Woman who slashed toddler in 1995 to be released

Idaho StatesmanJanuary 17, 2014 

Rae Ann Leach

Rae Ann Leach, 70, was given a medical parole but will not be released from the Pocatello Woman's Correctional Center for at least a month, said Olivia Craven, executive director of the Idaho Commission of Pardons and Parole.

Leach had been scheduled for release June 27, but was granted parole because of medical reasons that Craven was unable to talk about due to privacy laws.

"These decisions are always tough," Craven said. "We cannot predict human behavior but we do our best. (Leach) has been doing well in prison."

Leach slashed the throat of a neighbor girl, 20-month-old Mary Hickerson, during a psychotic episode on July 10, 1995. She had invited members of the Hickerson family to feed some squirrels in her yard and took young Mary into her home in the 700 block of Ranch Road in Boise's North End for a treat.

She exited the house carrying a bleeding Mary, who was seriously injured in the attack. The girl lost half of her blood and nearly died. Other neighbors were alerted when Anne Hickerson saw her bloody daughter and began screaming.

Leach will take part in a program to help her adjust to life outside prison. She will also be required to develop a plan that ensures the community will be protected when she's released.

When she leaves the prison, Leach will join her husband, Dave Leach, who now resides in Sisters, Ore. The plan Leach develops will also have to be approved by Oregon officials to ensure the safety of people in Sisters, located northwest of Bend. She will not be released early if Oregon officials don't accept it, Craven said.

Leach had pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and was originally given probation, but was placed on a strict supervision plan that required 24-hour monitoring. She was sent to prison in 1999 after she was seen by herself twice at the YMCA and walking unaccompanied through her neighborhood.

Mary Hickerson recovered from her injuries and is now an adult. She couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Friday afternoon, but two years ago she told the parole commission that there was no way to guarantee Leach would follow a medical plan to keep her mental illness under control.

"Every morning, I wake up and see my scars," Hickerson said at a hearing in Jan. 26, 2012. "I have not had a single day go by where I have not been reminded of what happened.

"Boise can't feel safe (to me) as long as Rae Ann Leach is out (of prison)."

This week, Anne Hickerson said she was disappointed with the parole commission's decision. She worries about Leach's mental stability and is fearful Leach might harm someone else.

"I'm worried about someone falling into her trap and getting hurt," Hickerson said.

Leach has suffered from mood and thought disorders, including schizophrenia and manic depression. She has taken lithium, Prozac and an antipsychotic medication.

She told the parole board in 2012 that the medications were working and that she hadn't heard any voices — like the one that told her to hurt Mary in 1995 — or had any hallucinations since 2006.

"I'm committed to my medications for life, " Leach said at the 2012 hearing.

Dave Leach could not be reached for comment Friday. But he previously said the 1995 attack occurred after her psychiatrist took her off one of her medications. He also told the commission in 2012 that Rae Ann heard voices in 2006 because her medication had been switched. That didn't happen once she was back on the appropriate medicine, he said.

Also during that past hearing, Dave Leach said he had made arrangements to hire a medical professional to be with Rae Ann whenever he couldn't. He pledged to ensure she followed whatever treatment was needed to keep her and the community safe.

John Sowell: 377-6423, Twitter: @IDS_Sowell

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