Our card this week is Leah Ulbrich, the Three of Clubs from Connecticut.
For months now, I’ve anticipated the release of this episode for a few reasons.
One is because the investigation is still very active and new discoveries were made
while our team was reporting on Leah’s case.
Actual breakthroughs that could lead to her murder getting solved.
And the second reason is because Leah’s family,
who’s been waiting nearly 30 years for answers, talked to us for this episode.
And when we’re trying to tell someone’s story and truly do it justice,
nothing compares to hearing from the people who love them the most.
I’m Ashley Flowers, and this is The Deck.
On October 29th, 1995, Bill Fleming, a courier for the Hartford Courant in Connecticut,
was just finishing his Sunday morning delivery route for the day’s newspaper.
It was just after 4.45 a.m. when he saw something that alarmed him.
As Bill was turning into the parking lot of the newspaper’s distribution facility in
he saw what appeared to be a man and a woman inside a car having a fight.
When he did a double take,
he saw the man hitting the woman, and he could hear her screaming.
Bill’s adrenaline kicked in, so he turned his car around, ready to intervene.
But as he approached, the car sped off,
and Bill could see what appeared to be the man in the driver’s seat shoving the woman
out of the car as the car took off down the road with the passenger door still open.
But the woman hadn’t fallen out.
She was dangling out of the side of the car.
It was still pretty dark outside before sunrise,
and Bill couldn’t tell if the woman was, like, grasping onto something on the side
of the car,
or if she was actually caught and couldn’t get loose.
But either way, the woman was clearly being dragged at a high speed down a busy Hartford
Bill was still in his delivery box truck, and he tried to chase the car, but he couldn’t
According to a 1995 Hartford Courant article,
Bill later told reporters that the car, quote,
took off like a bat out of hell.
According to Hartford police detective Drew Jacobson, who’s working the case today,
it was 4.49 a.m. when Bill radioed a Hartford Courant truck dispatcher who called police.
When the call came in, an officer named Martin Burke actually just happened to already be
patrolling in the area.
There was a patrolman that was driving northbound on Wethersfield Avenue,
kind of coming closer to that intersection as the 911 call came in.
And as he got up to the intersection, he drove through the intersection slowly and he saw
the car coming up.
Detective Jacobson said that the car was driving without headlights on, which got Officer Burke’s
The dispatchers alerted him to the call they’d just gotten, and that’s when he noticed something
being dragged alongside the car.
So he made a U-turn and tried to pull the car over, which just made it drive faster.
The car left and went southbound on Wethersfield Avenue into Hartford to an adjoining city,
crossed over in the city’s actually Wethersfield, Connecticut.
He headed then west on another road into that town.
Officer Burke then saw the car run a red light.
It took off at such a high rate of speed, it was so far away from him, he just, he could
never catch up.
After a couple miles of chasing, the suspect had gotten away.
So Officer Burke radioed out for other patrol cars to be on the lookout for the car, which
he thought looked like a brown sedan with a yellow temporary license plate in the back
He also said over the radio that the car’s passenger door was ajar and something, or
someone, was hanging out the side.
Officer Burke then slowed down and noticed the car had left something horrifying in its
path, a trail of skin and bodily fluids.
He followed the path, and a little further away, he saw what appeared to be a body on
the side of the road, so he pulled over.
Officer Burke went over to it, and he saw that it was a woman.
She was lying off the side of Ridge Road in Wethersfield.
You see, during the chase, Officer Burke had left the city of Hartford and crossed over
into the city of Wethersfield, which is about a 10-minute drive south of Hartford.
When he looked down at her, it was clear that she was in bad shape.
There were road rashes all over her body that were so gruesome and severe that she looked
like a burn victim.
Officer Burke notified his supervisor at the Hartford Police Department, who responded,
along with paramedics and Wethersfield Police.
When paramedics arrived, they checked the woman for any signs of life, but she didn’t
have a pulse, and she was pronounced dead at the scene.
She also didn’t have any ID on her, so they didn’t know who she was, but they could
tell that she looked young, maybe early 20s, and she had dark hair.
First responders covered her up with a white cloth while they waited for a medical examiner
to get there, and police started taping off the scene and looking for evidence.
