April Pennington murder trial

The murder trial of George Leniart, accused of the 1996 rape and murder of fifteen-year-old April Pennington, is underway. From what I’ve read of it, the testimony/evidence is quite sordid and horrible.

April sounds like a very unhappy, troubled girl, in spite of her family’s protestations to the contrary. She was making failing grades at the time of her disappearance and she was involved with drugs. Her stepfather said he knew she had cut her wrist and arm two times, but said it was just “attention seeking” and not an indication that April was suicidal or mentally ill. I think if her family knew about two cutting incidents, probably there were more. Right before she disappeared, she broke up with her boyfriend, and she was really unhappy about her family’s pending move to New Jersey.

It was established that on the night of her disappearance, April sneaked out of the house to meet a classmate her own age, Patrick Allain. Allain said they had done this before and had also had sex before, although he said they were friends and didn’t have a romantic relationship. That night Allain was accompanied by his friend George Leniart, a thirty-year-old man who was awaiting trial for rape. Allain returned home before the end of the night. April did not.

Allain later said he, Leniart and April drank beer, smoked pot and had consensual sex out in the woods, and then Leniart dropped him off home and left with April. His story went on to change many times. Now, testifying at Leniart’s trial, he says he and Leniart raped April that night and Leniart insinuated he wanted to kill her. Allain got nervous and went home, thought about calling the cops, and just went to bed instead. The next morning April’s mom called him to ask if he knew where she was. After school, he met up with Leniart and they went back to that same spot in the woods to drink and smoke pot again, and Leniart said he had killed April.

He said he and Leniart picked her up in Leniart’s pickup truck and they drove to a spot off Route 12 in Ledyard. Allain said he pretended to go along with Leniart because he was afraid Leniart would kill him or April. He said he walked back to the pickup truck and told April they both wanted to have sex with her.

“She said, ‘Only you,’ ” Allain testified. “She was crying. I said, ‘He’s going to rape you. We’re going to rape you, basically’.”

Allain said he whispered to April to “just do it,” and that she was quiet and calm. He said he had sex with her first while Leniart watched. Leniart then had sex with April while Allain sat in the driver’s seat of the truck.

“I didn’t really want to look at her,” Allain said. “I put my hand on her breast and just held her, just to let her know I was there.”

The three of them sat in the truck together afterwards, drinking beer until Allain said they had to get home because it was a school night. He said Leniart dropped him off at his house on Route 32 first. He said he ran home and thought of calling police, because he thought Leniart might hurt April. He did not call.

“I wasn’t sure what to say,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if he was going to hurt her.”

The next morning, he was awakened by the phone, Allain testified. April’s mother was on the line and she sounded worried.

“I was shocked,” he said. “I knew something bad had happened.”

Leniart called him later that day and said he had dragged April into the woods and “choked” her, Allain testified. Later that day, Leniart picked up Allain and they went to the same spot in Ledyard to drink and smoke pot, he said.

“He asked me if I ever heard of the movie, Eraser,” Allain testified. “He said, she’s been erased. He said he had put her in a lobster trap. He had dropped her in the mud.”

Both Leniart (who has been convicted of sex assault twice since April’s disappearance) and Allain (who is now doing ten years for sex assault also) sound like monsters, and Allain does not sound like a credible witness. I think it’s likely he was more involved in April’s murder than he says he was, but he is not the one on trial here. He hardly seems conscience-stricken about his actions and lack of action, either. After all, he hung out with a man whom he knew had murdered his friend the previous day. He says he raped April, a girl he admitted he liked, and he didn’t even try to summon help when he knew she was in danger of her life. Really, how “shocked” could he have been when he found out April was missing, given what he had witnessed the night before?

Leniart, for his part, seems to be claiming complete innocence. The defense phase of the trial still awaits us, but so far his lawyer is (a) trying to undermine Allain’s credibility by pointing out his criminal record and all his inconsistent statements and (b) trying to make the jury think April ran away from home. Someone who knew her claims he had a chance encounter with her in Virginia in 1999, but the cops discounted his story after they found out he was a brain-damaged amnesiac.

