Idaho murders: Convicted killer arrested a mile from university stabbings

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt is his defense attorney

Police arrested an ex-con killer this week just over a mile from the scene of an unsolved quadruple stabbing that left four University of Idaho students dead after they were attacked in their sleep early on a November Saturday.

James Leonard, 39, of Moscow, Idaho, allegedly beat his wife and her daughter late Tuesday evening and slashed himself with a knife, according to court documents. Police said his arrest on Wednesday was not related to the Nov. 13 home invasion murders nearby.

He had previously pleaded guilty to a fatal 2007 shooting but barely served any prison time, according to court documents.

"Dispatch advised an intoxicated husband punched his wife in the head and struck his daughter," according to a criminal complaint on the latest charges obtained by Fox News Digital.

IDAHO MURDERS: POLICE RELEASE BODYCAM VIDEO FROM NIGHT OF KILLINGS

James Curtis Leonard's newest mugshot shows a bandage on his left arm, where he allegedly slashed himself in a domestic altercation with his wife.

James Curtis Leonard's newest mugshot shows a bandage on his left arm, where he allegedly slashed himself in a domestic altercation with his wife. (Latah County Sheriff's Office)

Police arrived at their Palouse River Drive home and found Leonard's wife with blood on her nose and mouth, according to court documents. Leonard had holed up in a bedroom and when police ordered him to come out, they saw blood on his hands and face and a large cut on his forearm.

An officer frisked him and found two knives and a marijuana joint, according to the complaint. His wife told officers he had drank "half a bottle of gin" and became heavily intoxicated. He came inside from working on his truck and allegedly saw her on the phone and accused of her cheating on him. He allegedly yelled at her in front of her two kids, ages 20 and 15, her daughter’s 21-year-old boyfriend and a 1-year-old grandchild.

Then, according to the complaint, he went in his room and started cutting himself.

When his wife went to check on him, he allegedly attacked her with his fist and grabbed her throat. In the fracas, the older daughter, her boyfriend and the 1-year-old went to a neighbor’s house. However, at some point, Leonard also allegedly punched and kicked the 15-year-old, pulled her hair and threw her into a dresser. Police later found her hiding under a chair in another room with symptoms of a concussion.

READ THE CRIMINAL COMPLAINT:

While his wife was on the phone with 911, Leonard allegedly slashed his arm, yelled out that she had cut him and that he needed help. He was accused of stalking her around the house with a knife. Police found a trail of blood inside and asked the wife if she was ever afraid that Leonard would attack her with the knife, according to the affidavit. She told them she did not know what he would do.

IDAHO MURDERS: NEARLY 4 WEEKS AFTER SLAYINGS, NEIGHBOR REPORTEDLY RECALLS HEARING SCREAM

The arrest comes amid an investigation into the deaths of Kaylee Goncalves, 21; Madison Mogen, 21; Xana Kernodle, 20; and Ethan Chapin, 20, about 1.3 miles downhill off of the next crossroad. Police found all four dead at a house just yards off campus around noon on Nov. 13.

Bizarrely, Leonard's defense attorney is also the county coroner who said that all four college students were victims of homicide by stabbing, and that their wounds had likely been inflicted in their sleep.

Cathy Mabbutt was first elected the Latah County Coroner in 2006.

Cathy Mabbutt was first elected the Latah County Coroner in 2006. (Latah County)

IDAHO MURDERS: BORDER AUTHORITIES MONITORING FOR HYUNDAI ELANTRA THAT WAS NEAR SCENE OF QUADRUPLE HOMICIDE

Latah County Coroner Cathy Mabbutt was elected to office in 2006, shortly before Leonard's murder case, and is both an attorney and a nurse.

She declined to comment on the case Thursday.

A convicted killer

On the morning of June 19, 2007, Leonard shot and killed Tyler Lee outside his house in Genesee, according to an affidavit obtained by Fox News Digital.

"I'm the one who shot him," Leonard told a responding deputy, according to the filing. He claimed it was in self-defense after the victim came to his house, punched him in the face, knocked him down and climbed on top of him in a fight.

