Giving a voice to the voiceless: 'I believe his organs were stolen'

Posted at 6:13 PM, May 15, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-16 09:20:46-04

EMPORIA , Va. -- Animal predation or criminal organ harvesting? Those are two theories 21-year-old Jamier Leonard's mother and father shared with CBS 6 Crime insider Jon Burkett and Reopen the Case Foundation about their son's untimely death.

Jamier Leonard disappeared on July 25, 2019. On July 31, 2019, Leonard's body was found entangled in debris in the Meherrin River about 100 yards from the Interstate 95 bridge in Emporia, Virginia. His belongings were found nine months later close to the scene.

Emporia Police said they have no leads in the case.

Screenshot 2023-05-15 122633.png

It is a case the Medical Examiner has ruled the cause of death as undetermined.

"He went out one night, and he came back the next morning," Jamier’s mother Brenda Leonard said. "He was sweating so bad. He wasn't wearing a shirt and that was unusual for him. Jamier was saying that he was sorry for all the things that he had done and put us through and that he loved us. About 20 minutes or so later, he just started talking out his head, saying that some people were looking for him. He started closing the blinds up in the house. He was taking our phones going through our phones, and we were like, 'What are you doing?' And he was like, 'Those people they are looking for me. They're looking for me!' I'm like, 'What people?!'"

That bizarre behavior would lead Jamier to be taken to the emergency room.

"The district 19 service provider told us that he found a bed for him and that he was going to a facility, Poplar Springs," Brenda said. "That didn't happen."

 Jamier Leonard's mother and father
Jamier Leonard's mother and father

Leading up to Jamier's disappearance, he was taken three times in two days to a hospital for evaluation.

The very last time they took him in it was recommended by doctors that he stay there, and they would legally hold Jamier and transfer him to Poplar Springs Hospital, a psychiatric hospital near Petersburg, Virginia.

However, hospital paperwork obtained by the Reopen the Case Foundation showed the order was denied by a magistrate and Jamier was inevitably discharged.

Also, according to the documents, it showed the magistrate denied the order because he believed the hallucinations were drug-induced and Jamier didn't need restraints.

The Greenville County Sheriff's Department then gave Jamier a ride to his friend's apartment on Meherrin River Lane.

Jamier would disappear from that location hours later.

Jamier Leonard and parents

"If it wasn't for me, I don't think he would have ever been found," said Brenda. "I'm the one that called them and told them that I had gone over to where his phone was pinging. I just got this real bad feeling in my stomach. I said, I just think you all need to search the river. My fear is that somebody did this to him. They took his organs and sold them. He was a very young, vibrant, young man with just nothing but life. And somebody took advantage of him, and they saw that he was not in his right state of mind. And I almost feel like to the point of he was set up."

"Based on the autopsy report and the animal predation. His heart was absent a portion of the aorta. His lungs were absent. Lymph nodes were absent. The liver was absent gallbladder, spleen pancreas," Emporia Police Chief Ricky Pinksaw said. "His kidneys were absent due to animal predation and then his, his penis was missing as well as one testicle."

Emporia Police Chief Ricky Pinksaw
Emporia Police Chief Ricky Pinksaw

"He also had a scar on the back of his head, and he never had a scar on the back of his head before," Brenda said.

"This is shocking, but it's actually kind of expected when a body is in the wild for a length of time. It really doesn't take that long for scavengers, [there's] no other word for it, [to] eat the body," medical expert Dr. Dan Moore said. "When you're doing a [organ] transplant, for example, if you're going to take an organ, like a heart or lungs, a lot of times those organs are only viable, they're only going to be good for transplant within a few hours, and you've got to have dedicated transport ready, you've got to have the patient who's going to accept the organ ready in the operating room basically already ready for that to happen."

Chief Pinksaw said police still don't know if they're dealing with a criminal investigation or a death investigation.

"We really want to provide closure for the family. But we're at this point where this case is inactive. And it's really going to fall into a cold case is what it's doing," Pinksaw said. "If somebody knows something, if somebody here heard something, then we really hoped that they could, again, reach out to us to give us more information."

If anyone has information, they can reach out to Emporia police or the Reopen the Case Foundation at 833- RTCFNVA. Remember, you can also find Reopen the Case on YouTube and the podcast is downloadable on all audio platforms.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.