UPDATE: It's been great answering all of your questions! For those asking how they can help, please sign the petition. By signing, we will be able to update you on any efforts Leo's legal team is making, and ways that you can support those efforts. Please follow @ lavaforgood, @ gilbert_king, and @ kelseydecker on Twitter for more updates, and subscribe to the Bone Valley podcast for any new episodes that may come in the future, updating you all on Leo's case. We are grateful for your support and your willingness to share Leo's story and bring Michelle closer to justice. Thank you!

In 1987, 21-year-old guitarist Leo Schofield was pursuing his rockstar dreams when his 18-year-old wife Michelle was found dead in a phosphate mining pit in Lakeland, Florida. Two years later, Leo was convicted and sentenced to life in prison for the murder—a crime he has always denied.

Fifteen years into his sentence, Leo learned that previously unidentified fingerprints from Michelle's car have pointed to a new suspect: Jeremy Scott. At the time of the crime, Jeremy was a homeless teenager, with an extensive history of violence. Now, Jeremy is serving his own life sentence for a different murder—and he's recently given a detailed confession to the murder of Michelle Schofield. Yet Leo Schofield remains behind bars.

Kelsey and I have worked tirelessly on this case for years. Our findings are featured in the Bone Valley podcast, where we interview both Leo and Jeremy, and where we inadvertently solve a second, decades-old cold murder case.

Ask us anything.

Proof: Here's my proof!

Comments: 143 • Responses: 42  • Date: 

Potential_Copy4980191 karma

Im Mike, David and Liz's son. I was a kid when all this happened but i very much remember all that we went through. I remember thinking Leo was Dad's coolest friend. I remember going with my dad to the jail to visit him and i remember him staying with us for what seemed like a while but couldve been just a couple of days. He had just had a car accident and broken his neck so he looked like Frankenstein with his halo on. I also remember he could tie his shoes really fast and that was awesome to a 9 year old.

One of the things my dad talked about all the time was that the killer couldn't be Leo because he was right handed and the autopsy report suggested the killer was left handed. Do we know if Jeremy Scott is left handed? Would that info be pertinent to the case based on the autopsy report?

lavaforgood154 karma

Hi Mike! Tell your parents Gilbert and I say hello! They were one of our very favorite interviews. To answer your question, yes, Jeremy is left-handed. We’ve asked a few experts about this but it seems that, unless the exact position of the suspect in relation to the victim’s body is known, it’s really difficult to use this as evidence. Basically, we don’t know exactly how Jeremy was standing or kneeling while this crime took place, so we don’t know whether the hand he used is evident in the autopsy.

- K.D.

LeftAngleProductions79 karma

I live in Lakeland. Around that time I actually lived down the Road at the corner of Scumbee and Saddle Creek Rd. I don’t trust anything that happened in the sheriffs office Around the time of Dan Daniels. The proverbial snake rots from the head, calling him a snake insult to snakes. Things haven’t changed as much as people like to pretend. One of our councilman (until he was arrested for murder) has deep white nationalist ties. With that said, is there anything that local people could do to help? I work in Tv/film production and have a studio in Orlando.

lavaforgood62 karma

I’m so happy to hear that someone local has been listening. I don’t have much to recommend at the moment – other than signing and sharing the petition we’ve been directing everyone to. But I would encourage you (and everyone, really) to pay attention to local elections! They matter. The position of State Attorney is an elected position. So far, publicity for this story and for Leo’s case has mostly been through word of mouth, which we definitely believe in the power of. Talking about Bone Valley and Leo’s case with friends, family, and coworkers can make a difference. Hopefully, with that this’ll eventually become unavoidable for folks in power to confront.


LeftAngleProductions27 karma

Trust me I have been. Right before the election I had spent a lot of time working with Rep Charlie Crist and Rep Val Demmings(former police chief of Orlando). I told them all about the case. Unfortunately they did not win their elections. I was also speaking to Jerry Demmings about it who was sheriff of Orange County and now the mayor of Orange County.

lavaforgood32 karma

Thank you! And please continue speaking out. I know from my experience on the Groveland Four exonerations, it took a great deal of help from others to get this done. I’m especially thinking of State Attorney Bill Gladson in the 5th Circuit, who was so inspired to do the right thing, he conducted his own investigation into the case, and managed to find the long lost physical evidence from the original trial, where he could prove that his predecessors in the State Attorney’s office had purposely framed innocent men. There are plenty of men and women like State Attorney Gladson in Florida who are serious about truth and justice, and I will not be surprised to see someone take the lead in helping to bring relief in the wrongful conviction of Leo Schofield.