Poor April. I can only hope that at least partial justice can be served in her case, as I have no doubt that Leniart did kill her.

The Day
The Day again
The Norwich Bulletin

19 thoughts on “April Pennington murder trial

  1. danielle February 18, 2010 / 5:16 am

    Her family’s denial is their defense mechanism…”not my child”… you’re right when you say “poor April”…..well, so much saddness for some people. I do believe that what goes around comes around so the bad guys here will rot in hell

  2. Justin February 18, 2010 / 7:23 am

    I wish I could believe in karma or judgment in the afterlife for good or evil deeds done while on Earth. I would probably be more at peace with myself if I could bring myself to believe that our existence has a point, a purpose and a plan by some supreme being that designed everything and has all the answers.

    But I don’t.

    That is probably why I am so pro-death penalty. These monsters cause all this damage that destroys people on a level that most people can only understand abstractly if it hasn’t touched them personally. Their punishment for this: The government feeds, shelters, gives them medical care for the rest of their natural life in prison, paid for by my taxes. Society is not punishing these people, they are tolerating and rewarding them. I’ve met people from Third World countries that would rather be incarcerated in our prisons than free in their native lands.

    Can they even sentence people to “hard labor” anymore?

  3. danielle February 18, 2010 / 7:46 pm

    I agree with you Justin. Also, we don’t have “truth in sentencing” which sometimes mean parole early…life in prison doesn’t always mean life. Good behavior?? It should be like a credit card, as a way to explain it. You pay on time you pay what you owe. You pay late, you’re penalized. It should be, you’re good in prison, you do your time. If you are not good, you get time added on.
    Many of these prisoners function okay in prison b/c it’s a controlled environment and they don’t have the fear of prison life like most of us do.
    How can we explain a woman having 5 kids and all are in prison? Wouldn’t you say mom had something to do with these criminals being created?
    Make prisoners pay for their food, clothes, bedding, etc.. by working in prison. That’s what we do. If I don’t work, I don’t get clothes, food, etc..

    We give college students, something like $6,000 in grants and loans but spend over $25,000 on ONE prisoner. Switch it around and see what happens.

    Finally, “I have changed, I’m not the same person” well, the victim is still effected. Families are still effected. Yes to death penalty.

  4. danielle February 18, 2010 / 7:48 pm

    Do I believe in an after life? MOst likely, but I don’t believe in firey hell. More like a special place for children of abuse…. not really heaven and hell, but more like some will be at peace

  5. Becky February 20, 2010 / 6:13 am

    Justin, you have really summed up my feelings exactly! Every election year we hear about the same topics: abortion, taxes, yada yada. Why is our criminal “justice” system never on the table? Our system is a very cruel joke. Far from “just” it really only further victimizes the rest of us to have to support these monsters.

    • Justin February 22, 2010 / 8:47 pm

      I see stuff like this all the time and it makes me want to throw these monsters alive into a pit full of hungry rats on amphetamines.

      Prison isn’t justice for what these people did. A swift death by execution is what should happen, but since we are not allowed to burn people at the stake anymore, I guess execution by “humane means” is about the best we can hope for.

      Unfortunately, people who have never been personally known or been touched by evil keep attempting stop the death penalty. What value they find in these monsters by keeping them alive, fed, clothed and given medical care is beyond me.

      If anyone has read this book or knows about this case I am listing below, it is a good example of what I am talking about


      • Meaghan February 22, 2010 / 9:02 pm

        I have personally known and been touched by evil, but I am against the death penalty. Mainly because of the possibility that an innocent person could be executed — certainly it’s happened often enough in the past.

        This is not of course saying that I want to pamper criminals, or that I don’t think there are some people who deserve to die for their crimes. I am just against the death penalty as an institution.

