Who killed this boy?

Ryan Leitzke was hit by a car — likely a truck — 21 years ago

Ryan Leitzke
  • Ryan Leitzke

May 30 is a date that the Leitzke family of Vista can never forget. It was the day in 1993 that nine-year-old Ryan Leitzke was left to die on the roadside, hit by a driver who didn’t stop. The accident occurred in the 3000 block of Buena Creek Road.

Backyard memorial

Backyard memorial

Each year on May 30, and Ryan’s birthday, November 25, Ryan’s mom, Linda Leitzke, pays for a full-length obituary in the U-T. But the obit isn’t about his life or his survivors. It pleads for any information, asking the public for help in locating Ryan’s killer.

Linda Leitzke, who now is an in-home caregiver, also maintains the Facebook page “Remembering Ryan Leitzke.” Her phone’s voice-mail message still reminds callers to help find her son’s killer.

The information she shares with anyone interested is that reportedly the driver was a “30-ish looking white man with wispy-looking blond hair about shoulder length, driving a beige Toyota truck with multi-colored stripes running along the side, from front to back.”

It was reported that the truck appeared to have painting poles and supplies in the bed of the truck.

Surprisingly, a CHP investigator at the Oceanside office was able to put his hands on the file almost immediately at the request of CHP spokesperson Jim Bettencourt.

“Cold-case files on fatalities are never destroyed,” said Bettencourt. “It’s still an open file.” Unfortunately, the last entry was in 2000.

Bettencourt reminded that it’s not like people see on TV where a case is wrapped up in 52 minutes. As an example, when someone is murdered in a house, there is probably going to be some evidence that will eventually lead to a suspect. In over 50 percent of these evidentiary cases, the victim knew their killer.

“It is very difficult to prosecute a hit-and-run,” said Bettencourt. Even if witnesses have a license-plate number, the DA would still have to prove it was that particular driver, at that exact time, driving the car.

The Leitzkes had three other children at the time of the accident; they are now ages 26, 28, and 32, and Linda says they think of their brother Ryan often. Following the death of Ryan, the Leitzkes' marriage failed; unfortunately, this is most often the result when parents lose a child tragically.

Linda openly publishes her contact number — 760-522-7446 — hoping for any possible leads.

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What enormous pain these families must continue to go through. There was an article in the UT recently about how many hit and run fatalities there have been this year in San Diego County alone. Apparently the number is frighteningly high for this time of year.

I am sure the new chief of police is busy, but I would think that a good sit-down with the sheriff's office and the highway patrol might be in order. Maybe when there is a hit and run, we should have immediate reports as there are with child abductions and attempted abductions? This situation should not be allowed to continue, with families struggling for years with no answers, and the perps just driving off.

That is a really good idea eastlaker. The different agencies do cooperate more than previous decades. In the old days, if you got ripped off in Encinitas, the Carlsbad PD would know nothing about it and the bad guys could sell your stuff just a few miles from where they kiped it. Now they have to transport it out of county to sell, bikes, cameras, high end value stuff. So there is more mutual communication with local agencies, and multi-agency task forces, but as you say, maybe not enough in this specific area. Get it out there in the media sooner, but then we all don't read one specific "media" either for news. I would also think there should be a state-wide data base of hit n run car descriptions that all body shops should be required to check before performing any work. When on TV police shows, when the Capt. yells "Check all the body shops" that doesn't happen in real life. Then again, how many billboards and bumper stickers were there for Amber Debois and yet no one would find her until one guy confessed.

Living in the general area, I've followed this sad story from the beginning. A major thing not mentioned in the posting is that the driver was not deemed to have been at fault. Sadly, the boy ran into the road, probably "chasing a ball" or some such similar thing. If the driver had stopped, the sheriff's department determined, he'd have likely been sent on his way. The crime was that he didn't stop. That sort of "hit and run" happens constantly, and usually those who flee are those whose background tells them that if the "policia" catch up with them they'll be jailed. So they run, and as a result face far more severe punishment than anything that could have happened if they had stopped.

The bereaved mother was once quoted as saying that she was sure the driver was a regular commuter on the route. And then she concluded that people were covering up for him. I didn't see it that way. That Buena Creek Road route connects to Deer Springs Road, and they form a back road cut-off from I-15 to Vista. I'm not a regular user, but I use it when I want to head north on I-15, or the reverse. So, it could have been anyone.

Whoever he was, the driver has likely been wondering/waiting for that knock on the door for over twenty years now. The general excuse offered by hit and run drivers is that they "didn't know" they had hit anything or anyone. Very frequently they will claim that they thought they had hit some animal (take your pick: deer, raccoon, coyote, cow, goat, sheep, dog, or aardvark) and had hit it only a glancing blow. Yeah, right. Especially in daylight on a clear day. If this person is ever apprehended, we can only wonder what his/her excuse will be.

There are no words that properly convey the sadness I feel for Mrs. Leitzke and her family. The love a mother has for her children can not be duplicated - as I have said to my Grandson since the day he was born - 'to infinity and back, that is how much I love you'. As so it is with Ryan's mother, even with his passing - she continues to love.

Eastlaker calls for action, hopefully the authorities are reading -----

Thoughts and prayers for a family who continues to love the most precious gift of "Ryan Leitzke"

Thanks Ken and the Reader for honoring this boy's memory and brining it back in the publics eye and memory.

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