Kitkat555166 karma

Why do you think the attorneys for the State ofFlorida are being so closed minded about agreeing to an unbiased review of this case?

lavaforgood108 karma

The State Attorneys in the 10th circuit have really dug their heels in on this case. They’ve had many opportunities over the years to correct this injustice, but it seems that they never really entertained the possibility that Jeremy Scott might be the person responsible for Michelle Schofield’s death. It’s honestly hard for me to believe that anyone could look at all the evidence in this case and not come to the same conclusion that we did. So, I constantly find myself wondering if the State Attorneys really believe what they’re saying about this case is the truth, or if they’ve just dug themselves in so deep that they can’t do anything but maintain the same flawed narrative they’ve been spouting for years. I’m not sure what it would take to convince the current State Attorney Brian Haas to turn the case over to a conviction integrity review unit, but we’re hoping that with attention and public pressure, he’ll feel obligated to do so. Or, even better, he’ll feel moved to do the right thing.


9planet47 karma

what can we do to help leo be released?

lavaforgood56 karma

You can sign this petition! Leo’s attorneys have been keeping us up to date on their efforts, and if anything else comes from that, we’ll certainly be posting about it on twitter (@ lavaforgood, @ gilbert_king, @ kelseykdecker)

- K.D.

cvaldez7433 karma

Hi Gilbert & Kelsey! Are you planning on covering any other cases in future podcasts? I really enjoyed Bone Valley and would love to hear more.

my questions about Leo's case:
- if Jeremy committed the murder as he describes it, how can the lack of blood in the vehicle be explained?
- if Jeremy broke into her car and stole her stereo, how can the locked car be explained? (I'm no expert but I can't imagine a thief locking up after themselves)
- if Michelle picked up Jeremy to give him a ride on her way home from work, how can the fact that her purse was found in her and Leo's home be explained?
- I know this is not really an answerable question, but in case you did learn anything about this, why was Leo's father not more thoroughly investigated considering his vehicle was seen both at his son's trailer the night of the murder and at the location of the victim's car after her disappearance? and then to just magically know where to find her body? Does Leo have any suspicions about his father's possible involvement?

lavaforgood43 karma

Many questions here, I will try my best to answer them all.
On the blood: So here’s what we know – a large quantity of Michelle Schofield’s blood was found in the dirt near the canal. Likely, the majority of the blood she lost. Looking at crime scene photos, it seems likely that this would’ve been right beside where the Mazda was parked. Gilbert and I really hate speculating about this publicly, but of course we’ve had these conversations privately. It’s definitely a valid question to wonder about the lack of blood in the Mazda. We’re not experts in forensics, so of course take this with a grain of salt, but our guess is that Jeremy threatened Michelle. This probably began in the car, but quickly moved outside of the vehicle. I believe (again, not an expert) it is possible the first stab could’ve happened within the Mazda, Michelle opened the door and got/fell out, and then the rest of the crime happened on the ground outside the vehicle, where most of her blood was found. This is primarily speculation, but it is of course based on our years-long, very thorough review of ALL the evidence, and of all of Jeremy Scott’s statements. I really hate speculating about the final moments of Michelle’s life, but I understand why it’s a lingering question.
On the car being locked: The car was not locked entirely, the hatchback was still unlocked when it was found. I don’t really have many other thoughts on this.
On Michelle’s purse: Michelle was known to carry money loose in her pocket, or use a money clip. The clerk at the gas station she stopped at the night she was killed distinctly remembers Michelle pulling out a money clip. Initially, Leo mentioned the purse to police because he thought it’d been stolen, before realizing it was still at home in their trailer.
On Leo’s father: It is our understanding that Leo Sr was thoroughly investigated, but the most damning evidence against him was just his weird statement about a vision. To clarify, these statements were made only after he found Michelle’s body. No one has ever claimed that Leo Sr told them about this vision before Michelle’s body had been found. We think it was his way of explaining the deeply traumatic experience of finding his daughter-in-law and the senseless crime she’d suffered. Mark McCoy on Twitter said, “an innocent man has been in jail for 30 years because his dad is the type of guy who says, ‘God helped me find my car keys.’” Gilbert and I couldn’t have said it better ourselves.
As for other cases, stay tuned!

- K.D.

loopdegook32 karma

Are you still in touch with Jeremy, either by mail or in person?

Thank you for the podcast - you both should be very proud of it.

lavaforgood48 karma

Thank you. Yes, I have tried to stay in touch with Jeremy, but it has been difficult because he is frequently disciplined and placed in Close Management (solitary confinement) for long periods of time. He’s also transferred a lot to different institutions, and he loses privileges, like access to inmate email services. But I did receive a letter from him last week, telling me he was back in Close Management.

