PRICE OF FREEDOM

Parents Post $2.5 Million Bond to Free Son Arrested for Murder

Jeremy Leininger allegedly slayed a ranch hand for insulting his uncle. Now he’s back at home awaiting trial after his parents put down serious cash and assets.

Jamie Simpson / Alamy Stock Photo

A young man charged with brutally slaying a Washington state ranch hand and dumping his corpse in the river has been bailed out of jail.

Jeremy Leininger, 20, is back in the comfort of his parents’ home after posting a $2.5 million bond in the gruesome death of 53-year-old Clark Calquhoun last December.

The high bail amount set in Leininger’s first-degree murder case at first pleased the victim’s family members.

According to Michael Calquhoun, Clark’s eldest son, when he and family members crammed into a Thurston County Superior courtroom minutes before Leininger’s preliminary hearing back on Feb. 13, the prosecutor told them they would ask the judge for “no bail.” If that didn’t work they would seek a $1 million bail amount.

The judge, Calquhoun said, decided $1 million was too low.

“He came back after a couple minutes and said, ‘Based on the nature of this crime I’m going to set bail at $2.5 million,’” Calquhoun, a 32-year-old youth pastor at Gladstone First Baptist Church in Portland, Oregon, recounted. “We were just in tears. It was phenomenal.”

On March 12, Joel Leininger and Karen Cain secured their son’s release from jail to serve time on house arrest until his July 24 trial date.

In a sworn declaration, the Leiningers wrote: “We both have a tremendous respect for the judicial system and, despite our love for our son, would do nothing either to subvert that system or put Jeremy or ourselves in any jeopardy due to violation any of these conditions.”

The terms of the release dictate Leininger reside under his parents’ roof in the logging town of Kelso, Washington, and be tagged with an electronic GPS monitoring device. Leininger must forfeit his passport and can only travel to court, his lawyer’s office or “verified” doctor’s appointments, according to documents detailing the release conditions.

The bail documents show that the parents of the 20-year-old sold two pistols to a local gun shop and transferred five rifles and one shotgun to the Leininger’s uncle’s farm in Yelm.

A Leininger family member told The Daily Beast that there is no shortage of solidarity.

“The boy can learn from this,” the relative said. “He’s got a good future ahead of him, so this is an unfortunate event that happened. Very unfortunate.

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“And what brought it out who knows?”

***

Now that Leininger is back home until his July 24 first-degree murder trial date those initial tears of triumph back in court have become winces.

“I just wonder why do they give the opportunity to get out,” Michael Calquhoun said. “I understand [he’s] innocent until proven guilty but there’s so much evidence already and I want to know why.”

It seems no bail amount would be high enough to repay the Calquhoun family’s suffering after the person they believe killed their father wasn’t kept in jail.

“To me, it sounds like money can buy your freedom and that just seems so wrong,” Calquhoun lamented.

Sylvia Ramos, who has been bailing out defendants for 21 years for a Seattle-based company, said that in Washington state there’s a non-refundable premium paid to the bail agent that usually amounts to 10 percent of the bond, unless there was a discount applied, or a payment arrangement was agreed upon.

Indeed, a prisoner being freed with a $2.5 million bail sticker tag doesn’t happen everyday.

“It’s not rare if the family or friends have the means,” Ramos said. “But it’s rare that most people have the means.”

Leininger’s attorney Robert Perez said he doesn’t “discuss pending cases with the press” but confirmed he was retained.

“Yes, he made bail and yes, he paid my breathtaking fee. I’m on the case, I represent him”.

***

Last New Year’s Eve marked three days without any sign of Clark Calquhoun.

His live-in girlfriend filed a missing person’s report with local sheriffs, a criminal complaint filed in Thurston County Superior Court last month by the deputy prosecuting attorney Joseph Wheeler. The last time Calquhoun was seen alive was at around 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 28 when she, another friend, and his close pal Randy Delivuk left together to “get some bud,” Delivuk told The Daily Beast.

Leininger rolled up to them in his blue Dodge Ram pickup truck loaded with two bales of hay, Delivuk said. Calquhoun worked for Leininger’s uncle Gerald as a ranch hand since May 2016, splitting duties with Delivuk and Leininger, according to Delivuk who added Leininger owned property adjacent to his uncle’s.

On the day Calquhoun vanished, according to Delivuk (who says he’s been interviewed by both detectives and prosecutors) he remembered Leininger asking, “I need somebody to unload this.”

“Clark says to him, ‘OK I’ll help you,’” Delivuk said.

Delivuk said when they returned, Calquhoun’s girlfriend entered their ranch trailer but her boyfriend was gone; his eyeglasses, wallet, and keys were left behind.

“Everything was here,” Delivuk said.

The girlfriend approached Leininger two days later, according to the complaint, and Leininger claimed Calquhoun walked a mile to the front gate “to meet someone” after they finished tending to the livestock.

“That’s bullshit,” Delivuk said. “Clark was waiting for me to come back.”

It was also out of character for Calquhoun to slog on foot so far, largely due to “physical issues” limiting his gait to short distances, the complaint suggests.

