Police Union Treasurer in Pennsylvania Found Dead on Day Before Sentencing

Whether or not due to natural causes, the death of Katherine Leese was unexpected. Leese, a former Falls Township, Pennsylvania police officer, was discovered dead in her home on the afternoon of Monday, April 6, the day before she was to be sentenced for embezzling funds from the Bucks County Fraternal Order of Police (Lodge 93) where she had been treasurer. She was found in her bedroom by her mother in the Middletown Township home they shared. “It looks to be natural causes,” said her attorney, Ronald Elgart. “She was in very poor physical health,” adding that the timing of her death was “beyond bizarre.” It certainly qualified as strange.

Leese, 42, was a 10-year veteran of the Falls Police Department. This January 28, she pleaded no contest to felony theft charges. She and former Bucks County FOP President Gerald Conaway, 66, were charged last August with stealing more than $93,000 from a union bank account. Leese’s take, at more than $87,000, was by far the larger of the two. She had stolen money via two dozen separate electronic transfers from the FOP account to her own. Conaway, a retired member of the Upper Southampton police force, received a 23-month sentence, having already paid back the roughly $5,500 he’d taken. Leese had paid back only $6,000 of the money she embezzled; she used the rest mainly for paying off credit card bills and the mortgage on her fire-damaged home. She reportedly faced significant prison time.

While Ms. Leese had no known history of mental illness, she had shown signs of depression and withdrawal, according to her lawyer. Police investigators have all but ruled out suicide as the cause of death, given the lack of a suicide note, medicine bottle shortages or a history of mental illness. There is no cause for rejoicing. While corruption can’t be overlooked, some perpetrators deserve sympathy. Katherine Leese was among them. (Philadelphia Inquirer, 4/8/09).