'48 Hours' brings in tips in Cocoa Beach cold case
Police say new leads generated in 21-year-old's murder
COCOA BEACH, Fla. – A "48 Hours" episode featuring a decades-old cold case from Cocoa Beach has generated new leads.
There had been leads, suspects, clues and tips that investigators followed up on in the 21 years since an intruder stabbed Bunny and Robert Lehton and killed Bunny's daughter, Amy Gellert, Local 6 news partner Florida Today reports.
Investigators thought they were close a couple of times and they still keep tabs on a pair of suspects they've never been able to clear. But there just has never been enough evidence to tie everything together and bring a charge.
That might soon change.
When '48 Hours' recently broadcast an hour-long special on the case, viewers were urged to call, e-mail or contact producers and law enforcement with anything they might remember about the case – in particular anything at all about a unique dagger apparently used in the killing or the prop gun, likely stolen from a theater group, that the killer used to hold Gellert's mother and stepfather at bay.
"The story did what we wanted it to do. It has generated a lot of interest in this case. Much of it is in reference to the knife and or gun, however there has been some new information received that was not provided previously," said Major Tod Goodyear with the Brevard County Sheriff's Office. "We are very appreciative of the response from the viewers and hopeful that this cooperative effort may lead to bringing a successful conclusion to this case and closure for the family."
Almost as important to the family as seeing closure and justice, is an answer to the question "why?"
Goodyear said that several calls came from former military personnel who said the gun was used back then for training purposes.
"We spent a lot of time back then looking at the three or four theater groups but they weren't missing anything," Goodyear said.
Goodyear said investigators were pleasantly surprised that the overwhelming majority of tips were people trying to be helpful and only a very small number were "crackpots talking about things like laser beams."
The calls and new leads have created a lot more work for investigators working the cold case, but that's a good thing, Goodyear said.
A dream scenario would have been the phone call from someone with definitive knowledge of who the murderer was. But that would have been too easy.
"It's going to take some time to go through all these leads," he said. "But that's OK. We will run all of it down."
Meanwhile, the family, including Amy's father and two brothers, struggle with finding closure knowing someone has gotten away with murder so far.
"Will it help us solve the case? I don't know," Goodyear said. "But I hope it does."
A lot of people hope it does, none more than a Cocoa Beach family still waiting for justice.
It was a little bit after 9 p.m. on March 20, 1994, when the Lehtons returned from services at Calvary Chapel to find an intruder in their home who held them at bay for several minutes before being spooked by Amy's headlights in the driveway.
The intruder stabbed and slashed the Lehtons, wounding them critically, before attacking Amy outside. She did not survive the night. She was only 21 years old.
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