Haverhill man held without bail in killing of 82-year-old Groveland man

Denise Dembkoski/file

HAVERHILL — Leedell L. Graham left his Cedar Street home last Friday and walked some 4 miles into neighboring Groveland, where he allegedly went into the home of Patsy Schena and killed the 82-year-old man when Schena walked in minutes later, prosecutors said Friday.

Graham, 48, was arraigned in Haverhill District Court on Friday on a charge of murder. He appeared in court wearing a gray T-shirt and looked calmly around the courtroom. For a moment, he stared in the direction of a woman who was crying.

Graham was ordered held without bail. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for Aug. 1.


Essex Assistant District Attorney John DePaulo said in court that surveillance camera footage showed Graham arriving at Schena’s home at 4:16 p.m. on the day of the murder, June 21.

Further video footage showed Schena arriving at his house at 4:23 p.m., the prosecutor said.

Graham left the house at 4:30 p.m., the prosecutor said. He is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 280 pounds.

Police discovered Schena’s body around 11:46 p.m., officials said.

DePaulo said a bag was found about a 10th of a mile from the house that contained the handle of a knife, Schena’s car keys, and a lamp that State Police believe is the murder weapon.

A second bundle was found about a half mile from the house that included clothing Graham was allegedly seen wearing along with a piece of jewelry that authorities allege had been taken from Schena’s house, he said.

DePaulo said investigators have stitched together images from various surveillance cameras in Haverhill and Groveland, and they were able to track Graham as he walked the 4 miles or so to Schena’s home.

“There is a series of surveillance cameras that pick him up — some of them private, some of them public cameras — that have him walking from Haverhill over to Groveland,” DePaulo said. “The defendant can be seen walking to the house.”


Earlier Friday, officials spoke with reporters outside the Groveland police station. During the press conference, Blodgett disclosed that Graham and Schena had “various business dealings” with each other, but he declined to be more specific.

“The defendant in this case knew the victim through various business dealings,’’ Blodgett said. “I am not going to speculate about a motive.’’

He said the medical examiner concluded the cause of death was “blunt and sharp force trauma.”

Schena was a longtime building inspector who worked for the town from 1979 to 2015. Blodgett said the business between the murder victim and the man accused of killing him did not involve town matters.

Through Blodgett’s office, Schena’s family issued a brief statement prior to Graham being arraigned.

“We appreciate the hard work and diligence of the Essex County DA’s Office, the Essex State Police detective Unit, the Groveland Police Department and the Haverhill Police department,’’ the statement reads. “We are especially grateful for the outpouring of support from the community.”

The family also added that “we request privacy from the media at this time as we lay our beloved father, and grandfather, to rest.”

Schena, according to his online obituary, had his own home building company for nearly 40 years, and also loved the antique business.

“His hobby of antiques became his retirement business and you could find him on the field every Sunday at Todd Farm in Rowley,’’ the obituary reads. “Always greeting people with his beautiful smile, he was known for mentoring many local builders and helping his community.”


The family described him as a “devoted father who taught his girls how to snowmobile, ski, skate, fish, clam dig, build treehouses and go-carts, throw a punch, a strong work ethic and how to be successful in life.”

According to court records and the Essex County sheriff’s department, Graham was released from the Middleton House of Correction on April 26 after he completed a six-month sentence imposed in the Haverhill courthouse last Dec. 17.

He pleaded guilty to a charge of distributing Class B drugs, records show.

Graham also was prosecuted in Essex Superior Court in 2006 on armed robbery and illegal firearms charges. He pleaded guilty in September 2006 to a felon being in the possession of a firearm and armed robbery, among other charges, and was sentenced to a three-to-five year term in state prison, records show.

Graham completed his state prison sentence and was released on Oct. 18, 2013.

Groveland Police Chief Jeffrey Gillen said the arrest of Graham may help the town start to recover from the shock of Schena’s murder, the first in the town of 6,400 people since 1992.

“I personally knew him,’’ Gillen said of Schena. “He was very popular, very well known. This cuts to the core of our community. It was shocking.”

Gillen expressed condolences to Schena’s family.


“He was a wonderful man,” Gillen said. “On behalf of the board of selectmen, I know they also wanted to extend their thanks and their sympathy to the family.’’

Emily Sweeney can be reached at esweeney@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @emilysweeney. John R. Ellement can be reached at ellement@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @JREbosglobe.