Judge, attorney face questions about woman's suicide - WSMV Channel 4

Judge, attorney face questions about woman's suicide

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Judge Casey Moreland (WSMV) Judge Casey Moreland (WSMV)
NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

A well-known Nashville judge and attorney were interviewed in connection with the suicide of a young woman who had recently returned from an out-of-state trip with them last year.

A recently released investigative file compiled by Metro Nashville Police Department detectives shows that police initially considered the death of Leigh Terry suspicious, in part, because several eyewitnesses told police that while on the trip, Terry had made statements threatening to expose the judge and attorney.

Friends of Terry said she had it all. She was beautiful, smart, classy: the daughter of a Belle Meade surgeon.

But there was a dark side, her friends said. Terry drank and mixed alcohol with prescription drugs.

A series of drunk-driving charges landed her in the court system.

Her interactions during a trip to Mobile, AL, in late April 2016 with Davidson County General Sessions Judge Casey Moreland and his friend, attorney Bryan Lewis, became part of a police investigation into her death.

Terry’s body was discovered May 25, 2016, by a maintenance man at the Stahlman Building in downtown Nashville. He called 911 after residents complained of a foul smell.

"I'm pretty sure someone passed away,” the maintenance man told the 911 dispatcher.

Terry was found on her bed with a Smith and Wesson handgun at her temple. Police traced the gun to its owner, Bryan Lewis.

Police later established Terry had been dead about three weeks.

Metro police conducted an investigation that would take months. They eventually concluded it was a suicide.

During the investigation, witnesses whose statements were recorded by Metro police detectives recounted threats that they said Terry had made to expose an affair between herself and Lewis.

Police would later learn Lewis and Terry’s names were on the Stahlman apartment lease, and that she had listed him as her boyfriend on the emergency contact sheet. Both of them had keys.

Lewis would confirm in a June 27 interview recorded by police at Central Precinct that he and Terry had a sexual relationship.

"It would be classified a friend and a friend with benefits. Had I had sex with her on occasions? Yes," Lewis said during the recorded interview with a detective.

The relationship began, he had said in the earlier interview, after Terry became his client.

"I'll give you the whole history. Met Leigh about three years ago, when I first represented her for free on a DUI case. She was in with a whole group of friends,” Lewis said in the recorded interview.

Paperwork on file at the court clerk's office shows that Lewis represented Terry on a 2013 drunk driving arrest; it was a charge of DUI second offense.

The charge was reduced to reckless driving in General Sessions court. She received a sentence of six months’ probation. Court records show Judge Casey Moreland’s stamp on a document that appears to terminate Terry’s probation a few months early. Moreland is the same judge who had been on the Alabama trip just days before Terry's suicide.

It was trip that witnesses said turned awkward, ending with Lewis sending Terry home early.

"She was just mad that whole day and was just abusive toward everybody," Lewis said on the police recording.

Terry's friend Natalie Amos was also on that trip. She told police investigators that Terry was arguing with Lewis.

"Very heated. She and Bryan are yelling at each other," Amos told the detective interviewing her.

In the June 27 interview, Lewis’ second with police, he was asked by a detective about text messages the detective said Terry sent Lewis that night. Detectives said the texts threatened to reveal intimate relationships between he and Terry, and between Amos and Judge Moreland, who is also married.

“’Cause she said in there that she was going to expose Casey and Natalie's relationship on the text. And that she was going to talk about, to your wife, did she do any of those things?" the detective asked.

"No, she did not," Lewis replied.

"I took it as an idle-type threat from her, something that was made in the heat of the moment. And that she wouldn't follow through with," Lewis told the detective.

But Amos thought there was more to the threat than just jeopardizing marriages.

Terry had been working at Lewis' law office. Amos says during the trip, Terry threatened to reveal something she recently discovered that she said could ruin Lewis personally and professionally.

"She said, ‘OK, I hope you're ready. I will ruin you.’ She said, ‘I know things, you all both know what I'm talking about,’" Amos told the detective.

"She was adamant she knew she had information that could really blow up his life," Amos added.

Two months after Terry's body was discovered, detectives interviewed Judge Moreland at his office in the courthouse. Police confirm the judge's interview was not recorded.

The detectives' notes indicate Moreland was asked about Terry's threats.

Moreland said he thought "she would calm down and come to her senses,” and that he “felt sadness about her death.”

The detective's investigation concluded that Terry did in fact commit suicide, and closed the case. The TBI confirms that they were not asked to investigate further.

As our Channel I-Team investigation continues, you'll hear our exclusive interview with Natalie Amos,   Terry's friend and former roommate.

"She's gone. Yeah. I'm scared. And I was quiet for almost a year," Amos told the I-Team.

Amos had DUI charges of her own. As our investigation continues, we’ll look into whether court procedures were circumvented, and hear how Amos said it was Leigh Terry who first suggested the judge could help her.

"And she says, 'Well, I can call Casey.' And I was like, ‘Casey?' She says, 'Judge Moreland,'" Amos said.

And you'll hear what she said Terry told her about her own interactions with Judge Moreland.

"She was like, ‘Natalie, I was out of options. It was that, or I was looking at serious jail time,’" Amos told the I-Team.

The I-Team has made a number of attempts to do an on-camera interview with Judge Moreland; so far he has declined. So has Lewis, who told the I-Team’s Nancy Amons she would hear from his attorney.

Click here to read part two of the I-Team's investigation.

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