Hartford knew that they had their work cut out for them, not only because the suspect
car had gotten away, but the actual crime scene itself was huge.
Investigators today still believe it is the largest crime scene in Connecticut’s history,
and that’s because the crime had started in Hartford and stretched over four miles.
But the good news was, police knew that that meant there was a good chance they’d be
able to find other witnesses.
You see, between Hartford and Wethersfield is a metro area, so it is dense with industrial
and residential neighborhoods between the two cities.
It’s a busy area.
I know that there’s, where he was going down Wethersfield Avenue, there’s people
all over the place, even at five o’clock in the morning.
There’s lots of people that live over in that area that are walking, and probably people
coming from Wethersfield, driving into the city to go to work.
It’s one of the avenues, you know, if you don’t want to go on the highway.
Police knew their first step would be to retrace the whole route to properly process
the entire scene.
So Hartford police went back to where it started, on the street near the newspaper’s distribution
There, they found the woman’s pants, her shoes, and a power cord, like the kind that
you plug into a cigarette lighter, right where Bill Fleming said the car had been parked.
They also had some crime scene investigators examine a scene in Wethersfield where her
body was, and there they found a hair scrunchie, pieces of the woman’s torn shirt, and some
other items that may or may not have been related, like a Snapple bottle and a pack
of cigarettes nearby.
And you might be thinking, like, of course they’re related.
But you see, the area where Officer Burke found the woman’s body was a construction
zone at the time, so there was some litter strewn about.
But they still photographed and collected everything they thought might be related to
the woman’s death.
Police even took note of some drag marks just off the road.
It looks like maybe he tried to dislodge her from the car because there were tire marks
that went up onto the grass.
Later that morning, the medical examiner collected the woman’s body from the scene to take her
for autopsy and identification.
While police waited to find out the woman’s name, they went to interview witnesses.
The courier, Bill Fleming, told police what he’d seen, and though he didn’t get a great
look at the man, he thought that he was white, with dark hair combed back.
Bill also gave the same description of the car as Officer Burke, a brownish car with
a yellow maybe temporary tags in the back window, but neither of them were able to actually
read the paper license plate.
Police knew that if they were going to make any headway, they had to find more witnesses.
And they were hopeful that they could maybe even find someone who had gotten a better
look at the license plate, or even the driver, since the whole crime took place on a busy
Initial canvassing was a bust.
When they knocked on the door of an apartment along the route where the woman had been dragged,
a lady answered the door and told officers that she had heard screaming around 5 a.m.,
but she said she didn’t go outside.
In fact, she didn’t even look outside to see what the commotion was because she said she
didn’t want to get involved.
But a few hours later, around mid-morning that same day, a dispatcher relayed to Hartford
officers that at least one other witness had actually called in earlier that morning.
It’s a woman that I guess just says that sounds like she’s out there and there’s a woman being
Dispatchers said that the woman wouldn’t give them her name.
And when officers tried to track her call so they could try and interview her for more
details, nothing came up, which made them think that she might have called in from a
If that’s the case, the woman would have been really close to the suspect’s car as it passed
But she may have gotten a better look at the man.
We were never able to identify who that is.
She’s calling from basically an anonymous call, so it’s not coming back to her apartment
That woman is still unidentified to this day.
And it’s one of the things that police are hoping this episode can help with.
Someone out there knows who that woman is, or maybe that woman is listening to this right
now never knowing that police were looking for her.
Back then, officers were starting to get frustrated with how little information they’d
been able to uncover.
But that’s when they got notice from the medical examiner.
They had determined the woman’s name.
Her name was Leah Ulbrich.
They were able to identify 24-year-old Leah by a tattoo on the inside of her ankle that
read OZZY, O-Z-Z-Y in all caps.
When they ran that tattoo to see if it was in any prior criminal records, it actually
came back as a match to Leah.
Then her identity was officially confirmed by comparing her fingerprints to that same
Detective Jacobson said that Leah’s tattoos and fingerprints were in the system because
she had done jail time the year before on drug-related charges.
And anyone with a felony conviction gets fingerprints and body markings like tattoos noted in their
Besides her name, the ME’s report also gave them a cause and manner of death, though it
took a long time to complete the autopsy because over 80% of Leah’s body had suffered severe
trauma from being dragged on pavement.