      • Justin February 22, 2010 / 11:50 pm

        By that same rational, no one should ever be imprisoned because an innocent person might be unjustly incarcerated.

        I am still pro-death penalty, but I also think that if it is discovered that anyone who knowingly withheld or covered up information which would prove a person to be innocent of a crime which resulted in a conviction, then they should serve the same sentence as the one who was unjustly convicted. And that includes death sentences.

        What frustrates me is the reason most people stay on death row for decades due to appeals is not because innocent people were trying to find evidence to prove they were not guilty of the crime, but from some small nuance of law where not everything was done completely and properly, even though they were proven guilty beyond doubt.

        There is a reason why extenuating circumstances are needed for capital punishment. No court in this country sentences someone to death lightly.

      • Meaghan February 23, 2010 / 12:08 am

        But if someone is unjustly incarcerated, you can let them go when you find out, and give them some money for their trouble. You can’t bring an executed person back to life no matter how innocent they turn out to be.

  6. danielle February 20, 2010 / 4:04 pm

    Becky: and….when they get a retrial, or appeal or the defense lawyer makes stuff up about the victim to get a not guilty verdict.

    quick example: My dad was a fireman. There was a preist who got beat up and the church money stolen by a guy. The priest was old, in his 80’s. (perfect target, right??)
    The guy runs away, police get him, firemen tend to priest.
    the guy gets water, food, clothes, etc… in jail.
    NO ONE paid to get the priest’s glasses fixed/replaced, damage to the church or for his medical care.

    …….hhhuummmmmm…..This is just a minor case, but how the system is.

    • Meaghan February 20, 2010 / 4:08 pm

      You know, I think just about every state has a fund for crime victims to pay for things like their medical care. I’ve used it myself.

      • danielle February 22, 2010 / 3:18 pm

        good…..It’s not really the money for the victim, but the idea although I am glad FOR YOU to have some assistance. I’d rather help you the Rollo

  7. Bill W February 20, 2010 / 7:18 pm

    Sometimes you just “know” someone is guilty.
    You may not be able to prove it, you may not have any physical evidence, or any evidence at all except for common sense.

    Unfortunately, common sense is not admissable in a court of law in most states today. It has to be something you can put in a bag and label, or take a picture of.

    The behavior of a suspect is enough to convince me, and probably most others, but few judges will allow a conviction, or even an arrest, based on behavior alone.

    I say if a person acts guilty, he probably is.

    • Meaghan February 20, 2010 / 7:43 pm

      So what do you think of Patrick Allain’s behavior?

  8. Bill W February 23, 2010 / 1:56 am

    I just have to wonder what in the world had compelled him to introduce his girlfriend to a rapist.

    • Meaghan February 23, 2010 / 8:02 am

      Perhaps he didn’t know about the pending rape case. It’s hardly the kind of thing I would want to tell people about, if I were Leniart.

  9. Walter Pennington Jr March 6, 2010 / 1:48 am

    I am April’s father not stepfather, Her wrists were never cut, they were scratched with a can tab, no blood and only once. I’m experienced with drug/alcohol couseling/programs. This was just for attention and I sat and talked to her about it. She was upset over her breakup with her boyfriend and as for PJ, she said if he called that she wasn’t home. (stalker) This was stuff twisted by the defense. That’s all I have to say to correct your misconceptions.

    Thank you

  10. krisangel2k8 January 7, 2011 / 3:49 pm

    PJ knew about the other rape also. He did the same thing to that girl as to April. I was that other girl. I was PJ GF he set me up to get rapped by leniart also for sometime I didn’t wan to believe that it was true. I really loves PJ and he knew that he used that. Leniart is a monser and He deserves the death penatly I wish nothing but that for him so no other women have to suffer from his nasty weird behavior he doesn’t belong in society.

    • Shannon July 24, 2012 / 3:05 pm

      That’s funny yoou were his Gf.as someone close to PJ n his whole family u sound like another person trying to make PJ out to be a monster.

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