OLD SAYBROOK, CT (WFSB) – Fugitive Files brings us to the shoreline where a woman was killed by a drunk driver and the man responsible is still on the run, most likely thousands of miles away from Connecticut.
Now, her brother and sister have an emotional plea for justice and police need your help.
It was a Sunday evening, July 2013, just after 7 p.m.
An off-roading joy ride in a Jeep Wrangler quickly turned into a nightmare.
Leah Coleman, a 49-year-old mother of two, was thrown from the open-top vehicle after it rolled over.
The driver was her boyfriend, 42-year-old John Shepard.
“She said, ‘we gotta go, we gotta go and go to the clinc. Leah has been in an accident,’” said Sharon Tiezzi, Coleman’s sister.
As Coleman fought for her life, Shepard was arrested for driving under the influence.
In the arrest warrant, and Old Saybrook sergeant said, “… he found Shepard to have glassy blood shot eyes ad was slurring his words as he spoke.”
A gravel driveway near their home on Essex Road in Old Saybrook was not the scene of a crime.
Coleman lost her fight at the hospital.
“She went quick. She did not suffer. She went very, very quick,” Tiezzi said.
After Coleman died, Shepard’s charges were eventually upgraded to first degree manslaughter. But when police went to serve him, he was nowhere to be found.
“We tried to make contact with him, and family members and they said they didn’t see him, and we hadn’t heard or seen from him since,” said Detective David Perrotti, Old Saybrook Police Department.
Shepard had seemingly vanished and while police believed he had left the state, there were little to no leads as to where he might be.
Coleman’s brother and sister were distraught at the thought he would never pay the price for what he did.
“He’s gotta man up. If he were to walk in here right now and man up, I might change a little bit,” said Robert Reynolds, Coleman’s brother.
But there was a break in the case in 2017. After unconfirmed reported of Shepard living in Florida, Old Saybrook police learned he was arrested in New Mexico in 2015.
Police worked tirelessly to track him down there with no luck.
“They said he might be working on an oil rig for a company. We called several companies down there to no prevail,” Det. Perrotti said.
The hot tip went cold much to the disappointment of police and Coleman’s family.
“It’s been very difficult. It’s been almost seven years now of trying to find this person to bring him back to go to court,” Det. Perrotti said.
That’s why the help of the public is needed. The police are hoping those who know something say something and that the information can lead them to Shepard.
“Because justice needs to be served and the only way we can do that is with the help of your viewers,” said Chief Michael Spera, Old Saybrook Police Department.
At time continues to pass, Coleman, the youngest of five, will always be remembered by her siblings for her smile, and they find comfort in the memories.
But they are desperate for closure.
“Just help us. Be human. Call,” Reynolds said.
The other hope is that Shepard may be watching and will turn himself in.
“Eventually, we will find him,” Det. Perrotti said.
If you think you have information to help police find Shepard, police are taking tips. You can contact 1-866-333-9372.
Shepard, in his late 40s, is wanted for manslaughter and was last seen in New Mexico.