- G.K.

echo324022 karma

How has the govt/authorities pushed back on releasing Leo? Even with the confession

lavaforgood34 karma

The State Attorney’s office has consistently argued that Jeremy Scott’s confession cannot be believed, since he previously claimed his fingerprints were found in the car only because he’d stolen the stereo equipment. They pushed this claim heavily at the 2017 evidentiary hearing and ultimately the judge agreed that Jeremy’s confession was not credible. From the start, the SAO has always maintained that they had enough evidence to convict Leo, and that Jeremy Scott just stumbled onto the car.

- K.D. & G.K.

RandalWilkinson11 karma

Where did Jeremy meet Michelle Schofield. Does the State Attorney of his associate namely Arguero have power over Sheriff to call of an investigation like the one conducted on the taxi cab driver who Jeremy’s former girlfriend said he confessed to killing?

lavaforgood25 karma

Jeremy has told us that he did not recognize Michelle, but that Michelle said she recognized him, seeing him at a party, or somewhere around Lakeland. Which, to us, makes sense, because according to her friends, she would not likely let a total stranger into her car.
As to the second question, the Sheriff’s office and the State Attorney’s office usually work together on these kinds of cases. They are usually on the same page.

- G.K.

Suebmcd17 karma

Do you think the prosecutors are suppressing Jeremy’s guilt so they don’t get criticized for his later misdeeds, which theoretically could have been prevented?

lavaforgood30 karma

Sometimes I think Jeremy Scott was the luckiest man in central Florida. He admitted to getting away with killing Jewel Johnson in 1985 after he was acquitted of her murder. Detective Richard Putnel investigated both Jewel Johnson’s murder and Michelle’s murder, but he never thought to compare the prints found in Michelle’s car to Jeremy Scott, who was out of jail and staying about a mile away from where Michelle’s body was found. About six weeks later, taxicab driver Joseph Lavair was murdered in nearby Intercession City—another murder Jeremy ultimately admitted to. But the State instead tried to convict an innocent man for that murder, too. So Jeremy once again escaped justice.
I’m actually appalled that these tough on crime law enforcement agencies have become Jeremy Scott enablers in order to either protect one of their convictions, or avoid the humility of having their corrupt investigations exposed. That’s why it’s so important to tell these stories. As Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis famously said, “Sunshine is the best disinfectant.”


marrrguerite15 karma

Hi! Thank you for the work on the case and the podcast!

  1. What information is the most difficult for people to understand or visualize?Contradicting timelines and evidence / The complete bungling of the case itself / Separating the real story from the one that convicted Leo Schofield / etc
  2. Is there canon around which cases have successfully passed through this Conviction Integrity Unit?

lavaforgood26 karma

Thank you. I think the most difficult part of Leo’s case is parsing through all the pseudo-evidence and innuendo that the State relies on. Because it was a circumstantial case, meaning that there was no physical or direct evidence linking Leo to Michelle’s murder, the State introduces information that’s designed to arouse suspicion with the jury, like…Leo didn’t help plan Michelle’s funeral, Leo couldn’t remember the year Michelle was born, Leo was dating too soon after Michelle’s death, Leo said he hoped they didn’t find Michelle in water, etc., etc. When we talked to Leo about these things, he had perfectly reasonable explanations.
Leo’s lawyer, Jack Edmund missed so many opportunities to counter the State’s narrative because he was so unprepared at trial. Reading the trial transcript is an eye-opening experience.
Here are two recent Florida cases that resulted in exonerations following the work of Conviction Review Units: Robert DuBoise was released from prison when DNA evidence cleared him. And Nathan Myers and Clifford Williams were also exonerated after a Conviction Integrity Review Unit investigation by the 4th Circuit. You can find more Florida exonerations here.

- G.K.

DevelopmentSlight38613 karma

Does he have appeals left?

lavaforgood23 karma

No. Leo’s only options for release at this point are clemency and parole. Unless there’s a discovery of new evidence; but given what’s already been uncovered, that’s highly unlikely.


No-Conclusion831712 karma

Listening to the podcast was a very emotional experience. Phenomenal storytelling. Leos also a compelling character himself and he oozes a level of confidence and self-assurance that is really inspiring.

Do you think you could utilize more compelling marketing platforms such as TikTok / reels and have Leo tell his story in short-form to try and garner more attention?

lavaforgood13 karma

Thank you so much. Totally agree with your assessment of Leo! He inspires me constantly.
As for TikTok, I’ve given some thought to trying to publicize Bone Valley and Leo’s case on the platform, but unfortunately we just don’t have much in terms of visual content. Filming and photography within the prison is heavily restricted. I have seen a few TikTok reviews of Bone Valley though, which I have LOVED. So I absolutely encourage anyone on the platform to share their thoughts on the story and the case. And if you’re interested in seeing what we do have in terms of visual content, it can be found here on Lava for Good’s website.


