Editor's note: This story was originally published July 15, 2000
Luanne Eddy thinks about her brother, Ricky Beard, when it snows. He always jumped in his truck and plowed the driveway as soon as the first flakes fell.
For Gloria Leonard, memories of her daughter, Mary, are strongest around the holidays. The grandchildren in the family would bound into the house, yelling, "Is Aunt Mary here?"
Though more than 20 years have passed since and Mary Leonard were murdered, time has done little to lessen the memories or ease the pain for their families. And their loved ones have never given up hope that the person responsible for their deaths would one day be made to pay.
About 15 family members attended a news conference yesterday, when Akron police made a new plea for anyone with information about the North Hill couples' disappearance and killings to come forward.
The brief news conference was emotional for the family members. Some clasped tissues and wiped away tears, while others held hands and patted each other on the back.
"This is something that has haunted us all of these years," Eddy said. "We hope people will cooperate, so we can put this behind us and get on with our lives."
Police have decided to reopen the long-dormant murder case because of new evidence and leads that have resurfaced. Detectives working on the case say they have developed a list of suspects, although they hope people come forward with more information.
"People are now talking to us about this homicide," said Major Paul Callahan, commander of the detective bureau.
Beard and Leonard were last seen on Aug. 24, 1979, when they went on a date to a drive-in theater on Akron-Cleveland Road. She was 17. He was 19.
Beard's abandoned car was found the following morning with a bullet hole through the windshield. But the couple could not be found, even after an intense investigation by volunteers, police, psychics and a nationally known private investigator.
Then, six years later, the skeletal remains of the couple were found by a backhoe operator who was digging in Northampton Township, about six miles from where Beard's car was discovered. The coroner ruled that Beard died of multiple gunshot wounds, while Leonard was stabbed in the chest and shot.
A lengthy investigation ensued, but detectives were unable to determine who was responsible for the double murder.
Last August - on the 20th anniversary of the couple's disappearance - police decided to take a fresh look at the case. They did so largely at the request of family members.
Sgt. Edward Moriarty, a longtime Akron detective, has been working on the case with the help of Ed and Janet Mathews, two Akron officers from the North Hill area who are siblings.
During yesterday's press conference, family members criticized the work of William Dear, a well-known Texas investigator hired by the Leonard family to help find the couple.
Ron Leonard, Mary's brother, said the family paid Dear a lot of money, but saw "no results." He also said Dear has failed to provide either the family or police with pertinent information about his investigation.
Dear, reached later by phone, rebutted those accusations. He said he sent Akron police a 15-pound report in April with information on his investigation, including updated background checks he did on the main suspects.
"What I sent them is what needs to be worked on first," he said. "If they find nothing in what I've given them, they can let me know."
Dear, who has worked on dozens of high-profile cases across the country during his 37 years as an investigator, said not being able to solve the Leonard/Beard case has been one of the biggest disappointments of his career.
"This is one of four or five cases I wish I could have solved," he said. "It's not going to be easy. It wasn't easy in the beginning."
The family members have different viewpoints on the probable outcome of the case.
Ron Leonard had a positive attitude yesterday.
"We are going to solve this case," he said, while clasping a framed picture of Mary.
On the opposing end, his mother, Gloria, said she always has had a gut feeling that her daughter's killer would never be brought to justice.
"I hope they prove me wrong," she said.
But regardless of what comes from the newest investigation, family members said they will do all they can to keep the memories of their loved ones alive. The Beard family keeps pictures of Ricky around the house, while the Leonard family has a video of clips from Mary's life, which is shown to younger members of the family.
"We go on every year - she's never out of our thoughts," Ron Leonard said.