Cold Case File: Detective's search to find Center man's killer

By Jena Johnson - bio | email

CENTER, TX (KTRE) - Leon Small's life ended 19 years ago. He was murdered. It was a brutal crime, and his killer has never been found.

The Blount Cemetery in Center is Small's final resting place, but for the two decades since his death, there has been no rest for his family. Every day brings hurt, anger and the frustration of not knowing who killed Leon, and why.

"It hurts," said Ben Small, Leon's brother. "It already hurts as it is you know by not seeing him in all these years you know you just always wonder."

"They haven't found out who did this to him and every night I go to sleep thinking about it," said Johnny Small, Leon's brother.

"Give us some kind of reason why?" said Marie Small, Leon's sister. "If we could just talk to them in any kind of way and you know why?"

But Small's family has never been able to get the answers to those questions. After his death, the investigation into the murder of leon small went cold. Years passed. No arrests. No justice.

"There's some people still out there that did this to my brother, so it's really not a comfortable feeling,"said Leon's sister, Marie.

"Like I say it's one of those thigns that got shoved in the back and no body really cared," said Detective Joey Haley of the Center Police Department.

Detective Haley is someone who cares. The detective reopened the murder investigation and has spent much of this year determined to solve the mystery of Small's death.

Haley said what was left of Small's body was found in August, 1992 down a rural, dirt road along a creek bed in Shelby County. Small was probably beaten to death. His body was dismembered. His family was devastated.

"I got to myself and cried, I said it couldn't be, you know it just couldn't be," said Leon's brother, Ben.

What little we know about Leon Small's death is written in this police file, but what about his life? His family remembers him as a loving, outgoing person who got down on his luck, and made some poor choices.

Born and raised in Shreveport, Leon lived there most of his life. Until 1991, he was out of work and turned to his family in center. They were glad to see him.

"Leon was an outgoing person," said Marie.

"He was just an outstanding person to be around," said Ben.

The move to center gave Leon the support and love of family, but it did not bring the financial opportunities he hoped for and needed to survive.

"After he moved up here he had a little problem trying to find a job so that led up to the circumstances that happened."

"Leon didn't have a drug problem, but like I say he was down on his luck and from what I understand one of the local big drug dealers was using him as a go between," said Haley.

It was that go-between job that led Leon down a dead end road. Investigators believe Leon wound up trying to sell some fake drugs to someone willing to take his life for a $20 rip-off. "He got that fake twenty dollar crack rock and these guys that picked him up, they weren't willing to accept that and killed him," said Haley.

"I imagine they had lost out on other things before," said Ben. "They didn't have to go to to an extreme like that."

After almost two decades, police believe they now have suspects in Small's murder case. "It was an older model Buick and maybe silver or gray in color and has two white males and one white female in it and he got in the car with them and they left and that was the last he was ever seen," said Haley.

Haley believes his prominent suspect lives in the East Texas area. "One of the main guys that I'm looking at he's pretty violent anyway," said Haley. "He's got a violent past."

Detective Haley hopes to close the cold case murder of Leon Small very soon. Haley believes every Leon Small in East Texas, and their families, deserve law enforcement's best efforts.

"No matter what the victim was like or what he's done in his life, he's still a human, but mostly he's got surviving family members that care about him and love him and want to know what happen to him and they deserve justice,"said Haley.

If you have any information regarding Leon Small's murder case, please call Center Police at 936-598-2788. Of course all information released can be anonymous.

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