No-Conclusion831712 karma

I am a social media marketing professional for a start-up. I think one method (if you're interested) could be to reach out to true-crime /crime/podcast tiktokers and pitch them the case. They make incredibly enticing content with nothing but a few simple background photos and have large audiences. I will link a few here in case you want to reach out to them, explore other accounts like theirs, or even emulate/copy the style of content:

- https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTRQhCVmk/

- https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTRQhoayL/

- https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTRQhvBwU/

- https://www.tiktok.com/@makingatruecrimerer?_t=8XPjZ7wSFFi&_r=1

Reaching out to these folks and sharing the podcast/story highlights might inspire them to make a video and spread the word even further! Happy to provide more examples if you think it might be helpful!

lavaforgood9 karma

This is so helpful and appreciated! I will be looking into this. Thank you so much!! -KD

Healthy-Corner757711 karma

Don't the district attorney have a moral and ethical obligation to up hold the law?

lavaforgood21 karma

Absolutely. There’s a US Supreme Court case, Berger v. United States 295 U.S. 78 (1935) where the opinion states that it is not the duty of the prosecutor to simply win cases, but to pursue justice. Unfortunately, prosecutors are humans with egos and career goals and many seem to be guided by their pursuit of personal gain, instead of their obligation to seek justice for victims. In most wrongful conviction cases I look at, you can clearly identify moments where the prosecutor is misrepresenting evidence, or concealing evidence from the defense because they are trying to win the case, rather than seek justice.

-G.K. & K.D.

pmv11229 karma

Thank you for all your hard, dedicated work!! How do we get Action to happen? Is the petition working?

lavaforgood10 karma

The petition is gaining signatures every day! Each signature and share helps. We’ll have to wait and see whether it has the outcome we’re hoping for. If sometime down the road other opportunities to help arise, we will post an update on the petition, and anyone who has signed will be notified. -KD

Still-Salt22778 karma

Do you think Bryan Stevenson at Equal Justice Initiative can help Leo? I know the Innocence Project are working on the case, but Bryan has gotten so many men exonerated for crimes that they did not commit but were found guilty of anyway.

lavaforgood9 karma

I know Bryan pretty well, and he’s probably the single most person I admire in this world. I’m in awe of his work, and he’s been an inspiration to me over the years. I’m just not sure what he could do for Leo’s case, since Leo has great representation. The sad fact is, there are many cases Bryan and the EJI are involved with that are just as stalled in the courts as Leo’s. Post conviction relief has never been more difficult than it is today. But we both believe in the power of storytelling to affect change.


Id_Rather_Beach8 karma

I've been thinking about the original prosecutor and his behavior - is there anything that can be reviewed to determine if there is/was "prosecutorial misconduct"?

And I really feel like the retired dude going in to speak at Leo's parole hearings is offensive. He doesn't even know the case!

(although after this most recent election, Florida may just be a lost cause to anyone who is reasonable....)

lavaforgood8 karma

It’s unclear to me if, after all of Leo’s appeals, that John Aguero’s work on Leo’s case can be reviewed for prosecutorial misconduct. One of the areas we wanted to explore more in this podcast was the sordid history of prosecutorial misconduct in the 10th Circuit during State Attorney Jerry Hill’s time in office, and some of the innocent men he convicted who were later exonerated. His star homicide prosecutor, before John Aguero, got caught lying about exculpatory evidence that was withheld from the defense. In my opinion, that kind of prosecutorial misconduct merits charges and arrest — or, at the very least, an investigation. But Jerry Hill kept him on the job.
We also talked to a lot of people in Polk County legal circles who told us that John Aguero was known for doing the kinds of visits with defendants, without counsel and without tape recordings, that both Leo and Jeremy spoke about in our podcast. This was completely unethical, and seemingly an ongoing problem in Hill’s office. But because of the nature of these visits, John Aguero was savvy enough to not leave a paper trail.

- G.K.

loopdegook8 karma

Kelsey, I think it said on the podcast this was your first job after graduating college. Congrats!

What did you study and what was it like working on the case, given this was your first experience post-graduation?

lavaforgood9 karma

Thank you so much! And yes, you heard that right. This was my first read job post-grad. I graduated from Barnard College with a degree in sociology. Throughout most of my time there I also worked in Columbia’s oral history archives, and I spent a lot of time attending lectures put on by the Oral History masters program there. So that’s where a lot of interest in audio storytelling is rooted. Working on this case, as my first job, was… wild. I can’t say I really knew what I was getting into at the start, but I quickly became very passionate about Leo’s case, and that’s a big part of what carried me through. I think I made up for some of my lack of experience with this passion. Once I really dug into the details of this case, and once we started investigating and reporting down in the field in Florida, I stopped thinking so much about what I didn’t know, and was able to focus more on what I did know – the facts of the case.


