TOXIC UNION

Troubled relationship may have led to shooting death of former Medford cop Ray Leach
Charlene Meixner listens to her defense attorney, David Orf, before her pretrial hearing Thursday in the shooting death of former Medford police officer Ray Leach.Jamie Lusch

A Medford woman facing a murder charge in the death of a former Medford police officer had a history of mixing prescription drugs and alcohol — as well as numerous violence incidents — witnesses testified Thursday in Jackson County Circuit Court.

Family and friends spoke of a troubled and abusive relationship between Charlene Leuzetia Meixner, 46, and Ray Glen Leach, 61. Meixner faces a murder charge and three lesser manslaughter charges after allegedly shooting Leach on Oct. 20, 2010.

The testimony came during a pretrial hearing before Judge Lorenzo Mejia intended to determine what testimony and evidence would be allowed to be presented during Meixner's trial, which is set to begin Sept. 13.

The murder charge alleges that Meixner intentionally killed Leach with a gunshot to the chest inside Leach's home on Delta Waters Road. Meixner also faces a single count of first-degree and two counts of second-degree manslaughter. The second count of second-degree manslaughter is based on the theory that Meixner aided in a suicide attempt by Leach, said Jackson County Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe.

Meixner looked on with a small smile as Hoppe questioned her son, Andrew Alexander, a reserve police officer with the Phoenix Police Department, about Meixner's relationship with Leach.

Alexander said he met Leach when he was a teen and considered him to be a father figure. Alexander had lived with his mother and Leach for a period of time in the summer before the shooting, and he and Leach shared text messages up to the night of the shooting, Alexander said.

He said his mother had a habit of mixing Ambien, a prescription sleep aid, and alcohol. When Leach would try to stop her from exceeding her dosage, or from drinking, Meixner would sometimes lash out violently, striking and kicking Leach, Alexander said.

"She wanted more," Alexander said. "He would try to block her way. That would, in turn, provoke a violent response."

According to a government website, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth, Ambien belongs to a class of medications called sedative-hypnotics. It works by slowing activity in the brain to allow sleep.

Alexander said he never saw Leach retaliate, even after being kicked in the groin. He said he felt some of the domestic violence incidents should have been reported, but Leach never called police. And Alexander didn't want to see his mother go to jail, he said.

"She couldn't even remember it (after she'd sober up)," Alexander said.

Police in August were called to Leach's home during a domestic dispute during which a .38-caliber handgun — the same gun Meixner allegedly used to shoot Leach — was taken from Meixner. The gun was returned to her eight days later.

A search through court records showed no restraining orders filed by either Meixner or Leach.

Hoppe announced in court Thursday that Meixner had applied for and received a concealed handgun license in 2008, and that she had a drunk driving conviction.

Ray Leach served in the Army, then began a career as an emergency medical technician and volunteer firefighter before working for the U.S. Forest Service. Ultimately he became a member of the Medford Police Department where he was a field training officer, a defensive tactics instructor, and was later promoted to detective where he specialized in computer analysis.

Leach's tenure with the MPD ended abruptly in 2002 after he was sentenced to 10 days in jail for driving under the influence of intoxicants when he smashed his car into a parked Medford police cruiser. It was Leach's second drunk driving conviction in two years. He resigned from the force.

Alexander said he was worried about Leach during this "heavy drinking" period.

"I was concerned he was suicidal," Alexander said. "He had so many guns."

But Alexander did not think Leach was suicidal at the time of the shooting, he said.

Leach's co-workers at Cash Connection, a Central Point pawn shop, along with another former girlfriend of Leach's, testified he told them about incidents of violence, and threats of murder and suicide. (Correction: The name of the business where Leach worked has been corrected in this version.)

Leach told them Meixner had put a gun to his head and chest, and she had put a gun in her own mouth. She had given Leach a black eye in the spring of 2010, they said,

"It seemed like there was always something going on," said Josh Christian, a manager at the pawn store.

Lori Ann Warren said she had been in an off-again-on-again relationship with Leach for 10 years before his death. On Oct 16, 2010, just four days before the shooting, Leach had cooked her a birthday dinner at his house, Warren said.

While there, Warren said she found a loaded semi-automatic handgun sitting in a basket in Leach's living room.

"I asked him what's this for," Warren said, adding that Leach replied, "for my protection (from Charlene Meixner)."

Warren said Meixner was jealous of her relationship with Leach, and harassed and insulted her. Warren said she told Leach, "you need to get your dog off my tail."

Warren said Leach had invited her to spend the night on Oct. 16, but she declined.

"I had an eerie feeling," Warren said.

Meixner telephoned police at about 8 p.m. Oct. 20, 2010, saying Leach had been shot in the chest, authorities said.

While the testimony Thursday focused on Leach's actions, an acquaintance of Meixner's previously reported that Meixner told him that Leach was an abusive drunk, who had hit her and threatened to kill her and himself.

In an Oct. 10, 2010, story in the Mail Tribune, Keith Wetlesen said he once saw bruises on Meixner's arms and shoulders that she said came from a jealous altercation with Leach.

About three weeks before the shooting, Wetlesen said, Meixner told him she still had belongings at Leach's property, including an RV trailer, which she wanted to retrieve.

Wetlesen said he advised Meixner not to go there. Meixner said "she could handle him," he said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.


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