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Eric Royce LEONARD






A.K.A.: "Thrill Killer"
Classification: Murderer
Characteristics: Robberies
Number of victims: 6
Date of murders: February 12/19, 1991
Date of arrest: June 6, 1991
Date of birth: 1969
Victims profile: Zaid Obeid and Stephen Anderson (employees of a convenience store), and Thor Johnson (convenience store customer) / Sarah Crook, Kyle Reynolds and Andrea Coldangelo (Pizza joint employees)
Method of murder: Shooting (.25-caliber pistol)
Location: Sacramento, California, USA
Status: Sentenced to death on June 13, 1996

The Supreme Court of California


opinion S054291


On February 19, 1991, Eric Royce Leonard killed three people in a Round Table Pizza on Watt Avenue, and got the nickname of "pizza thrill killer." One week earlier, Leonard killed 3 people at a Quik Stop on Auburn Boulevard, taking only beef jerky from the crime scene. He says "the day after the Round Table Pizza killings, he came into the writing center at American River College and did some work. The police later confiscated his folder. The Writing Center gave him a no-credit."


Eric Royce Leonard

On February 12, 1991, a lone gunman entered a Quik Stop market on Auburn Boulevard and shot two employees and a customer from close range. The shootings appeared to be a robbery, although nothing was taken except a tin of beef jerky and a few other items.

A week later, three workers in a Watt Avenue pizza parlor were killed in a similar manner. Authorities believed that the slayings were done for kicks. The unknown killer was quickly dubbed the “thrill killer” by the media, as an outburst of coverage followed the developments.

A massive manhunt ensued, and may have deterred the killer from making further attacks. But many months passed before police found a troubled young man named Eric Royce Leonard, who then became the 27th Sacramento area resident waiting on death row.

Victims:  Zaid Obeid, Stephen Anderson (employees of a convenience store), Thor Johnson (convenience store customer?), Sarah Crook, Kyle Reynolds, Andrea Coldangelo (Pizza joint employees). 

Crimes occured 2-12-1991 and 2-19-1991. 

.25 cal handgun was murder weapon.


Supreme Court Upholds Death Sentence of Man Who Blurted ‘I Am Guilty’

By Kenneth Ofgang -

Friday, May 18, 2007

A Sacramento man who drew widespread headlines when he raised his hand at a pretrial hearing and blurted out “I am guilty” was properly sentenced to death for six murders, the state Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

In a unanimous decision, the justices rejected the contention that Sacramento Superior Court Judge Thomas J. Cecil should not have allowed jurors at Eric Royce Leonard’s trial to hear about his incriminating comment at the hearing on his motion for change of venue, which was denied.

Justice Joyce L. Kennard, writing for the court, said that Leonard’s comment was not an “offer to plead guilty,” which would make it inadmissible under Evidence Code Sec. 1153.

“We agree with the trial court that defendant’s in-court outburst declaring that he was guilty was not a ‘bona fide offer to plead guilty’...but simply an ‘unsolicited admission’...that was not made inadmissible by Evidence Code section 1153,” the justice wrote. “Defendant did not say he wanted to enter a plea of guilty; that is, to formally admit that he had committed each of the charged crimes.  Rather, he said he was guilty, without explaining what he was guilty of.  No plea negotiations were underway, and to exclude statements of this kind would not encourage the settlement of criminal cases.”

Guilty Verdict

The jury convicted Leonard of the six murders with which he was charged, which took place during two robberies one week apart in February 1991.

The first robbery, in which three people were killed, took place at a Quik Stop convenience market, the second, resulting in three more deaths, at a Round Table Pizza restaurant.

Media coverage suggested that the crimes had been committed by a “thrill killer” rather than for money, although evidence at trial suggested that currency had been taken in both robberies and that Leonard wasn’t making enough money to pay his living expenses and had resorted to bad-check-writing in the period leading up to the crimes.

Leonard was arrested months later,  following an investigation that included interviews with hundreds of people. Police first became interested in Leonard when they saw him walking near the Quik Stop two days after the Round Table robberies.

Police Interviews

A detective testified at trial that Leonard admitted having been near the scenes of both killings on the nights in question, but denied any involvement. The officer said he thought at the time that Leonard—who has an IQ of less than 100 and has suffered from epilepsy nearly all his life—was too timid and mentally disoriented to be a likely suspect in the murders.

The police said they took further interest, however, after interviewing several others who saw a man wearing a trench coat near the murder scenes on the nights in question. Four of those witnesses saw a photograph of Leonard, who was wearing a trench coat the first time the police spoke to him, and said he appeared to be the man they saw.

After interviewing Leonard again, they went to his father’s house and obtained a .25-caliber Baretta pistol, which ballistics tests showed to be the murder weapon. His father, one of the detectives testified, told the detective that Leonard had confessed, although the father denied at trial that he had ever made such a statement.

