Harrowing kidnapping ended with Utah man's death, charges say
Christopher Leech allegedly shot a man in the back, then handed the gun to another man and gave him an ultimatum: finish the victim off or be killed as well.
Police on Tuesday found Cleat Knight, 34, dead and frozen, lying beneath snow drifts near Snowbasin Resort, in Weber County.
Wednesday, they arrested Leech and three other people charged with pulling off a harrowing kidnapping and murder that was apparently sparked by a drug debt.
The case began in late November, when Tina Soules drove Andrew Beck to a garage on Mann Way (4100 West) in West Valley City, according to 3rd District Court charging documents.
Once at the garage, Leech tied Beck to a chair. Then, he had a conversation with Soules and two other people Viliamu Seumanu and Theron Myore about how they were going to kill Beck and Knight, an acquaintance of Beck. During the conversation, Myore revealed he was carrying a .40 caliber Beretta, but Soules spoke up against killing Beck.
After several hours of being held captive, on Nov. 23, Leech, Seumanu, Myore and Soules loaded Beck into a truck. He was blindfolded and his hands were tied with wire, the charging documents reveal. Knight also was in the back of the truck, bound and blindfolded, though the documents do not say how he got there.
The four suspected killers, along with the captive Beck and Knight, then set off for Weber County. En route, "Knight pleaded for his life and asked them not to go through with their plans," the charging documents add.
The group stopped near a gate in Weber Canyon, according to the documents. Beck and Knight walked about 100 yards, at which point Leech shot Knight in the back. Leech then handed the gun to Beck and ordered him to shoot Knight. If he didn't, Leech reportedly threatened, he would die, too.
Beck fired. Knight "was left alone where he was shot," the court documents say.
The documents do not explain how detectives cracked the case and found Cleat's snowy grave, though police have said the killing stemmed from a drug debt. There is no evidence of gang involvement, according to police.
West Valley City Deputy Police Chief Mike Powell described Leech, Soules, Seumanu and Myore as the "primary" suspects in the case, but did not rule out additional arrests.
"This is still an active investigation and we will be following up any new leads or information that develops now that the [victim's and his alleged slayers] names are out there," Powell said Friday.
After the state Medical Examiner's Office conducted an autopsy, Powell on Thursday confirmed the victim's identity. As for the cause of death, Powell would say only that Knight had sustained an unspecified number of gunshot wounds.
The four suspects in the slaying Leech, 35; Seumanu, 42; Soules, 41; and Myore, 42 continued to be held Friday at the Salt Lake County jail, each in lieu of $1.5 million bail. All four have initial court appearances scheduled for Tuesday.
Knight had gone missing Nov. 23, though relatives did not report his disappearance until Dec. 8 to South Salt Lake police. Subsequent investigation which Powell declined to detail indicated that Knight had been kidnapped in West Valley City.
From there, the victim and his abductors allegedly went to South Salt Lake and then ended up in Weber County.
What Knight allegedly owed, and for what kinds of drugs, were details police also did not release, though Powell indicated the substances could "be a little bit of everything" given the "colorful" criminal background of the victim.
Indeed, Utah court records show a list of cases for Knight stretching back to 1999, ranging from numerous drug possession offenses to theft, burglary, forgery, fleeing police and providing false information.
Stephen Gehrke, spokesman for the Utah Department of Corrections, said Knight had been in and out of prison since February 2002, last serving time from April 2011 to December 2012.
Efforts Friday to reach Knight's family for comment were not successful.
As for the suspects, who also have long criminal histories going back to the 1990s: Leech and Seumanu are charged with murder and two counts of aggravated kidnapping, all first-degree felonies, as well as one count of obstruction of justice, a second-degree felony. Soules and Myore also face murder and kidnapping counts.