Family seeks answers in unsolved death in Smyrna

The late James Leager of Clayton is pictured holding his grandson Zachary approximately seven years ago. Mr. Leager was found unconscious in his truck on April 27, 2016, at a grain farm on Blackbird-Greenspring Road, north of Smyrna. He died at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital on May 16, 2016. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

GLASGOW — A year later, the death of a 63-year-old Clayton man assaulted at a grain farm north of Smyrna remains unsolved.

James Leager was found unconscious in his bronze-colored 2011 Ford F150 pickup truck suffering from serious injuries the morning of April 27, 2016, and died at Bayhealth-Kent General Hospital in Dover on May 16, 2016.

While Mr. Leager succumbed to head and upper body wounds suffered from blunt force trauma, the Delaware Division of Forensic Science has not ruled the manner of death a homicide, police said.

The Delaware State Police and grieving family members said they believe somebody knows what happened to Mr. Leager, but hasn’t come forward to tell.

On Thursday at Troop 2, investigators held a joint news conference with the victim’s mother, two brothers and an uncle asking for the public’s assistance in learning more details regarding the incident.

Authorities said numerous interviews and forensic examinations haven’t yet determined a suspect and hopes that the past 12 months may have convinced tipsters to assist. Police are interested in hearing from those who may have spoken with Mr. Leager in the days leading up to the incident or heard anything about it afterward.

Appealing to the public for help is another tactic to possibly reach a resolution.

“We’re not getting as many leads as we would like,” spokesman Master Cpl. Jeffrey Hale said.

Police believe the attack was not random and Cpl. Hale described the violence in the rural Kent County area as an “anomaly.”

The family of the late James Leager answers media questions on Thursday. Pictured, from left, are sister Cynthia Leager, brother Michael Leager, mother Marie Leager, brother Jeff Leager and sister Jamie Gilbert. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Police asked anyone with information to contact Detective Dan Grassi at 365-8411, Information may also be provided by calling Delaware Crime Stoppers at 1-800-TIP-3333, online at, or by sending an anonymous tip by text to 274637 (CRIMES) using the keyword “DSP.”

Missed by many

Jamie Gilbert, who got married the day her dad died, dreads eventually explaining to her 8-year-old son how her grandfather died. With the case still unresolved, she can’t do that.

“I just have so much heartache” when it comes to thinking of the uncertainty that surrounds the mysterious assault, Ms. Gilbert said.

The family lost “a son, brother, father and grandfather” 12 months ago, brother Mike Leager said, and “has endured sleepless nights and the pain of not knowing what happened to Jimmy” since then.

Joining the family at the news conference was brother Jeff Leager and uncle Bill Cassell.

Three employees and the farm owner were on the property in the 700 block of Blackbird-Greenspring Road when Mr. Leager was apparently attacked, police said. The owner found him and troopers were notified by an emergency call from the Kent County Regional Communication Center.

Mr. Leager never regained consciousness, police said.

The victim worked at the farm occasionally, according to family members, and lived within 10 miles of the scene. His vehicle had Delaware registration tags, police said.

Mr. Leager’s sister Cynthia described him as a “very funny guy who was adored by a lot of people. He was well liked by a lot of people so he’s very much missed.”

Burying her first born child was “horrible” mother Marie Leager said and something that’s indescribable unless it’s experienced personally.

“It should never happen,” she said, fighting back tears.

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