Still-Salt22777 karma

Can you petition DeSantis, the Governor of Florida for Clemency for Leo?

lavaforgood11 karma

I have had some experience with Governor DeSantis, when I testified before the Clemency Board during the pardon hearing for the Groveland Four. To his great credit, after the 2018 campaign for Governor of Florida, he stated that addressing the Groveland Four case was going to be one of the first things he did when he took office. And I think it was his second day in office when he called a Clemency Board hearing and officially pardoned the Groveland Four. I also sat next to him in Lake County, Florida when we both spoke at the dedication of the Groveland Four monument in front of the Lake County Courthouse. So I know he’s committed to justice. I know there are people in Florida who are trying to bring Leo’s case to his attention, and I think he knows I will cooperate with any investigation, either by a conviction integrity review unit, or the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Florida’s history, when it comes to wrongful convictions, is not a good one. But Florida also deserves credit for being willing to improve the integrity of its judicial system by addressing some of the gross injustices from the past.


RandalWilkinson7 karma

Tell us about the Conviction Integrity Unit. Are their decisions binding?

lavaforgood16 karma

Conviction Integrity Review Units are able to reinvestigate cases with compelling claims of innocence, and they aren’t bound by appellate deadlines, or issues that may have already been settled in court. They can basically start from scratch and consider all the evidence, new and old. Pretty much what we did in our investigation. Because the State Attorney’s office is so heavily invested in protecting the conviction of Leo Schofield, we think it’s necessary to get an independent, unbiased review of his case. Unfortunately, the 10th Circuit’s State Attorney’s Office does not have a Conviction Integrity Review Unit.


WeekieDonald7 karma

Now that we know the upheaval occurring in the Polk County S.O. It helps me understand why so many investigative errors or omissions occurred. Example, tire tracks, blood in the sand, Mazda 6 miles north on I-4 (why did it take someone other than authorities to see it and know it was part of a missing person case). I wonder what Joe Zarbo thinks about this?Eespecially since he was there the day Michelle was found. Did he talk to you about that day when you spoke with him?

lavaforgood16 karma

Yes, the investigation at the canal where Michelle’s body was found was deeply flawed. Joe Zarbo was at the scene that day, but he doesn’t remember much about the investigation. His role was primarily to protect the crime scene as the investigative work was done by other members of the Sheriff’s Office. Failing to collect evidence – such as the Marlboro box near the bloodstains, and the plastic tarps by the canal – was a mistake. This could have produced evidence that placed Jeremy Scott at the crime scene. At this point, Leo wasn’t a suspect, so you can’t even accuse the Sheriff’s Office of tunnel vision. It was just sloppy police work.

- K.D. & G.K.

Suebmcd6 karma

Can you share a postal or email address for Jeremy? We want to send stamps.

lavaforgood9 karma

The Florida Department of Corrections has cracked down on sending stamps, so unfortunately that is no longer possible. But he is able to receive letters and books, when mailed directly from Amazon or the publisher. You can find more info on how to do that here and here.


GDJT6 karma

What made you focus on this particular crime?

lavaforgood14 karma

After Judge Scott Cupp handed me his business card, stating that Leo Schofield was an innocent man, I began talking to him more and more about the case, and he pointed me to the trial transcript. It was very clear to me that without the testimony of Alice Scott, the State had no case against Leo. And it was also clear to me that Alice Scott’s testimony was completely contradicted by her next door neighbor and sister-in-law, Linda Sells, the State’s own witness. Linda clearly recalled her and Alice having a conversation in the driveway and seeing Leo carrying something heavy out of his trailer. But it was a week or two before Michelle went missing. Alice admitted on the witness stand that she wasn’t good with dates. I spoke to Linda Sells. She didn’t want to be interviewed, but she said that she stands by her statements that Alice was wrong about what she witnessed.
Sadly, wrongful convictions based on faulty witness testimony are very common. What made this case so interesting to me was that nearly two decades later, Jeremy Scott’s fingerprints from inside the Mazda were finally identified. And unlike the State, we were very interested in doing a thorough investigation into Jeremy Scott, and ultimately interviewing him in prison.


lavaforgood7 karma

In the writing and telling of this story, we held off on mentioning Jeremy Scott from the beginning. We wanted the story to unfold over time, in the way it has in the three decades since Leo’s conviction. But, when Gilbert and I started researching the case in 2018, Jeremy Scott’s role was already pretty clearly laid out – his fingerprints had been identified and he’d confessed. So we were aware of him from the start, and that’s a big reason the case was so intriguing. There was a man who’d claimed innocence for over three decades, and another who’d confessed in a Polk County courtroom the year prior. And yet, the State of Florida found ways to discredit them both. Really getting to the bottom of who these two men are, and their roles in this case was what really drew me in. And of course, once we met Leo, and I saw the depth of his frustration and desperation to have his story told and to have this narrative corrected – that was the moment I knew we were really on to something, and we needed to really dig in to figure out what went wrong in this case.