It took three hours and 15 minutes and the cause of death was certified as extensive
blunt trauma and the manner of death homicide.
We got a copy of the autopsy report and in it there is a sketch of a human figure with
darkened scribbles over the areas of Leah’s body that suffered, quote, severe bruising
You can actually see it along with some other crime scene photos on thedeckpodcast.com.
By the time investigators knew Leah’s name, it was late afternoon, but now they could
track down her family members to not only notify them of Leah’s death, but to see if
they could find out any important information, like if they knew whose car Leah had been
in at five o’clock that morning.
Police found out Leah had an ex-husband named Bobby, who they tracked down and questioned
Bobby seemed shocked to hear what had happened to Leah and he told investigators that he
and Leah had gotten married in 1989 and had two kids, Ryan and Abby, but by 1991 they
had split up.
He said Leah had gotten out of drug rehab in the summer of 1995 and the last he’d heard
she was doing well.
She was clean and even got to have a visit with her kids a few weeks before.
Now investigators knew that Bobby also had a history of drug use, so he said that his
parents and Leah’s parents often helped care for their kids.
Now it doesn’t say in the police reports exactly how Bobby was ruled out as a suspect
in Leah’s murder, but police said that he provided a solid alibi.
So from there, officers contacted Leah and Bobby’s parents.
Leah’s dad, Bob Baskin, was in Washington D.C. for work when his daughter died.
Bob talked to our team for this episode.
On a Sunday evening at 9.30 in the evening, our phone rang, which was a little unusual,
and I answered the phone and it was the state police informing me that Leah had been murdered.
I can tell you every minute about what those first 24 hours were like.
Bob said he hopped on the next flight from D.C. to LaGuardia and got a rental car to
drive up to Connecticut.
By this time, Leah’s death was starting to hit the local news.
I turned on the news, the local news, because I didn’t have a lot of details at that point
That’s probably one of the toughest hours of my life because they were reporting how
she had been dragged for four and a half miles.
Bob was beside himself.
He hadn’t met with any investigators yet, so up to that point, he didn’t know exactly
how his daughter had died.
I mean, he was still processing the fact that his daughter had been murdered, and then to
learn she’d been murdered in that way, it was overwhelming for him.
That anybody could do to her what was done is unconscionable to me.
Bob knew that he needed to talk to police and make funeral arrangements, and most importantly,
make sure Leah’s kids, who were both under the age of six at the time, were taken care of.
If that trip from LaGuardia back up to Connecticut was one of the most difficult hours I’ve had,
the worst 10 minutes I’ve ever had was having to tell Ryan and Abby that their mother was
not ever going to come back.
But I said to them that while physically their mother was not there, she was always going
to be there because a part of her is in them.
And I believe that to this day.
Bob said that next day, he got into survival mode.
And because he didn’t like the way his daughter was being portrayed in the news, he called
the reporters himself and said that he would tell them about the real Leah.
Some people say, yeah, but she was a druggie and all of this stuff.
Yeah, well, she was addicted to it with a disease.
But that didn’t stop her from loving her children, and it didn’t stop me from loving her.
Leah was a kid with so many attributes who made some wrong decisions and unfortunately
put herself in the wrong place at the wrong time and paid the price for it.
Hearing Bob talk about Leah just twisted me up inside, and it must have made an impact
with reporters, too, because headlines about Leah softened and the story started to feature
interviews with her parents and even her former in-laws, rather than just focusing on her
Articles shared stories about Leah’s childhood achievements, like her artistic abilities,
her high IQ, and her natural beauty.
Accompanying details about Leah in those articles was a description of the suspect in his car,
and police and Leah’s family waited and hoped that someone, somewhere, with information
would finally do the right thing and come forward.
And then, on November 3rd, just a few days after Leah’s murder, Hartford police got
a strange phone call.
Now, it’s hard to hear, so I’m going to have voice actors summarize the call for you based
on a transcript that we got from Detective Jacobson.
It’s been edited and shortened a little for clarity.
Oh, because if we could use a witness, it would be nice.
Well, none of us are totally good men.
We all make mistakes, and eventually we pay for them.
What are they going to do when they find him?
Well, we have no idea where he is or who he is yet.
You don’t have a clue?
Do you have anything whatsoever?
