This is the other case of local lore I referenced in an earlier blog post. This case is one of the stories around town where every fact I ever heard was completely wrong. When your sources are other 4th graders, I guess that’s to be expected.
Leann Ryba was born December 10, 1968. She lived with her mother and her 14 year old sister in downtown Middleborough. She was a junior at Middleborough High School. She had boyfriend, and many friends. She enjoyed music, singing and the fine arts; participating in the school and community theater programs.
The story I always heard involved her walking home from work through the woods at night. The truth from what I could research is that on May 15, 1985 Leann spent the evening having dinner with friends at Middleborough House of Pizza, and then reportedly hanging out behind the police station in the parking lot with friends. The was a typical hang-out for kids her age.
Leann was last seen at midnight of May 16th walking through town the short distance to her home, but she never made it. One article reported she was last seen just 5 houses from her home. Her body was found by her 14 year old sister and two of her friends on their walk to school. It would be horrifying to find anyone in this condition, but finding your sister would be particularly traumatizing. Leann’s body was nude from the waist down , brush pulled over the top half of her body.
Leann had severe injuries and her time of death was believed to be not long after she was last seen. Autopsy found her neck had been gashed open and she had been stabbed in the abdomen. She had blunt force trauma to the back of the head and bruising, which is believed to be from her being dragged. She had been sexually assaulted. Her cause of death was blood loss from the stab wounds. Her body was found on a dirt road called Woodlawn Ave just about 100 ft off South Main Street which is one of the main roads through the small center of town, and the street Leann lived on.
I am not certain exactly what first brought 20 year old Gary Plant of Freetown to the police’s radar but several witnesses had seen him in the area. Plant was a former Lakeville resident who graduated from Apponequet High in 1984.
Plant was arrested 3 days later at a baseball game after his house was searched. On a long, videotaped interview he admitted to facts that lead police to believe he was the murderer.
Hair matching Leann’s was found on Gary’s boot, and her bloody underwear was found at a place called “Mello’s Market” where Gary was known to be during that time period just after her murder. Two knives and some clothing were seized from the Plant home during the search.
Gary F. Plant was convicted of murder and aggravated rape. His attempt at appeal failed and he is still incarcerated at MCI Norfolk prison in Massachusetts.
Leann was laid to rest in St Mary’s Cemetery in Middleborough. It is clear from posts I read while researching this article that she is still missed to this day.