YamAndBacon6 karma

I loved Devil in the Grove -- thanks for your work.

How do you maintain your productivity?

lavaforgood7 karma

Thank you. All my books have taken about 5 years to complete. I had originally thought I’d write something like a longform article on Leo’s case, but the more I dug in, the more obsessed I became with this story. It became very obvious to me that the State knew it didn’t have a case against Leo, so it resorted to distortion and misrepresentation of evidence, from the trial, all the way to Leo’s parole hearings. This is because the State does not have the truth on its side. I am just as confident that the State of Florida has convicted an innocent man in Leo Schofield, and that Jeremy Scott is Michelle Schofield’s true killer, as I am about the innocence of the recently exonerated Groveland Four. These kinds of injustices inspire me to correct the State’s false narratives, and knowing that there’s an innocent man in prison has a way of increasing a writer’s productivity.


PeanutSalsa6 karma

What is your research process like and what do you think are good habits for researching a topic effectively?

lavaforgood7 karma

Our research process was… reading every single thing we could get our hands on, talking to every single person we could find, turning over every leaf and going down every rabbit hole. This is probably the reason we ended up focusing so heavily on the cab driver murder and essentially solving that case; we just couldn’t not go down that road. To be honest, I’m not sure that these are good habits because I know it’s not always possible to report on and research a story in this way! There are certainly restrictions with time and resources and money that can prohibit what we were able to devote to this story. With Covid and the way the production of Bone Valley played out, we were actually quite lucky for the additional time it gave us to pursue some of these leads. But even now, there are parts of this story we don’t feel are “finished” – there are still people we’d like to talk to and things we’d like to investigate further. So I suppose my advice is – make friends with the uncertainty. It’ll always be there.


TeachAManHOWToKaboom6 karma

Are you weary of upsetting friends and relatives of the victim?

lavaforgood15 karma

Absolutely. We have tried to be extremely respectful and sensitive, especially when reaching out to Michelle’s friends and family. Not everyone we reached out to was eager to revisit this painful period in their lives, and we’ve always respected that. Even still, we’re aware that this story being back in the media might be upsetting. It’s a tough thing to balance.

- K.D. & G.K.

usedatomictoaster5 karma

Why does Gilbert’s sign look like a ransom note?

lavaforgood5 karma

Because Gilbert is a bit of a Luddite and didn’t realize his selfie was going to be public.


piceathespruce4 karma

Hi team,

Excellent reporting and thank you for your work. The positive comparisons to In The Dark are warranted.

It seems like Leo openly admitted to striking Michelle several times. There were credible witness statements of more violent behavior. Do you ever feel like this is a lot of effort to get a wife-beater out of jail?

I've been around intimate partner violence and have zero problem with life sentences for men who beat their wives. How do you balance the "innocent" theme with someone who absolutely committed violence against a woman who is now dead?

lavaforgood8 karma

You’re right that Leo has openly admitted to striking Michelle on a couple occasions. I personally am fortunate to have no experience with intimate partner violence, so I can’t speak from that place, but I have spent a lot of time with Leo. He’s been willing to discuss the times he struck Michelle, and he’s expressed remorse for who he was and how he behaved at age 21. And, I believe him. I feel like he’s genuinely sorry and has grown immensely in the time since. That being said, Gilbert and I have had many, many conversations about this over the years. We’ve always anticipated having to answer these questions, and yet it is never easy.
We’ve looked at all the testimony and we’ve spoken to everyone who would agree to talk. And there are a few credible witness statements. But, there are also a few instances that were testified to that Leo says just didn’t happen. Stuff like this is hard to prove or disprove, especially 35 years after the fact. But what we do know is that Leo’s prosecutor, and the detectives in this case, were motivated to find witnesses who would testify to Leo’s violence and bad behavior. The conviction hinged on this bad character evidence. What we don’t have are any reports filed against Leo, anyone who ever called the cops on him, or anyone who can claim they ever saw a bruise on Michelle. I do know that domestic violence is oftentimes a very private thing, but without any evidence like this, it just never amounted to enough for us to turn away from this case.
At the end of the day, Leo was convicted for murder, and there’s not much hard evidence to support that he was capable of a crime like this, and even less to support that he’s guilty of the murder. On the other hand, we know that Jeremy Scott is capable of a crime like this. And, he’s forensically linked to Michelle’s murder, and has confessed to it.
Since his conviction, Leo has remarried. Leo and his wife Crissie have now been together for 26 years. Crissie wants nothing more than to have Leo home with her. As does their daughter, Ashley, and her two children.
All this is to say, these questions and concerns are valid. These are things I’ve grappled with numerous times over the past four years. But I haven’t seen anything that has given me pause, for more than a brief moment. And I certainly haven’t seen anything that has caused me to question the time and energy I’ve put into this investigation.
I wholeheartedly believe in Leo’s innocence, and I see him as a person of integrity and deep moral conviction. I believe he is worthy of everything I’ve invested into this project and this case.