Oh, sure. They got some witnesses.
There are people who saw it.
A lady called who saw the guy, but we don’t know her name.
We’re trying to find her.
You know something?
I happen to think I know who that was.
You think so, huh?
Are you there?
Police never could identify or track down this caller, and it’s someone investigators
today remain suspicious of.
He calls and starts asking questions about what happened to her.
Do the cops have any leads?
Do they know what kind of car it is?
And then he starts, he says, I think it says three times in 12 minutes,
my guts really hurt.
My guts really hurt.
I feel terrible for Leah, but my guts don’t hurt because I wasn’t involved.
I’m going to guess it’s probably a little bit of a guilty conscious or something to that effect.
The dispatcher wrote up the details of the call in a police report in case an officer
could follow up on it later.
As days went by, police continued interviewing Leah’s family and friends.
They learned about a loving mom who struggled with an addiction to crack cocaine.
Her stints of sobriety came and went between rehabilitation efforts.
Here’s her dad, Bob, again.
She went through a whole series of different programs, not doing well particularly or completing
them in many, many cases.
But in 1995, she went to a program at the Elmcrest Hospital in Portland, Connecticut,
and she completed the course and came out of that really in what looked like so much
better shape than she had been in for a long time.
Bob said that the last time he saw his daughter was a few weeks before she died.
They met for lunch and she had completed the latest rehab program successfully.
She was struggling with transitioning back into a healthy daily routine, but there was
a lot of hope for the future.
But now, Leah’s future had been taken away, and it seemed like the case was at a standstill.
That is, until about a week after Leah’s murder.
That’s when someone accidentally came across some key evidence.
You ready for a crazy twist?
On November 6th, a postman on the north end of Hartford was on his usual route when he
noticed some vandals must have been out on Halloween night egging some mailboxes, like
they did every year, because there were broken shells and yolks on some of the U.S. Postal
Then he got to the mailbox on Burton and Homestead Avenue.
And when he opens it up to get the mail out, there’s like eggs and crap, somebody must
have thrown eggs in there.
And then there’s mail and in the bottom of it is Leah Albrecht’s passport.
Also in the mailbox was a prescription drug card, also belonging to Leah.
The passport and the card stuck out among the white envelopes.
The postal worker had seen the news about Leah’s murder, so when he saw her name on
the items, he called police right away.
Police seized Leah’s passport and prescription card and added them to the growing list of
At this point in the investigation, investigators had collected Leah’s shoes, pants, parts
of her shirt, four metal earrings that were still in her ears when she was found, a pack
of cigarettes, that power cord, a hair scrunchie, her fingernail clippings from the autopsy,
and chunks of her hair that were found along the street between Hartford and Wethersfield.
Now they tried dusting the passport and the prescription card for fingerprints, but there
were egg yolks all over everything and testing turned up nothing.
When news hit about the postman’s discovery, it prompted the first big break in the case.
A man called police and said that he worked at a place a few blocks away from the mailbox
where the passport was found, and he said that he worked with a man who might have killed
He said, hey, listen, I got a co-worker that’s kind of fitting the description of this white
male with pushback hair.
He’s got this car.
There’s a little damage on the passenger side and that this man says when he approaches
the owner of the car, who’s a co-worker, the co-worker gets pissed and he’s irate.
You know, what the hell are you doing looking at my car?
And so he kind of gives the tip to the police department.
Hartford police did a little digging and found out that this guy’s co-worker did fit the
description of their suspect, white, thin billed, dark pushback hair.
And like we said, he worked really close to the mailbox where Leah’s stuff was dumped.
And on top of that, he had a dark colored car with some damage on the passenger side.
Is it coincidence that he owns the same kind of car?
It kind of looks like what the description is, and there’s a little bit of damage on
I’m not sure, but it’s really weird that her passport’s there.
Officers back in 95 were like, this has got to be our guy.
They did a background check before calling him in for an interview.
And the man did have a criminal record, but nothing super serious or violent.
And he agreed to be questioned by police.
He provided no information, said he didn’t know who the victim was.
He denied having anything to do with Leah’s awful death.
And since police didn’t have any concrete evidence tying him to Leah’s murder, they
had to let him go.
Desperate to find any sort of concrete evidence, police tried to see if they could get any
information about cars with temporary license plates to see if they were registered to this
man or any other potential suspects.
