Police: Suspect in forest slayings acted fast to return gun


Published: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 18, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
OCALA - The man charged in the slayings of two college students tried to get the stolen murder weapon back to the owner as soon as he got back home from the Ocala National Forest on Jan. 5, according to investigators' reports.
Leo Boatman, 19, also tried to sell the AK-47 before the slayings, friends told investigators.
Boatman, 19, and his uncle Victor Boatman, 38, had been holding the unloaded AK-47 high-powered rifle for their friend Lucas Merryfield when Leo ran off with it to the Ocala National Forest on Jan. 3 - the same day Amber Marie Peck and John Parker went camping there, according to Marion County's sheriff's reports released Tuesday.
Victor Boatman told detectives the next time he saw Leo or the AK-47 was on Jan. 5.
Victor Boatman told officials Leo walked into the mobile home the two were sharing with a "foul body odor" and shouted "I've got Luke's gun, tell him to come get it," before pulling out the rifle with a loaded magazine.
Merryfield picked up the gun from the pair's home the next day, the same day Leo Boatman put a .22-caliber rifle with a scope on lay-away, according to detectives.
Parker and Peck, both 26, were two Santa Fe Community College students and members of a school environmental club. They were spending an overnight camping trip Jan. 3 near Hidden Pond in the forest when they turned up missing. Family members found their bodies by the pond on Jan. 7, that Saturday morning.
Investigators received a tip from motorist Joey Tierney that Saturday night that he picked up a man near the murder scene on Jan. 4. carrying a blue nylon bag. Tierney said he gave him a ride to a convenience store and a motel. He told officials the hitchhiker told him he had a gun in the bag, but he didn't see it.
Tierney's tip led detectives to Leo Boatman.
According to the investigation reports, however, the tip almost didn't pan out because of a pellet gun Leo Boatman tried to push off on detectives as the rifle he had with him during his ride with Tierney.
Law enforcement officials' first interview with Leo Boatman was about 8:20 a.m. Jan. 9 at his mobile home in Largo. Boatman showed investigators the blue nylon bag containing the pellet gun while he chatted about his activities in the days surrounding the slayings.
He said he went to the forest on a camping trip to "clear his head."
According to the investigative report, officials had initially believed the tip from Tierney "was of no value" after seeing the pellet gun. But then word came from a detective who had been visiting Leo's sister, Rosezilla Boatman, in Clearwater. Leo had been accused recently of stealing an AK-47 from Merryfield, the sister told investigators.
Detectives immediately transported Leo and Victor to the Largo Police Department.
Leo kept talking at the station, then started to clam up after law enforcement officials told him they had evidence he had been in possession of an AK-47. Leo had actually purchased the pellet gun after he came back from the camping trip, detectives learned.
Leo was then charged with stealing the AK-47 and placed in the Pinellas County Jail. Officials then tied the weapon to the slayings through ballistics tests.
Murder charges were filed against him later that night in Marion County and he was picked up by officials here.
Reports also explain how crime scene technicians found several spent shell casings, which can be very valuable in linking a weapon to a crime scene, said Marion Sheriff's Capt. Dennis Strow. They contain what technicians call highly individualized "tool marks," from the ejector and on the primer.
At about 5 p.m. on Jan.10, the day law enforcement held a news conference to announced an arrest, the crime lab called to say, "That's the gun," Strow said.
Sheriff Ed Dean ordered that the family be briefed as well as the officers who worked on the case before the press conference.
"You've worked your butts off ," they were told, "this is what we've got. By 7:30 p.m., the press was briefed, Strow said.
A few other interesting details were revealed in the incident reports. According to Victor, his nephew Leo dated a girl who worked at Hooters in Largo, where the suspect also worked as kitchen help. He also was dating a stripper.
Leo reportedly went fishing the day after he came back from Largo and put a .22 rifle on lay-away, which might have lead to Sheriff Ed Dean labeling the suspect a would-be serial killer.

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