Courts & Crime

Meth lab operator who blew up house in escape bid gets life

KANSAS CITY — Bryan G. Leonard was running one of the biggest meth labs the Kansas City area has ever seen.

He had been freed early several times from previous drug sentences, prosecutors said. And when law enforcement knocked on his door Sept. 5, 2007, Leonard was ready — activating an escape plan that leveled his house, put officers’ lives at risk, endangered the public and even killed his own dog.

On Tuesday, a federal judge told Leonard he would not get off the hook again and sentenced him to life in prison without parole.

U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple said the stiff sentence was designed to hold the defendant accountable for his actions and to send a message to anyone else considering similar crimes.

Leonard, 33, pleaded guilty a year ago to running a methamphetamine lab in his garage at 4800 N. Norwood Road, in unincorporated Platte County near Riverside, and also to blowing up the house and leading police on a high-speed chase.

Authorities found remnants of weapons including an assault-style rifle and a submachine gun in the charred debris. According to the plea agreement, a tipster said he had seen even more weapons at the home, including two Claymore mines.

During a hearing Tuesday, Kansas City Police Department forensic specialist Seth Cooper, who has processed evidence at about 500 meth labs, said Leonard’s lab was unlike any other he’d seen in the area.

Many meth labs can fit in a gym bag, Cooper said. Cooks might use a coffee pot to produce an ounce of the drug at a time.

Leonard’s lab filled his whole garage. He had flasks up to 5 feet tall, hundreds of pounds of pseudoephedrine, gallons of chemicals and the ability to make more than 5 pounds of meth per batch.

Cooper said Leonard and his co-defendants admitted to purchasing more than 300 pounds of pharmaceutical-grade pseudoephedrine, enough to produce more than 200 pounds of meth.

Evidence from the house was charred, but a trailer on the property contained hundreds of undamaged chemical containers and various pieces of equipment used to manufacture the drug.

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