The investigators back then actually did an incredible job and they got a copy of every
single temporary Connecticut plate in the state of Connecticut for a certain period
And I have those here.
And I’ve had them, I had an intern go through and categorize them by vehicle type.
The search came back with 50 cars that had temporary Connecticut tags on October 29th,
But somehow, none of them belonged to their person of interest.
A few days later, on November 9th, a $20,000 reward was announced for any information that
could lead police to Leah’s killer.
Tips came in, but they ultimately led nowhere.
And despite there being so many possibilities, from evidence to witnesses, the case went
Barely any new leads were discovered over the next several years.
Then, in early 1999, an internal corruption probe at the Hartford Police Department revealed
at least four different officers had been forcing women to have sex with them while
According to an April 1999 article on the front page of the Hartford Courant, the sex
assault investigation got underway when one of the victims came forward.
According to their reporting, four Hartford officers were charged in connection with assaulting
And I want to be clear, Leah Ulbrich did not have a known history of sex work.
No one knows what she was doing inside that car before she died.
But the area of town and the descriptions of the suspect, coupled with the police sex
assault scandal, led detectives to wonder if they should look inside their own ranks
for Leah’s killer.
And so you can kind of see where investigators back then kind of started scratching their
head saying, well, I wonder if one of these guys got nervous.
He’s a police officer.
He doesn’t want to get caught, obviously.
Well, nobody wants to get caught, but definitely doesn’t want to get caught and then took off.
If I ever got DNA, and the DNA never, I never got a CODIS hit, it would make sense.
Because if you’re a police officer, my DNA certainly is not going to be a CODIS because
I’m not a convicted felon.
They probably looked at a list of people that were maybe under investigation or they thought
might have been involved, and then they tried to figure out which guys maybe fit the description.
And then who was working, who wasn’t working, their locations at the time of the incident,
and then included or excluded people that way.
The possibility that a cop killed Leah has never truly been ruled out.
I can’t turn my eyes to it and say, no, it didn’t happen, or it’s definitely not a cop.
Until I get a definitive answer, anything is a possibility.
In 2001, a joint investigation was initiated between the Hartford Police Department, the
Wethersfield Police Department, and the cold case unit of the Office of the Connecticut
Chief State’s Attorney.
And the reward for information in Leah’s case was up to $50,000.
The original person of interest, that co-worker guy from 1995, who we’re going to call Max,
was re-interviewed by investigators in 2003 after his former co-worker called again asking
whatever happened to his original tip about the guy, and the tipster said he just knew
Max did it.
But Max still denied any involvement, and police were still lacking any evidence that
linked him to Leah’s case.
Was he ever really ruled out or no?
No, I’m still interested in him.
There’s still more work to be done.
So we’re not at the, you know, we’re not at the very, very end.
If we can get somebody to come forward and provide more, you know, more tips or if they
remember the incident, if they could call us even anonymously and provide a little bit
of information, at least kind of point us in the right direction, that would, that would
be a huge help. So we’re not spinning our wheels going through mountains of paperwork
and endless leads that don’t get us anywhere.
As detectives have worked over the years to solve Leah’s murder, her kids, Ryan and
Abby, had to grow up without a mom and without a dad.
A few years after Leah died, their father Bobby also passed away, so they were taken
in by their grandparents.
We actually got to talk to Leah’s daughter Abby.
In a strange turn of events, she happens to be a crime junkie, and after our first episode
of The Deck aired, she sent an email directly to me asking if we could cover her mom’s
And what was wild was by the time she had reached out, our reporter Emily had already
done most of her reporting for this episode, and she was about to start writing.
Something about it seemed like fate to me, and maybe other people who’ve dealt with
cases longer and are more cynical than me would say it’s just a coincidence.
But to me, I don’t know, there is something about Leah’s case that makes me think answers
are just around the corner.
Emily was able to talk to Abby, who was just a toddler at the time of her mom’s murder.
You know, going through the 20s and even turning 24, which was the age she was when she died,
I don’t know what her voice sounds like or what she smelled like or even what she
looks like except through pictures.
Abby said that her mother’s death greatly affected her life.