In challenging the death sentence on appeal, Leonard’s court-appointed attorney argued that it would constitute cruel and unusual punishment to execute a young man—he was 21 at the time of the murders—who is epileptic and developmentally disabled. But Kennard, writing for the high court, said there were sufficient aggravating circumstances to support the judge and jury’s decision.

“We acknowledge the seriousness of defendant’s disabilities, but nonetheless defendant committed two robberies during which he murdered six people by shooting them in the head, and to ensure the deaths of two of his victims he fired at close range, holding the gun less than two inches from their heads,” the jurist wrote. “On these facts, the death sentence is not grossly disproportionate to defendant’s culpability.”

The court yesterday also upheld another death sentence, from San Bernardino County.

Joseph Lloyd Cook was sentenced to death for murdering an octogenarian Joshua Tree couple while burglarizing their home in 1992. Cook, who had worked for the victims, was implicated after he sold some of the victims’ property to his brother and was seen standing near their car, which was driven away after they were murdered.

Cook’s palm print was found on the vehicle, and blood splatter consistent with that of one of the victims was found on his shoe.

Justice Ming Chin, writing for the high court, rejected a number of challenges to the verdict and sentence, including a claim that identification of the defendant as the man standing near the victims’ vehicle should have been suppressed because the witnesses picked him out of a lineup at which he was not represented by counsel.

The U.S. Supreme Court, Chin explained, has ruled that there is no right to counsel at a lineup held prior to the filing of formal charges. The fact that Cook had already been in custody for a week, based on a parole hold tied to his arrest, does not change the constitutional analysis, the justice said.

Chin acknowledged that under the California Constitution, there is a right to counsel at a pre-indictment lineup. The justice explained, however, that under Proposition 8, evidence cannot be excluded solely on the ground that it was obtained in violation of state law.

The cases are People v. Leonard, 07 S.O.S. 2437, and People v. Cook, 07 S.O.S. 2458.


Suspect Arrested in 'Thrill Killings' of 6

Los Angeles Times

June 07, 1991

SACRAMENTO — A man described by authorities as a withdrawn loner was arrested Thursday in connection with the killings of six people, who were gunned down at close range at a local convenience store and a pizza parlor.

Sacramento County Sheriff Glen Craig said Eric Royce Leonard, 22, who lives near both shooting scenes, was arrested at his apartment about 9 p.m. after ballistics experts identified a .25-caliber pistol owned by his father as the weapon used in all six of the killings.

Earlier Thursday, investigators interviewed the suspect's father, who turned over the pistol.

"The father said he had known for a while that something was not really right," Sheriff's Sgt. Lena Derheim said in a telephone interview.

"His reaction was very docile, very staid, very stoic," Craig said of Leonard's demeanor. He described the suspect as a loner.

"He was the kind of person who wouldn't stand out in a crowd. He would be on the fringes of the crowd," added Sheriff's Lt. Ray Biondi.

Authorities said they had no motive. Earlier they had described the slayer they were seeking as a "thrill killer," who apparently murdered for personal satisfaction, because little cash was taken in the incidents.

"The cash registers were not cleaned out. It was almost like it was an afterthought," Derheim said.

Leonard had been questioned shortly after the first killings Feb. 12 in a convenience store half a block from his apartment north of downtown, Derheim said.

"He was not a super strong suspect, but he was one of those names that was kept on the back burner," the sergeant said. "He had been identified as being seen near the store, and he didn't have an alibi for where he was when the shooting occurred."

"Someone matching Leonard's description had been seen dressed in a trench coat at both crimes scenes," Derheim added.

The slayings occurred on Tuesday evenings, with three people shot to death at the suburban Quik Stop convenience store and, a week later, Feb. 19, three more were slain at a nearby Roundtable Pizza parlor.

Investigators interviewed Leonard again on Feb. 25, a Monday, the day before authorities feared additional killings might take place. Craig noted that there were no more "thrill killings."


SEX: M RACE: W TYPE: T MOTIVE: PC-nonspecific

MO: Shot victims/witnesses in petty robberies.


Convicted "Thrill Killer" Eric Royce Leonard is seen during a court appearance on Feb. 29, 1992. Leonard was convicted of the execution-style killing of six people in a Sacramento convenience store and at a pizza parlor on 1999. He was sentenced to death.


Eric Royce Leonard, the "Thrill Killer" looks over the jury as the verdict is read in Sacramento Superior Court on Nov. 20, 1995. Leonard was convicted of execution-style killing of six people in a Sacramento convenience store and at a pizza parlor in 1999.


Paula Thomas, the mother of Eric Royce Leonard, the "Thrill Killer" is consoled after the verdict of her son was read in Sacramento Superior Court
on Nov. 20, 1995.



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