LORTON, Va. - There is new information about the mysterious death of an 83-year-old Fairfax County man found shot to death inside his Riverside home last year. Detectives are now offering a $25,000 reward for information about the death of Johan de Leede, as they search for a suspect and a motive that remains elusive.
Johan de Leede was eating a banana, drinking milk and watching TV in his living room in just after 1 am on March 11, 2016 when he was shot and killed inside his home. He was facing away from a window that looked out on a deck in back of his house on River Drive in Lorton, Va.
"We believe someone had approached in this general vicinity -- possibly on his deck -- and using some kind of firearm, firing into the window and killing Mr. de Leede,” said Fairfax County Police Detective John Vickery.
With his back to the window, he may not have known what hit him. Detective Vickery says it’s possible he may have seen someone outside, but it’s also possible he didn’t.
“We may never know that,” said Det. Vickery.
The gunfire was loud. Two rapid fire bursts were heard by numerous witnesses who live near the de Leede’s home along the river. The gunman escaped into the night.
In the minutes that followed the shooting, no one reported seeing any boats on the river or anyone running from the scene. The most perplexing question loomed large, especially in the days to come: a motive.
"A motive is obviously the biggest thing we start to look into,” said Det. Vickery. “It's very difficult when you are dealing with someone who has been retired for 20 years, who spends most of his time right here in his backyard and is also involved in the community.”
While the police were mystified, de Leede’s family was stunned beyond belief.
“That’s an understatement,” Susie Paul de Leede, his daughter-in-law, said. “We are shocked. This is surreal. We don't understand, we don't have any idea who or why anyone would want to do this to Johan.”
In only the second interview granted by the family, Susie de Leede told FOX 5 her father-in-law had no enemies, and his vicious murder has left them frightened and confused.
"And we have really thought about it, and with guidance from the police, they are really having us dig into our memories to see if there is anything, anywhere that we can remember, but nothing. In a year—nothing,” she said.
She told FOX 5 the family has gone through notebooks, computers, phones and other things looking for any contact he may have had with someone that sends up a red flag, but they haven’t found anything.
Johan de Leede was a father of four and a grandfather of eight. He had been retired from the World Bank for 20 years when he died. He would have turned 85 years old on June 9.
"He was like no other,” Susie de Leede said. “He really was, and you knew that from the moment you met him. He was so kind, he was wise and knowledgeable.”
She remembers her father-in-law as a tremendous listener who always offered sound advice.
"He was so generous with both his time and with his home, but most of all, Johan loved his family," she said.
Less than a mile away from where Johan de Leede was murdered at his home on River Drive, police got a major clue. Two witnesses reported hearing a vehicle turn the corner on Mallard, and travel at a high rate of speed down the straightway. One witness only heard the vehicle, but the second actually looked out a window and described seeing a large, dark-colored pickup truck with its lights off. Detectives estimate those witnesses heard that truck six to 10 minutes after the first call for help from the house.
“I do believe that vehicle may have been involved in this," said Det. Vickery.
After investigating the case nonstop for the last year, Detective Vickery and his partner have taken a look at one of de Leede’s passions. He wanted a bike trail built along Gunston Road.
"That was kind of his community effort to have that trail put in,” Det. Vickery explained. “The trail is now currently under construction, so maybe that might have something to do with this case. We’re not sure. It is something we are looking into, but as far as motive, we don't have anything to direct us."
Detectives are looking at all cell phone numbers that were pinging off of nearby towers in the week before de Leede’s murder—when someone may have cased the house—as well as the night of the murder, to see if there’s anyone else they should talk to in connection to the case. That kind of work, though, is labor intensive.
"Basically it allows us to see the cell phones that were used in this area at that time -- given that day and maybe the day before," said Det. Vickery. "That allows us to see if maybe somebody was out here -- whether we need to investigate or speak to."
With a year gone by and no suspect or motive in sight, the de Leede family is hoping some new attention on the case will generate fresh leads.
"We really need that -- particularly Liesbeth, Johan's wife,” his daughter-in-law explained. “She really needs to have closure on this. We need to understand why. It won't bring him back, but we need to understand why.
"It's such a mystery and something that is beyond our comprehension."