Slaying Suspect To Return Here Soon -- Gaethe-Leonard Is In Puerto Rico Jail

Recovering from what appears to be a second suicide attempt, Teresa Gaethe-Leonard is expected to waive extradition and return within the next couple of weeks from her Puerto Rico jail cell to face local charges of murdering her estranged husband.

Gaethe-Leonard's lawyer, John Henry Browne, said yesterday there would be no benefit to fight extradition from Puerto Rico, where his client apparently fled Dec. 2, forfeiting a boyfriend's $500,000 in bail.

Because Puerto Rico is a United States commonwealth, extradition is almost automatic, requiring only that authorities are convinced the Teresa Gaethe-Leonard they're holding is the same person wanted in Snohomish County. "You can delay things for months. But my guess is Teresa wouldn't want to spend a lot of time in a Puerto Rican jail," Browne said.

Gaethe-Leonard was charged in March with first-degree murder in the killing of Chuck Leonard, an Everett middle-school counselor from whom she'd been separated for several years. He was found shot to death in February by the gate of his lakeside home.

Authorities in Puerto Rico said Gaethe-Leonard is being held in a women's prison in Vega Alta, north of San Juan, after spending about two weeks in the hospital.

A spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office said she was told Gaethe-Leonard was to have a court hearing this morning. But a woman in the District Attorney's Office at Hato Rey Superior Court near San Juan said there was to be no extradition hearing today or tomorrow.

"We've gotten conflicting information on more than one occasion," said Michael Downes, Snohomish County deputy prosecutor. "But things seem to be proceeding apace, and we don't anticipate any difficulty at all."

He said if Gaethe-Leonard returned to Snohomish County by Feb. 4 - 60 days after missing her Dec. 4 court hearing - the $500,000 in bail would eventually be returned to boyfriend and Maui businessman John Skenderian, minus expenses for investigating Gaethe-Leonard's whereabouts and bringing her back.

"It'll be expensive," Downes said.

According to San Juan police, Gaethe-Leonard was traced to Puerto Rico through cellular-phone calls she made to Skenderian, who recently was separated from his wife. Authorities said Skenderian cooperated with them.

Gaethe-Leonard was apprehended after Browne, alerted by one of her sisters, told authorities she was in a San Juan hospital after hotel staff found her ill in her room from a drug overdose.

At the time of her disappearance, local authorities said she had changed the color of her blond hair and altered her appearance through facial cosmetic surgery. But yesterday, Jan Jorgensen, spokeswoman for the Snohomish County Sheriff's Office, said Gaethe-Leonard had not changed her hair.

She reportedly did undergo surgery, but to improve her features, not to make them unrecognizable.

Browne said he didn't know why Gaethe-Leonard had fled to San Juan, where she overdosed on alcohol and anti-depressants.

Browne said his client, who also overdosed on prescription drugs in September and was in a coma at Stevens Hospital in Edmonds before recovering, has been severely depressed, particularly since her court-approved telephone contact with her daughter was terminated some months ago.

The girl, who turned 6 yesterday, is living with her paternal aunt in Oregon after spending many months with her paternal grandparents in Concrete, Skagit County.

The girl appears to be at the crux of the case.

Prosecutors say Leonard, 53, was killed because he was preventing his estranged wife from moving to Hawaii with the girl.

Gaethe-Leonard has pleaded not guilty.

Browne has said in court he plans to raise a diminished-capacity defense, which means a defendant is incapable of forming intent to commit a crime.

Gaethe-Leonard's arrest warrant lists bail at $5 million cash. Downes said he's asked for that amount to be maintained when she returns.

No new trial date has been set.