Friends of Leigh Terry have questions about death investigation - WSMV News 4

Friends of Leigh Terry have questions about death investigation

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Leigh Terry was found dead in her apartment on May 25, 2016. Police ruled her death a suicide. (WSMV) Leigh Terry was found dead in her apartment on May 25, 2016. Police ruled her death a suicide. (WSMV)

Metro Police closed the investigation into the death of 34-year-old Leigh Terry, declaring it a suicide.

Terry, according to police, ended her life with a gunshot wound to the head in the early hours of May 5, 2016, in her downtown Nashville apartment.

Several of Terry's friends, some of whom were interviewed by the police, said it doesn't ring true.

John Nichols had been Terry's friend for 10 years.

"Leigh Terry never would have killed herself, not like that,” Nichols said.

"I just didn't believe it. I mean, Leigh really enjoyed being Leigh. I mean, she was a big fan of Leigh Terry," he added.

Roy Matlock dated Terry in 2015.

"I just want it investigated, really investigated,” Matlock said. "I think it needs to be reopened.”

Metro police listed 20 reasons for concluding the death was a suicide.

Friends said she had discussed suicide before. There was no sign of forced entry, no significant evidence to suggest foul play. Video surveillance showed Terry was alone when she left the elevator to go to her apartment on the night of her death. And detectives relied on the scientific evidence: blood stain experts found no evidence of anyone "in close proximity of the victim when the gun was fired."

Terry's body wasn't found for about three weeks, on May 25. Matlock said as soon as he heard, he went to the police with his concerns.

"I went down there on the 29th of May and very clearly stated that I thought there was foul play," Matlock said.

According to the police report, the week before her death, Terry had returned from a trip to Alabama -- one that included Bryan Lewis, a well-known Nashville attorney who admitted to police he was paying Terry's rent at the Stahlman Building and that they had a sexual relationship.

The Alabama trip ended in an argument.

"A big group of us went to Mobile. Leigh was acting extremely erratic,” Lewis told police during a recorded interview which is part of the evidence file in the case.

Witnesses said Lewis dropped Terry off at a Mobile hotel and gave her money to fly home alone on April 27.

"That's the last I heard from her," Lewis told police during his recorded interview.

Surveillance video in the police file showed that after the Mobile trip, on May 3, Lewis came to the Stahlman to pay Terry's rent. The video shows Lewis went to the office on the first floor then left without going upstairs. That was the last time police found Lewis used his swipe card to enter the building.

"She was there for 21 days in an apartment that was rented by Bryan Lewis, and he didn't think to check on her?" Matlock asked.

"There are just so many things that don't make sense to me,” he said.

The detective asked Lewis why he didn't check on Terry. Lewis said he wasn't going to contact her until she apologized for being rude on the trip. Lewis also said he figured she'd gone back to an old boyfriend -- the one who flew his plane down to pick her up in Alabama.

"Well, Leigh will come back around when she wants to," Lewis told the police.

Detectives interviewed the former boyfriend, who said Terry had called him from Alabama and told him, “If anything happened to her, they did it,” according to the detective’s report. It was not clear from the police report who she was referring to.

Metro police worked the case for five months. They checked surveillance video and phone records, ballistic tests and fingerprints, and interviewed witnesses, some, like Lewis, more than once.

But some of Terry's friends thought police should have looked more closely into threats that Terry made on the trip.

Witnesses told police that Terry threatened to expose something she said she had learned about Lewis and about Judge Casey Moreland.

Natalie Amos, Terry's former roommate, said that before the trip, Terry was upset about something that Terry said she had seen on Lewis' computer.

"She's crying hysterically, hiccuping crying. And Leigh never cried," Amos said.

Witnesses on the Alabama trip told police Terry had threatened to hold a press conference. It was not clear from the police reports what she threatened to expose.

Matlock said while he and Terry were dating, Terry told him something she said she wasn't proud of. He said Terry told him what she said she had done to get out of a DUI.

"She said, ‘I feel nasty about what I've done.’ And I'm like, 'What are you talking about?' And she said, 'I told you, I slept with the judge in order to get out of my charges,'" Matlock said.

According to Matlock, that judge was Casey Moreland. Amos said Terry told her the same thing.

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

Amos is also skeptical that Terry committed suicide.

Several of Terry's friends say she never would have killed herself without first making sure her dog Lana was taken care of.

"The last thing that would happen is she would leave her dog like that. I just don't believe it," Matlock said.

Lana was found on Terry's bed, alive, but thin from going so long without food.

"She loved that little dog. She worshiped this little dog. Lana was her best friend, her companion. Knowing what I know about Leigh, she never would have put Lana in harm's way, ever, ever,” Nichols said.

There are other questions. The Stahlman is a secure building; residents swipe a key to get in and must swipe it again on the elevator to get to their floor.

Donald Stamper is a friend of Terry's. He said he went to visit her about a week before her death.

"I'm sure that someone would be able to go up to the floor using the stairs, because I did it. I think that should be looked into," Stamper said.

Stamper said he entered the building when someone else had the door open, rode the elevator with them to their floor then walked the rest of the way to the ninth floor, where he knocked on Terry's door.

"And she was so surprised, and said, ‘How did you get in here? This place is so secure.’ She was blown away that I made it in," Stamper said.

Terry's friends have more questions about the death investigation. What happened to Terry's iPad, and why didn't police try to recover a back-up of its contents online? Why didn't police probe the allegations of possible misconduct by a judge?

Judge Moreland wasn't interviewed until two months after Terry's body was discovered. The interview was in his office; it wasn't recorded, and he wasn't asked about any alleged sexual relationships with either Terry or Amos.

Amos showed the Channel 4 I-Team a text message exchange she said took place between herself and the judge the day after he was interviewed by police detectives.

Amos asked how it went, with Moreland texting, "didn't even ask if we were together."

Metro police spokesman Don Aaron said that wasn't the focus of the detective's investigation. Their job was to establish if Terry's death was a suicide, or something else.

The scientific evidence, the detective concluded, determined she died at her own hand.

"I just don't believe for a second that she killed herself. I just don't believe it. That's not her style. I just think about how terrified she must have been, and yeah,” Nichols said.

"All these things make me question. I just have questions.  If she legitimately committed suicide, and there was, in my opinion, a legitimate investigation, which I don't believe happened, then I can rest. But I just don't believe it,” Matlock said.

Channel 4 asked Aaron if the department would consider reopening an investigation.

“Our conclusion that this is a suicide was based on the totality of the evidence and the science, and at this point, we don’t have anything to the contrary,” Aaron said.

In airing the opinions of Leigh Terry's friends, the Channel 4 I-Team is not implying that the police investigation into the death reached a faulty conclusion; we are airing the questions Terry’s friends have raised, and that some of our viewers have also asked us about.

Copyright 2017 WSMV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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