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Monday, June 24, 2024

96-year-old woman dies of injuries from July attack

Lila Leach, a 96-year-old Newberry resident who was brutally attacked in her home on July 16, was pronounced dead early Monday.

Investigators are waiting on autopsy results to determine the exact cause of death, but Leach's daughter Elaine May is certain the brain damage her mother suffered due to the attack caused her death.

If it is determined to be a direct result of the assault, the attacker could face homicide charges, according to Art Forgey, public information officer at the Alachua County Sheriff's Office.

The ACSO is examining suspects and examining physical evidence recovered from the crime scene.

"It is by no means a cold case," Forgey said.

Leach had been hospitalized at Shands at the University of Florida since the attack. Before she died she was able to briefly communicate with family members, and detectives were able to interview her, according to Forgey.

May said he didn't know if Leach was able to provide any identification of her attacker.

Forgey was unable to disclose whether any items had been taken from her home during the attack, but he said the attacker could have taken whatever they wanted without harming her.

Leach moved to her home on 322 NW 259th Terrace in April to get away from the noise that often surrounded her apartment on Archer Road. With her mother just a few blocks east of her home, May visited frequently.

"We wanted to make sure she would be happy here," she said.

May, her husband and their son helped Leach with dishes and brought her meals daily. She was attacked in the afternoon sometime between visits.

May found Leach battered on the floor of her bedroom and the house ransacked. May pointed to her face as she described severe fractures and broken bones her mother suffered from.

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"The first deputy that arrived on scene was not sure if it was male or female," Forgey said.

May said she was confused when she came home because Leach's walker and phone were out of place. The plastic shoe containers strewn on the floor and the open dresser drawers boggled her mind.

"I thought she had fallen," she said.

Leach had arthritis. She wasn't able to stand for long periods so her only way of mobility was with a walker.

May quickly realized her mother had been attacked. But the unknown still lingers in the home as the family tries to determine who did this and why.

Forgey urges the community to stay vigilant. Anyone with information about the crime can call the Alachua County Sheriff's Office at 352-955-1818 or Crime Stoppers at 352-374-7867. Those who call Crime Stoppers will be anonymous and are eligible for a $1,000 reward.

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