alfnyc4 karma

While he may be out of options, is the Florida Innocence Project still working with him/following new leads? For that matter, are there new possible leads that have come to light after this podcast aired?

lavaforgood9 karma

Because of the fact that Jeremy Scott, who is forensically tied to the crime scene by his fingerprints, has confessed in detail to killing Michelle, we think it’s unlikely that there’s any new evidentiary discoveries that might make a legal difference, given the post-conviction obstacles in Leo’s case. But, if anything comes to light that feels significant to the telling of this story, we will be sure to update the Bone Valley podcast with bonus episodes. -GK

Mylomint4 karma

I would like to know a few more details on the blood evidence - was it tested for and if so was there any found in the car/ on the car door? Also the eye witness who claimed to see Leo carrying something to the car from the trailer - I believe their surname was Scott - any relation to Jeremy? Thanks

lavaforgood6 karma

No blood was found in the front of the Mazda. We elaborated a bit on this, and our theories about it, in another response. As for the link between neighbor Alice Scott and Jeremy Scott, there is no relation! That was one of the very first things the cold case detectives looked into after Jeremy’s fingerprints were identified.


quintonnavy3 karma

Did Leo’s post conviction attorneys try going the 2254 habeas route in federal court?

lavaforgood5 karma

Leo’s attorneys have contemplated taking the case to the federal level. It is my understanding that the chances of Leo finding any relief at that level are very slim. But they are weighing all his options and we certainly trust his attorneys to make the right call on this, as does Leo.

-KD & GK

ERG9953 karma

I have read elsewhere that Leo Senior’s car was seen pulled up to the spot where Michelle was killed but I don’t remember hearing about this in the podcast and can’t find much other info. Do you have any further information on this?

Thank you both for your hard work on this amazing podcast!

lavaforgood9 karma

You’re right that we didn’t talk much about this in the podcast. We addressed it briefly – this would be the testimony of the Laffoons, another couple that lived in Leo and Michelle’s neighborhood. Basically, once you really look at the content of statements and testimony given by Randy and Mary Laffoon, it just doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Or at least, it didn’t hold up for Gilbert and I. The Laffoons couldn’t give a particular day or time for when they saw these vehicles. They couldn’t identify anyone they supposedly saw out at the scene. And they couldn’t agree on which vehicles they saw. Additionally, they didn’t give these statements until nearly a year and a half after Michelle’s murder. By that time, they’d already previously spoken to police, but told the detectives they hadn’t seen anything. It was only at the direction of Alice Scott – and again, nearly a year and a half later – that they told Prosecutor John Aguero about the vehicle sightings. Most of the details that get told about the testimony of the Laffoons come from John Aguero and the State Attorney’s Office, instead of from the testimony itself. The State has distorted the couple’s testimony to fit their theory of the crime, and this has been repeated again and again to support Leo’s conviction.


RandalWilkinson3 karma

Like with Devil in the Grove have you thought about writing a book on this? That book seemed to move Heaven and Earth and even the Florida Legislature.

lavaforgood12 karma

Great question! It’s something I think about because we worked on Leo’s case for four years. We had so much material because we basically did two investigations. And even though Bone Valley has 9 episodes totalling around 10 hours, there’s so much that didn’t make it into the podcast. I really liked the idea of doing a parallel narrative with Leo and Jeremy, which I think could work in a written narrative, but there were challenges to making it work with an audio narrative.
There were so many moments during interviews, especially with Jeremy, where you could hear him swallowing and his voice cracking as he struggled with the horror of his memories on the night he ran into Michelle. The power of those words and sounds wouldn’t have the same effect in quotes in a book.
I believe in the power of storytelling, whether written or audio, and I’m encouraged by the response to Bone Valley. There are people in Florida who are extremely disturbed by Leo’s case and they have told me they want to help correct this injustice.


RandalWilkinson3 karma

Was Michelle friends with Wendy Zieman where Jeremy hung out at the Zieman home?

lavaforgood4 karma

We asked around about this, but weren’t able to find any connection between Michelle and the Ziemanns. Wendi was a few years younger than Michelle.