Investigators pinpoint two possible motives in the prosecutor’s criminal complaint where Leininger is suspected of exacting payback for his suspicion that Calquhoun swiped cash and smokes from his pickup and also for supposedly insulting his uncle.

But Delivuk argues the insults didn’t happen and the tally of cash that Leininger claimed stolen kept changing.

“It started out as $50 bucks, $100 bucks, and then $80 bucks,” said Delivuk.

In the criminal complaint, Leininger and a friend are mentioned allegedly discussing with Delivuk “how easy it would be to get rid of a somebody where they would never be found.”

“We were talking about shit and all of a sudden this stuff comes up,” Delivuk said. “They want to know how to get rid of a body. And if they did, would anybody report it missing? All this bullshit.”

Delivuk called it a night.

“When that conversation came up it scared me,” he said. “I said, ‘Guys this is getting weird. I’m going to get on and go home.’”

Then, according to the complaint, two unidentified witnesses separately told Cowlitz County detectives that Leininger allegedly crowed “about a guy, referring to Clark, who lives on his uncle’s farm… had made threats against his uncle.”

They informed them, the complaint states, that Leininger actually confessed to cold-blooded murder.

“[Leininger] told them he lured the man away into the woods surrounding the farm and shot him with a gun,” the complaint states. “He then used the truck to drag the body to move it.”

His pals, the complaint goes on, also say Leininger allegedly told them he “disassembled [the gun] and gotten rid of it.”

On Jan. 4—days after Calquhoun went missing—detectives scoured the acreage of Leininger’s uncle’s farm “with negative results,” according to the complaint.

The following day they had a crack at questioning Leininger.

But he allegedly “denied any knowledge” of Calquhoun’s whereabouts and, according to the complaint, echoed the same tale: The last time he saw him was “going to meet someone at the front gate.”

However, the complaint adds, when authorities asked about the theft of his property in the pickup, Leininger allegedly backtracked telling them “he may have lost them himself” but denied “ever accusing anyone of the theft.”

Detectives were leery of Leininger’s demeanor.

“He seemed very nervous and displayed physical manifestations that caused the detective to doubt his truthfulness,” the complaint states.

Calquhoun’s corpse turned up on Jan. 29 in the Coweeman River.

Despite the body being left in the water for a long period of time investigators were able to confirm it was their missing man.

An autopsy determined that Calquhoun died painfully.

He “maybe had been stabbed,” suffered a severed spine, and “had been shot at least two times” with one .45 caliber bullet still lodged in his body, according to the complaint.

Investigators would descend on Leininger’s parents’ home on Feb. 1 and asked about his father’s .45 caliber pistol that Leininger’s mother informed them she reported missing back in September.

Then authorities retroactively tracked Leininger’s movements between Dec. 28 and 29 by monitoring his cellular phone to his uncle’s farm and the complaint states he “drives out [to] Rose Valley Road, where he ultimately loses cellular service.”

The phone records, the complaint suggests, placed Leininger “within three miles of where Calquhoun’s body was located in the river.”

***

Before he was killed, Clark Calquhoun was a skilled laborer and father of four children.

He moved to Washington from Southern California and traveled to Alaska and later Oregon and Utah as a master craftsman in wood work and painting, while also serving as a dedicated volunteer firefighter.

His son Michael Calquhoun said his father abandoned his family when he was not even 11-years-old, but that he remained a faithful Christian.

Calquhoun also battled alcohol and hard drugs.

“He was trying to get back on his feet,” Calquhoun’s son said.

In fact, it was Leininger’s uncle and aunt who gave Calquhoun a chance to work their land as a ranch hand.

“They saw something in him that had value and that they felt he could change and be a hard worker,” Calquhoun’s son said.

Delivuk admitted he was shorthanded to tend to the 38 head of cattle and almost 20 horses.

“As ranch hand I could walk away right now and Clark could take over,” he said.

Before Calquhoun’s death, his son learned that his father was still in the nightmare of addiction.

“We found some evidence in the trailer of needles and marijuana,” he said, after visiting his father’s home. “And he was still drinking. There were a lot of empty beer cans.”

His son said his father had taken off before. But he usually kept tabs with somebody.

“This time was different because no one in the family had any clue where he was,” he said.

Then it was determined that his father wasn’t missing but had been brutally murdered. His son pondered how anybody could kill allegedly over some cash and cigarettes.

“There’s a lot of anger there to lead someone to want to take somebody’s life for that,” he said.

The loss hit Delivuk hard.

“Clark, he was just the best person ever,” he said through tears of the man he considered his best friend. “He didn’t deserve that. Hell no, he did not deserve that.”

After learning Leininger made bail, Delivuk said it was “a slap in the face” to the man who“had a heart of gold.”

A close childhood friend of Leininger’s claims he’s not a killer but an eccentric and at his core a good person.

“Even if he did do this I would still trust him with my life,” the 20-year-old friend, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said.

As a man of faith Colquhoun’s son says he can forgive Leininger.

“I sure hope this doesn’t destroy this young man’s entire life,” he said. “There’s no sense of money, no sense of jail that would honestly do it justice.”

He takes a beat.

“I think life would be the closest thing to justice,” he said. “But I’d not think even that would satisfy what’s been taken away.”