IDAHO POLICE HIT WITH DELUGE OF TIPS ABOUT HYUNDAI ELANTRA, NOW FORWARDING CALLS TO FBI CALL CENTER

Leonard told police Lee had previously threatened him with "bats, machetes and other things," and said the man showed up at his house around 2:30 a.m.

Before going outside to meet Lee, Leonard grabbed a handgun out of a safe in his bedroom and told his wife to call police if she heard shots, according to court documents.

READ THE CRIMINAL COMPLAINT:

He went outside and met Lee, who accused him of sleeping with his girlfriend.

According to Leonard's version of events, he denied the affair and Lee attacked him, threatening to slit his throat and harm Leonard's son.

Leonard had a .38-caliber revolver in his pocket, pulled it out and fired at Lee. A few moments later, witnesses reported hearing two more gunshots.

The first shot struck him in the heart and was determined to be the fatal blow by Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, the pathologist who performed the autopsy. He found the second and third shots to have been inflicted to his leg and face postmortem. The toxicology report found mescaline and cannibinoids but no alcohol in Lee's system.

Witnesses later told police that Leonard backed up his truck before they arrived, a move they perceived as "messing up the crime scene." One alleged that Leonard asked him for a shovel in an attempt to hide the body.  

Leonard in February 2009 took a plea deal, admitting to involuntary manslaughter in exchange for a five- to 15-year sentence, according to court documents.

The Moscow, Idaho, Police Department.

The Moscow, Idaho, Police Department. (Derek Shook for Fox News Digital)

By May 2009, a court suspended his sentence and placed him on 15 years of probation. The terms required him to avoid drugs and alcohol, hold a steady job and obey the law, among other things.

Leonard's defense attorney in the manslaughter case, Sunil Ramalingam, is now a judge and said his current position prevents him from discussing the proceedings with a reporter.

Leonard's current charges include domestic violence battery with traumatic injury, aggravated assault, attempted strangulation and injury to a child.

Student slayings

Police say four University of Idaho students were killed in a rental house on King Road just steps off campus between 3 and 4 a.m. on Nov. 13. Two other roommates were on the ground level and escaped harm, according to authorities.

Ethan Chapin, 20; Xana Kernodle, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, along with the women's two other roommates in Goncalves' final Instagram post, shared the day before the slayings.

Ethan Chapin, 20; Xana Kernodle, 20; Madison Mogen, 21; and Kaylee Goncalves, 21, along with the women's two other roommates in Goncalves' final Instagram post, shared the day before the slayings. (@kayleegoncalves/Instagram)

IDAHO MURDERS: SLAIN UNIVERSITY STUDENTS' NEIGHBOR SAYS FRONT DOOR LEFT WIDE OPEN AFTER ATTACKS

Three victims lived there. Chapin, Kernolde's boyfriend, was sleeping over.

Chapin was a member of the Sigma Chi fraternity, which has a frat house about 200 yards away. He was majoring in recreation, sport and tourism management, the University of Idaho said. He and Kernodle were believed to have spent most of the evening at the Sigma Chi house before returning to her place around 1:45 a.m., according to investigators.

The belongings of the victims of the University of Idaho quadruple homicide are removed from the house in Moscow, Idaho, on Wednesday.

The belongings of the victims of the University of Idaho quadruple homicide are removed from the house in Moscow, Idaho, on Wednesday. (Derek Shook for Fox News Digital)

Kernodle and Mogen were both part of the Pi Beta Phi sorority and were marketing majors. Goncalves, a general studies major, belonged to Alpha Phi. They had been seen at the Corner Club bar in Moscow and at a food truck earlier in the evening.

Police revealed Wednesday they were seeking the occupant or occupants of a white 2011 to 2013 Hyundai Elantra seen near the victims’ home around the time of the crime. Police are asking anyone who knows anything to come forward, even with minor details.

CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP

"Your information, whether you believe it is significant or not, might be the piece of the puzzle that helps investigators solve these murders," police said in a statement. 

Anyone with information is asked to call the tip line at 208-883-7180 or to email tipline@ci.moscow.id.us.