OneOnOne62113 karma

Do you have any advice for people like myself who have an interest in becoming an investigative journalist?

lavaforgood7 karma

Neither Kelsey nor I are trained investigative journalists. Kelsey has a background in oral history work, and I come from the world of book publishing, where I write narrative nonfiction. So I can just tell you that finding a subject or cases that really anger you, or inspire you to find out everything you can about them is the best place to come from. Figuring out exactly what you want to investigate should help you figure out where to go–whether it’s a newspaper, a podcast, television, etc.

- G.K.

pankiki3 karma

How did your working relationship start and evolve over the course of this project?

lavaforgood8 karma

Kelsey is really the reason I decided to work on Leo’s case. I had hired her as a researcher back in 2018 because I had just published my last book, Beneath a Ruthless Sun, and I had several projects on the backburner that I wanted to explore, and I needed a lot of help. There was a television series proposal, a civil rights multi-media project, a new book idea that I was working on, and Leo’s case, which had just come to me through Judge Cupp. Kelsey was looking at them all one day, and I remember asking her which project I should prioritize. “There’s an innocent man in prison,” Kelsey said. “That one.”

It was really hard to argue with that, so I decided to commit to an investigation into Leo’s conviction. Kelsey started as a researcher, and we dug into Leo’s case as a possible feature story. But after we met and interviewed Leo, Kelsey thought he was such a great storyteller that we should do a podcast about his case instead. Neither of us had any experience, but we picked up some equipment, and Kelsey taught herself how to be an audio recordist. She also knew Leo’s case inside out. She became “the keeper of the facts” and our relationship has been a co-partnership from very early on. She tolerated all of my trips down investigative rabbit holes, and we both believed in the story we were trying to tell. It seemed like we were always on the same page. For me, it’s been so inspiring to see her “arc” in this project, going from nervous researcher in the beginning, to confronting former State Attorney Jerry Hill after Leo’s parole hearing, to sitting next to Jeremy Scott in prison and getting him to talk about things we’ve never heard him talk about before. Kelsey is someone I trusted implicitly, and her value to this project can’t be understated. I often say that she is the conscience of Bone Valley. Everything is so much better because of her contributions. We went through some incredibly difficult challenges over the four years we worked together on this story. But the obstacles and setbacks never deterred her. I wasn’t just fortunate to have Kelsey at my side. It was an honor, and I’ll always be grateful to have worked with her.


When I came to this project, I was fresh out of college. At that time, I was looking for, basically, anything that would help me pay my rent in Brooklyn. I think Gilbert says it in the first episode, but at that point neither of us really knew what we were getting into or how long we’d be working together. At the very beginning, there was some anxiety on my part. Working as a research assistant to a Pulitzer Prize winning author was a bit intimidating. But it didn’t take long for either of us to really become invested in this project and in Leo’s case and, with that, we really fell into a rhythm of investigating this case together. Gilbert has been absolutely incredible to work with. He has always championed my role in this work. He’s always given me permission to really claim ownership of my contributions. And, he’s supported me every step of the way. He doesn’t have the ego you might expect for someone who has won such a prestigious award! So anytime I came to him with ideas for an interview approach or edits on a script, he’s always really listened to my thoughts and feedback. While this was my first real job outside of college, I did have a sense that that’s not always the way these things go. I feel very lucky to have been able to work on this alongside him. This project has been a massive learning experience for me, in so many ways, and it was with his guidance and mentorship and patience that I was able to see it through to the end.


sierraNadean3 karma

Is there a petition to get Leo out of the senseless grasp of that Florida prison? and if so, where do I sign it 50,000 times….

lavaforgood4 karma

You can sign the petition here. And yes, #FreeLeo!

Still-Salt22772 karma

I don't see any responses from Gilbert. What am I doing wrong?

lavaforgood5 karma

Answering questions as they come! Make sure you're scrolling down to the bottom. Some take a bit of time to explain, as this case is so complicated. Thanks for your patience!

WeekieDonald2 karma

What did Joe Zarbo say about the day Michelle was found?

lavaforgood4 karma

Joe Zarbo doesn’t remember much about the day Michelle was found. At that time, he was a patrol officer and was tasked only with guarding the crime scene, while other detectives and crime scene technicians worked the scene. -KD

Kitkat55511 karma

Just an observation. The letter you received from Jeremy was written in pretty clear cursive. It just crossed my mind that someone who did not finish high school might not be able to write so well. Any comments?

lavaforgood5 karma

You’re right that Jeremy didn’t finish school. I don't have much to say about his handwriting. But, in theory, he’s had plenty of time in prison to work on it.