Editor's note: This story was originally published on May 30, 1985
Skeletal remains found at a digging site in Northampton Township may be those of a North Akron teen-age couple who vanished nearly six years ago.
A skull and one set of bones were found shortly after 5 p.m. Wednesday; another skull and more bones were found this morning.
Investigators believe the remains are those of Mary Margaret Leonard, 17, and her boyfriend, Richard Joseph "Ricky" Beard, 19, who were last seen shortly before midnight on Aug. 24, 1979.
Their disappearance had sparked one of the most intensive missing-persons investigations in Akron police history.
Summit County coroner Dr. William Cox said today, that the skeletons were being reassembled and teeth in the skulls were being compared with dental records of Miss Leonard and Beard.
Cox said the skeletal remains were of a female and a male between 16 and 20 years old, mostly likely about 18. He said it appeared to him that the bodies had not been buried but had lain on the ground for years.
"We do not have a firm idea as to how they died," Cox said, adding that there were no obvious signs of violence. No weapons were found.
Akron detective Capt. Jerry Foys said the case is being investigated as a homicide. He said extra detectives were called in today, to work on the case. A shirt also was found with the bones, but no personal items were found, Cox said.
Police and others were turning the site with shovels today, and then sifting the dirt by hand.
Miss Leonard and Beard were last seen alive after they left the old Ascot Drive-In on Akron- Cleveland Road, where they had seen the movie Amityville Horror.
The disappearance attracted nationwide attention and resulted in dozens of searches that included the general area where the bones were found Wednesday. The Leonard and Beard families had hired nationally known private detective William Dear of Texas to try to find the teen- agers. But Dear was unable to come up with any solid clues on their whereabouts.
Dear today, declined to comment on the case.
The first set of bones and a T- shirt were found late Wednesday, by a backhoe operator who was digging a trench for installation of underground telephone lines.
Miss Leonard, who would have been a senior at North High School in the fall of 1979, was wearing a white Acme Zip T-shirt when she disappeared.
Asked whether the piece of clothing found Wednesday, was the T-shirt, Maj. Leonard Strawderman said today: "It could possibly be. There is some similarity."
The backhoe operator was working in an area west of Riverview Road between Smith and Bath Roads. He found bones off a long, one-lane dirt road about 150 feet west of Riverview.
The backhoe operator notified Northampton police, who then called Akron detectives. No further digging was done Wednesday, evening because of approaching darkness. Akron detectives guarded the site through the night, and the search resumed this morning.
Cox said he would give a bone and skeleton expert at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., an opportunity to study the remains.
The search for the couple began Aug. 25, 1979, after Beard's car was found abandoned on a farm lane off Portage Trail Extension near Northampton Road.
The bones were found about 2 1/2 miles from where Beard's car was discovered.
Parents of the couple had never given up hope that they would be found, alive.
Miss Leonard's parents, Gloria and Richard, have kept their daughter's bedroom the way it was when Mary was last in it. A desk calendar in the room still marks the date she was last seen.
The parents and Mary's four brothers and two sisters anxiously awaited word on the investigation today. Some of them gathered at the Leonard home on Thayer Street to await more news, and to console each other.
A brother, Ron, 27, told a reporter by phone:
"We've kept her room intact, hoping one day, she would walk through the door. But I guess that will never happen now.
"This is the first thing we've heard from day, one," he said of the disappearance. "We finally got some news. It's some relief, but it's depressing. It's hard to tell what happened."
Ron Leonard said the family believed that the police, in particular detective John Bailey, had worked hard on the case from the beginning.
"He (Bailey) said he would give us more information today," Ron Leonard said. Leonard said the rest of the family chose not to comment immediately until there was positive identification of the remains.
Beard's mother, Helen, declined comment this morning. Beard's father, William, died in 1981.
There had been numerous searches for Miss Leonard and Beard.
Police used bloodhounds, an Ohio National Guard helicopter and even enlisted the aid of psychics.
Scores of tips came to police and all were thoroughly checked out.
Bailey organized a search of the heavy underbrush along the Cuyahoga River in May of 1980 after he said he received a tip from a "reliable source" that the bodies of Miss Leonard and Beard were dumped near the river. About 150 volunteers - civilians, Ohio National Guardsmen, Marine Corps reservists and area law enforcement officers -- spent a DAY, searching the river banks.
In December of 1979, Miss Leonard's parents hired Dear.
Dear and a team of private investigators spent about six weeks probing the case. They returned to Texas after turning up few solid clues. At the time, Mrs. Leonard said Dear had told her that there was a 50-50 chance that the couple was still alive.
After spending thousands of hours on the case, Akron detectives and the private investigators said they were baffled by the couple's disappearance.
Throughout the investigation, detectives received conflicting reports on whether the couple was dead or alive. Dear's investigators said in February of 1980 that they were checking out a report that Miss Leonard and Beard were alive and living out of state.
Beard's father still hoped his son was alive when he died in 1981, according to a news report.
Beard's mother, Helen, told a reporter in 1983, "Someday I'll know. I'm sure someone knows something and I just wish whoever it is would come forward."
Police said they found a bullet hole in the passenger side of the windshield of Beard's car. The bullet, detectives theorized, may have been fired by someone in the back seat of the car, but investigators never found the bullet. No blood was found in the car.
The car's ashtray contained 17 marijuana cigarette butts. One- and-a-half methamphetamine pills were found in the glove compartment.
The owner of the property where Beard's car was found told detectives that he heard a car door slam at about 2 a.m. Aug. 25.
That was the last solid clue about the couple -- until Wednesday, afternoon.