.” But who had attacked Leroy and why? Vickie Mahrling thinks Patty knows the truth:

“In retrospect, everything leads back to Patty’s house. Every time I think of a scenario of what happened, the same conclusion and the same thought is that it started at Patty’s house with an argument.”

Leroy arrived for the barbeque at around five 5:00 P.M. Patty’s former sister-in-law,
Carolyn Wertz, was at the party:

“Leroy came over that day and a lot of Patty’s family was there. And everyone had been drinking. I was married to Patty’s brother, I was living in the house with the family, for about eight months, before and after this happened. And Patty’s family and Leroy had a slight argument, kind of a racial argument over girlfriends and boyfriends.”

After the argument, Patty walked Leroy to his car. Vickie thinks that just before he left, Leroy was attacked by one of Patty’s family members:

“I believe that they continued arguing and that a male person just quickly reached out and cut Leroy’s throat.”

Patrick Allen thinks Leroy was fleeing for his life when he crashed:

“I feel that Leroy lost consciousness or lost control of the vehicle because of the injuries. He would have been in pain and would have been extremely afraid, but the actual cause of death was injuries sustained from the automobile crash.”

Vickie claims that Patty contacted her again and offered to provide an account of the party. But when Vickie called to set up a meeting, she found that Patty’s phone had been disconnected. Vickie is still hoping that Patty will come forward with the truth.


Watch this case now on Amazon Prime in season eight with Robert Stack and in season four with Dennis Farina. Also available on YouTube with Dennis Farina. Various seasons available now on Hulu.

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19 Comments

  1. Unknown Visions

    Leroy’s Murderer is long dead

    Reply

  2. guy in the hat

    blood is thicker than water. the more time that passes the easier it is for those who know to hide the truth. let it go.

    Reply

  3. Carrie

    It’s pretty obvious what happened. One of the family members stabbed him as he was leaving. Probably right after Patty walked away. She clearly knows who did it (if she didn’t flat out see it happen) and won’t say anything because they’re undoubtedly still alive. Did she have any brothers? Male cousins? If they weren’t at least brought in for questioning that’s sheer laziness on the part of detectives. I doubt it was her father, but my bet is 100% on a brother or cousin. Maybe an uncle.
    And I would agree with one of the other commenters who mentioned that the individual who was standing nearby the wreck who volunteered the info that “he intended to commit suicide” was involved. Either as a witness who then diverted a homicide investigation or they may have actually been the perpetrator of the crime.

    Lazy police work. Any officer who was assigned to investigate this – then or now -should be ashamed to ever collect a pension upon retirement.

    Reply

    • Vickie Mahrling

      Thank you for commenting. I am Lerpys sister and I am ashamed of the investigation then and now!

      Reply

      • Jim humphrey

        Hi Vicky.just a thought, you might want try cold Justice. It is a tv show and has a pretty decent success rate. It’s probablythebest of the true crime tv shows. Even at this point I think your brothers murder is solveable.

        Reply

  4. Sonya Roseman (actress from England)

    nearly 50 years and still nobody has paid for this.. How awful? what a handsome young man. So sorry for his family. He deserves justice. if t was the father well he gonna be long gone. Horrid cover up? How mean and cruel? Much love to his sister and family. XX

    Reply

    • Vickie Mahrling

      Thank you for watching Leroy story and commenting. This is Vickie, Leroy’s sister. It has been very disappointing, that the law enforcement has ignored this case.

      Reply

  5. LUIS FREEH

    SO! 16 YEAR OLD PATTY DROVE (?) PATTY TO HER BOYFRIENDS HOUSE AND IT WAS IN THE BACK SEAT OR TRUNK BEFORE HE ARRIVED AT 16 yrs. PATTY’S THEN SHE STABBED HIM AND SAID “GONE IN 60 SECONDS” KNOWING THE (?) PATTY WAS IN HIS BACK SEAT WHO THEN SLIT HIS THROAT OPEN 4 INCHES. AND JUMPED OUT OF THE CAR.

    Reply

  6. LUIS FREEH

    SOMEONE STABBED HIM TWO INCH AND SOME ONE IN THE BACK SEAT HE DIDN’T KNOW WAS THERE SLIT HIS THROAT 4 INCHES AND JUMPED OUT! LEAVINFG HIM TO CRASH.

    Reply

  7. LUIS FREEH

    HAVE “U” HEARD OF GONE IN 60 SECONDS? THATS ALL THE LIFE VICKI’S BROTHER WOULD HAVE HAD AFTER A 4 INCH CUT TO THE WIND PIPE. GONE! BYE BYE WHY A CAR CRASH SIMULATION? ZERO TO 60mph! “ZERO” 0 WERE DOES 0 FIT IN? TWO NUMBER’S 0 60 TWO NECK WOUNDS TWO KNIVES TWO DARS TWO PARTIES. O SECONDS FROM 2 inch WOUND TWO PATTIES!

    Reply

    • Vickie Mahrling

      Thank you for watching. Leroy was my brother and he was murdered. I’m upset that the law enforcement has ignored this case.

      Reply

  8. Mary Martin

    I knew Patty and Leroy from school. There were rumors shortly after Leroy’s death that it was not a suicide. I also heard rumors that Patty’s family didn’t like Leroy because he was white and Patty was Mexican. I really do not have any information, but I do feel that one of Patty’s relatives was responsible for what happened that evening.

    Reply

    • Vickie

      Thank you for watching and commenting. I would like to hear any stories you remember about Leroy. We went to the authorities 2 weeks after murder, after my family pulled ourselves together enough. It was impossible for him to kill himself, and get rid of the knife. I hope and pray for justice.

      Reply

  9. Ernest

    The person that stated that he was wanting to commit suicide at the crash site must know something aswell.

    Reply

  10. lisa

    I believe it may have been the father becuase of how intense the argument between the two seemed . obviously patty is hiding /covering for her loved ones.

    Reply

    • Roy

      Patty walked the victim to his car. Key word: “walked”. How about Patty cut his throat as soon as he got in the car, cranked the engine, and looked away from her to check his six? He sped away from Patty and hit the tree.

      Reply

  11. Anonymous

    bless them

    Reply

  12. halea

    I too believe this Patty woman knows what happened. She is obviously covering for a family member.But if she truly loved him she would come forward and stop the lies. I would be in agony if I lived with that for this long. Suck it up buttercup!…

    Reply