Remains of missing Parkersburg woman found in Belpre park

35-year-old mystery uncovered in Washington County

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin, center, announces the recovery of the remains of Leslie Diane Marty last month, more than 35 years after her murder, during a press conference Monday at the Municipal Building. Beside him are Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks, left, and Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure. (Photo by Evan Bevins)

PARKERSBURG — Thirty-five years after Leslie Diane Marty was murdered and 20 years after her killer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, authorities have recovered her body.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin announced Monday that city police officers, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI located Marty’s remains in November after Mark Hanna revealed he buried her in the former Shell Chemical Employee Park off Washington Boulevard in Belpre. Dental records conclusively identified the skeletal remains as those of the 21-year-old Parkersburg woman, last seen when Hanna, her boyfriend, took her from a 29th Street apartment at gunpoint in July 1983.

“The family has been waiting for this since 1983,” Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure said during a press conference on the second floor of the Municipal Building. “Mark Hanna has always kind of held this over their head.”

Marty’s mother, Mary Brown, said Monday that even though authorities had advised her Hanna had given a location and remains had been found, she did not really believe it until the coroner’s confirmation.

“You just sort of take everything he (Hanna) says with a grain of salt,” Brown said.

Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin, center, announces the recovery of the remains of Leslie Diane Marty last month, more than 35 years after her murder, during a press conference Monday at the Municipal Building. Beside him are Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks, left, and Wood County Prosecutor Pat Lefebure. (Photo provided by Parkersburg Police Chief Joe Martin)

Brown said she’s relieved she no longer has to wonder about her daughter’s final resting place.

“It gives me comfort that I’m going to be able to put her in her special place and we can go visit with her,” she said.

According to Martin, Hanna revealed the location of Marty’s remains during an interview with a Charleston television news reporter in September. Not initially able to speak with Hanna, representatives of the Parkersburg Police and Washington County Sheriff’s Office followed up with him at Mt. Olive Correctional Center in October, obtaining enough information to allow the investigation to continue, Martin said.

Agents from the FBI’s Cincinnati field office and Evidence Recovery Team accompanied local officers to survey the site, now known as Kraton Employee Park. On Nov. 7, an excavation began.

“The team had removed several yards of soil, digging five to six feet deep, in a very long area, probably 60 to 70 feet long,” Martin said.

Thirty-five years after Leslie Diane Marty was murdered and 20 years after her killer was convicted and sentenced to life in prison, authorities have recovered her body. (File Photo)

The excavation began at 7 a.m. Around 1:30 p.m., pieces of a blanket were discovered and the team began to dig by hand, the chief said.

A near-complete set of skeletonized remains was recovered and sent to the Montgomery County (Ohio) Cornor’s Office.

“The examination revealed a bathing suit matching the one the victim was last seen wearing, a blanket described by the convicted murderer and two bullets,” Martin said. “A forensic dentist made a positive identification that these remains were in fact those of Leslie D. Marty.”

Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks said this case is just one example of the daily cooperation between law enforcement agencies in Ohio and West Virginia.

“That’s how we do business, and I think it benefits the taxpayers on both sides of the river,” he said.

Even without finding her body, authorities were able to convict Hanna in 1985 of kidnapping, abduction and burglary, though the abduction charge was later dismissed. He was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 10 years on the kidnapping charge and one to 15 years for the burglary.

Harry Deitzler was the Wood County prosecutor at that time. When the day Hanna would be eligible for parole began to draw nearer, he offered his services to then-Prosecutor Michele Rusen to prosecute Hanna for the murder of Marty, who’d been declared dead in 1991.

“One of our goals, in addition to holding him accountable, was recovering Leslie’s remains,” Deitzler said.

Hanna was indicted for murder in January 1996, but Wood County Circuit Court Judge George W. Hill dismissed the charge after Hanna’s attorney argued it was based on information that was known or should have been known at the time of the original trial and constituted double jeopardy. Hill’s ruling was appealed to the West Virginia Supreme Court, with Deitzler arguing the kidnapping occurred at one time and place while the murder occurred at another.

The Supreme Court returned the case to Wood County. Before the trial, Deitzler said, he met with Hanna and his attorneys about a plea agreement for a reduced charge of second-degree murder “if he would tell us where Leslie’s body was located, because I felt that Leslie’s mother and sister and son deserved that.”

Hanna declined, Deitzler said.

“He said he was going to win at trial anyway,” he said.

But Hanna was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life without parole.

Asked if a motive for the killing was ever determined, Deitzler said some might suggest jealousy, as Marty was apparently involved with another man. But in his experience, “nobody ever knows the real reason why a person would do something like this,” he said.

Afterward, Hanna began writing letters to Deitzler, asking for information about the case. Deitzler said he replied to the letters, saying he no longer represented the state and suggesting to Hanna he do the right thing and reveal the location of Marty’s body.

Over the years, Hanna made overtures about providing authorities with the burial site in exchange for a reduced sentence or other considerations. Lefebure said Marty’s family was supportive of authorities’ decision not to make a deal.

Martin said Hanna did not indicate to him why he chose to disclose the site when he did.

Among those in attendance at Monday’s press conference was former Parkersburg Mayor and Police Chief Bob Newell, who was the lead detective on the case when Marty disappeared.

“It does put some finality to it as far as the Police Department goes,” he said.

Newell recalled surveillance efforts after Hanna was released on bond on the robbery charge, with investigators hoping he would return to the place he’d buried Marty. At one point, a neighbor told police they’d seen Hanna digging in the yard of his Williamstown residence, prompting investigators to dig up the yard, he said.

In other instances, officers followed Hanna when he went out to clubs and bars in the area, with some undercover officers inside with him in hopes that he would say something about the location, Newell said.

Brown said she is grateful for the authorities “never, ever having given up” on locating her daughter’s body.

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