DENVER (CBS4) – A mother of four found stabbed to death in her downtown Denver loft was murdered by a man she was trying to help, according to a family member.
Jeanna Leslie, 49, had just moved to Denver in November to be close to her two teenage children after their recent move from San Antonio.
Police arrested the suspect, Terry Dunford, 40, around 11 p.m. Friday near 19th and Blake Streets after a tip led them to his whereabouts.
Arrest records show officers booked Dunford into the Denver detention center early Saturday morning on a charge of first degree murder.
Neighbors were heartbroken to learn that Leslie’s caring spirit led to the deadly turn of events.
Police found her stabbed to death inside her third floor unit at the Rio Grande Lofts on Stout near 15th Streets.
“You always want to do the right thing,” said Antonio Grant, a neighbor who knew Jeanna personally. “And that’s all she was doing was the right thing.”
Grant was unaware, however, that the kind-hearted mother and teacher was reportedly allowing Dunford and another homeless man to live at her place to help them get back on their feet.
“That just speaks volumes of who she was,” Grant told CBS4’s Melissa Garcia. “A beautiful soul. Really nice lady.”
An arrest affidavit released Saturday afternoon indicates that the victim’s body was inside her apartment for six days before officers discovered the bloody crime scene.
“The stench was undeniable,” said Emily Kleinfelter, who lives just a couple of doors down. “My roommate and I always don’t keep our door locked until now. When we were in the apartment, we just became relaxed. We trust most everybody we see in this building.”
According to the affidavit, Leslie’s ex-husband called 911 Tuesday night after she failed to pick up their teenage son and daughter for a basketball game as planned.
Dispatchers sent officers to the victim’s residence where they found her body and a slew of evidence, including a wallet with several of Dunford’s photo ID cards in it. Those included his Veterans Affairs card, a Hawaii driver’s license, and a Denver Rescue Mission ID card issued to Dunford on Feb. 7, the same day detectives believe he killed Leslie.
Surveillance video from a liquor store down the block from the Lofts showed the two buying beer that evening before heading to her apartment.
Leslie’s death leaves her family at a tragic loss.
“It’s a shock. It’s surreal,” said Audra Leslie, 20, in a video chat interview from southern California. “You don’t know where to go from here… she had four kids who are, we’re all pretty young. And you kind of need your mom in your life.”
Community members said the victim had been working seasonal jobs at Banana Republic, Uber and Lyft, while she worked to build back up her teaching career in Denver.
Prior to moving to Colorado, Leslie had worked as a beloved high school English teacher for about 15 years at a San Antonio charter school.