She remembers being little and everyone around her just being sad all the time, and she’s
had periods of anxiety and depression that she’s worked hard to overcome.
Just talking about it all the time, even though that’s not everyone’s cup of tea, it really
helps me just get it out and release it and feel better.
And now I’m able to talk about it without being so emotional.
It took a long time and a lot of sad nights.
When we were really young, when it first happened, my grandma obviously didn’t tell us really
how, but we knew that somebody took her from us and we knew it was bad.
It was scary to think that somebody could do that to another human being.
And sometimes when I was younger, I thought, could that happen to me?
Because that’s all you know, and it’s scary.
Abby’s relatives say that she reminds them of Leah in a lot of ways, which helps her
feel closer to her mom.
Everyone says that I look just like her, and I mean, from the pictures, yeah, I’d say I
I was actually just talking to my aunt and she told me my voice is very similar to hers.
And from what I understand, my mom was extremely creative and that’s definitely something that
I loved to knit and crochet like an old woman at 30 years old.
And I’ve always loved that stuff.
So I definitely think that’s from her.
After learning everything Abby and her brother Ryan had to overcome, they’re both successful
adults today, and their grandparents know Leah would be so proud of them.
Abby herself became a mom last year, and she said it’s made her realize even more just
how much she missed out on.
I didn’t know what it was like to even have a mom, that having a child, it’s like, wow,
there’s so many things that could have been different.
And it’s just sad.
Knowing that detectives are still working to solve her mom’s case using modern technology
like DNA testing gives Leah’s family hope that they might someday know who killed her.
It makes me cry to think about because that would just be the greatest thing, you know,
to finally have answers and have somebody, you know, held accountable for their actions
and just to be able to end that chapter that’s been so hard for all of us would just be just
Detective Jacobson has been working Leah’s case for a decade now, and he’s submitted
old items of evidence for DNA testing as recently as fall of 2021.
None of those efforts have resulted in a match yet.
But every time he opens the case file, he finds new hope in old items that he hasn’t
sent in for testing yet.
And those could be the key.
I wasn’t feeling great because I had submitted the clothing and the passports and the power
cord and I was getting essentially no DNA information at all, like nothing to compare
But I would say since our last conversation, I think I flipped through part of this once,
but you obviously forced me to kind of like read through stuff.
And so my opinion of it has changed because now there’s a Snapple bottle, which should
be loaded with DNA.
I did notice that somebody collected cigarette butts.
I don’t know where those are, but I know that when I mentioned cigarette butts to a DNA
analyst, they get all crazy.
They love that because I guess it gets really loaded up.
Detective Jacobson said his motivation to solve Leah’s case is twofold.
Thinking about the pain Leah suffered as she died and thinking about her family.
Leah’s dad, Bob, is 80 years old, and while he doesn’t hold a grudge against anyone,
not even his daughter’s killer, he would love nothing more than to have answers.
What about the person who did this to her?
Do you ever think about that person or wonder how they’ve lived with that guilt all these
Well, I don’t feel sorry for him.
I wish that somebody had, that he had more of a moral fiber to come forth even at this
He affected lots and lots of people, not just my daughter.
He affected a whole slew of family members and in particular her children, Ryan and Abby.
And that’s not right and it’s not fair.
But while I have forgiven him, I don’t forget.
If this doesn’t get solved, which I really, I don’t know, I have this like feeling.
I don’t know.
I don’t want to get hopeful, but we all will be okay.
I’ve dealt with it for so long, but the thought of thinking that there could be some answers,
you know, she was on this earth for 24 years and she’s been off this earth for 26.
That’s crazy to think that she’s been gone longer than she was here.
And that’s just not fair.
And whoever did this needs to know that they’ve destroyed a family and ruined the opportunity
for me to have known my mom.
And it’s time somebody is held accountable for that.
If you witnessed the horrific murder of Leah Albrecht in Hartford, Connecticut in October
1995, it is time to speak up.
Or if you are the anonymous woman who called to report the crime, or if you know who that
was, it is time to tell police.
And if you have any information at all, call the Connecticut Cold Case Unit at 860-548-0606.
The Deck is an AudioChuck production with theme music by Ryan Lewis.
To learn more about The Deck and our advocacy work, visit thedeckpodcast.com.
So what do you think, Chuck?
Do you approve?