Brick Township, Ocean County NJ
Cynthia Leeds was born on March 29, 1955 in Queens County New York.
At 21 years of age, she was 8 months pregnant and living with her husband, Charles, in an apartment in Kentwood Village, in Brick Township, Ocean County New Jersey in August of 1976. On a Friday evening, August 27th 1976, Cynthia was found by her husband and a friend, strangled and stabbed to death in their first-floor apartment at approximately 5PM. She was found nude, on the bed. She had been stabbed in the chest, and a large slash wound exposed the fetus, leading investigators to believe that the killer might have wanted to take the baby, based on the fact the uterus was exposed by the wounds. A key piece of evidence in the murder, a bloody knife found in the kitchen, was destroyed when the knife was “inadvertently” washed off in the sink when someone washed their hands after police arrived at the scene. (What?!) Blood and any possible fingerprints were gone.
Robbery was ruled out due to money being left out on the counter in Cynthia and Charles’ apartment.
There is no reason to believe Mrs. Leeds let the assailant into the apartment. The most likely scenario is that entry came by removing a screen from a window and reaching around and unlocking a nearby door.
Cynthia’s husband says the last time he saw his wife alive was the morning of August 27, 1976 when he left for work. He was a truck driver for a beverage company.
“Charlie said he got up, went to the bathroom, made coffee and departed through the front door after saying goodbye to his wife.” according to James A. Churchill, head of the major crimes squad in the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office.
Due to her pregnancy, Cynthia stopped working about 2 weeks before the murder. Every morning while she was still working, Charles Leeds would drive his wife to the train station in Manasquan where she caught one of the earliest of the commuter trains, leaving for New York City sometime between 5:30 and 6:00 am. That practice continued, even after the couple moved from Manasquan to Brick Township, because Leeds place of employment was a short distance from the train station. During her days of commuting to work this way, Cynthia apparently became acquainted with a man who took the same route to work every day. This man has been called a “key piece” of the investigation.
It was Mrs. Leeds’s routine to get on the third or fourth car of the train and walk to the first car where she would either join or be joined by the man. They would sit and talk and appeared to be friendly, investigators learned from the few people willing to talk about it, they believe the man also boarded the train in Manasquan. The two both got off the train in Newark but went in separate directions. He headed toward the PATH trains linking Newark with the financial district in Lower Manhattan. Investigators would like to talk to the man who rode the same train even after Mrs. Leeds stopped working to await the arrival of her baby. The mysterious commuter stopped riding the train the day after the murder and although several people have confirmed that Mrs. Leeds sat with and talked to the stranger, this man has never been identified or questioned.
Churchill says “we believe he might be able to give us some important information about the victim.” He was described as a white man in his early 20s, no more than 5’9 inches tall. He dressed casually, wearing a golf jacket, sweater and possibly saddle shoes. The two never entered or left the train together.
Based on conversations the victim had with others, it was determined that the commuter may have been in the banking business and may have been transferred to Richmond, Virginia about the time of the murder.
Investigators questioned hundreds of apartment residents and employees, they even once saturated the early commuter train with leaflets and photos of the dead woman and asked for any possible information, but no one responded.
Churchill believes the murder may have been committed by a person suffering from monomania. (Definition- a mental disorder characterized by irrational preoccupation with one subject.) “This type of individual is usually a loner, and lives in close proximity to a victim, and they are usually five years younger or five years older than the subject of their attention.”
“This person has a crush on someone, and he makes his feelings known. Depending on how he is rebuffed, he can snap and do some pretty weird things. A monomaniac usually kills but once, because the person killed, and therefore eliminated the subject matter of the monomaniac.”
The last entry in the Leeds murder file was July 24, 1984, 8 years after the slaying. It concerned a possible suspect and it was investigated, but it led nowhere. There may be people living in the large apartment complex who may have seen or heard something that day or might know something about the victim that would help investigators. One witness who was outside one of the apartments the morning of the murder saw a Hispanic man wearing a white T-shirt running around behind the complex. That man has never been identified.
6 months after the slaying, police put out a composite sketch of an individual Mrs. Leeds was supposed to have argued with, outside of a physician’s office. After additional investigation, it was determined the woman who had supplied the information about the suspect had made up
the story about the man and the argument.
Cynthia’s grave is located at Saint Catherine’s Cemetery in Sea Girt, Monmouth County, New Jersey.
Anyone with information is urged to contact Ocean County prosecutor’s office at 973-929-2027 or brick townships detective peter ramsey at 973-477-7615.