Updated 03/06/2013 06:25 PM
Man accused of making threat against Skidmore student in custody
Officials in Saratoga Springs are piecing together a very complicated series of events which resulted in the lockdown of the Skidmore College campus Tuesday night. Matt Hunter has more.
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SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. – "We believe the intended threat was very credible and that the safety of the victim, fellow students and staff at Skidmore College could be in jeopardy," said Lieutenant John Catone of the Saratoga Springs Police Department’s Criminal Investigations Division.
One day after locking down Skidmore College's campus for several hours, local law enforcement officials shared the details of a near 15 hour manhunt that ended in the arrest of Lance Leonard of Massachusetts, who's accused of threatening the life of a female student.
"She advised us Leonard had sent a text message indicating he was on his way to Saratoga Springs and his intention was to kill the victim and then himself," Leonard said.
Saratoga Springs police first learned of the threat Tuesday afternoon when the victim's parents informed officers Leonard had called them directly, making similar threats. He allegedly planned to travel by bus from Massachusetts to Skidmore, as he had done in the past to visit the young woman.
According to Saratoga County District Attorney Jim Murphy, Leonard and the victim were in a relationship.
"She was trying to get away from this man and she wanted to break up with him," Murphy said.
With the help of police in Massachusetts, Leonard's cell phone was tracked to New Rochelle Tuesday afternoon, but by early evening, he shut his phone off. At that point, Skidmore's campus was locked down with police blocking every entrance, as well as inspecting busses arriving in Saratoga.
It wasn't until hours later Leonard was located and taken into custody by police in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
"At 1 a.m., Leonard's phone was turned back on and the first ping showed that he was in Atlantic City," Catone said.
"It was a long and anxious night, but we awoke to good news today, thanks to the good work of everyone involved," said Robert Kimmerle, Skidmore’s director of community of relations.
Leonard, who was arrested unarmed outside the Taj Mahal hotel, remains in custody in New Jersey pending an extradition hearing.
While the 49-year-old, who police say has a criminal record and history of mental illness, never reached his alleged target, officials believe it wasn't worth taking any chances.
"Skidmore College and campus safety worked so well together to ensure the safety of the students, which, of course, is the number one priority of all of us, was never taken for granted and was done relatively seamlessly," Murphy said.
When he's ultimately brought to Saratoga, Leonard will be arraigned on three charges, including first degree coercion, which carries a penalty of two-and-one-third to seven years in prison.