Long Beach Man Sentenced in Drug Case That Stemmed From Man's Death

Judge's verdict

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LONG BEACH (CNS) - A Long Beach resident who was initially charged with murder for the discovery of a man's remains buried in his back yard was sentenced today to six years and eight months in state prison for a trio of drug offenses.

Scott Leo was convicted March 1 of one felony count of maintaining a place for selling or using a controlled substance and two felony counts of sale/transportation/offer to sell a controlled substance involving methamphetamine and GHB. The convictions followed earlier decisions by two judges that there was not enough evidence to require the 55-year-old man to stand trial on a murder charge stemming from Zachary Kennedy's disappearance.

Kennedy, 31, was last seen alive at Leo's home on Oct. 22, 2017, and was reported missing that month, according to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office.

When the case was initially filed in 2020, the prosecution alleged that evidence uncovered by Long Beach police during a lengthy investigation into the disappearance showed Leo was aware of Kennedy's dire condition due to an overdose but that he failed to call emergency services. Police found Kennedy's body -- with his feet severed -- buried in Leo's back yard in May 2018, authorities said.

In rejecting the defense's bid for a probationary sentence for Leo, Superior Court Judge Daniel Lowenthal called the defendant's home a house of horrors and said Leo lured young men ``to a sex dungeon with the promise of drugs.''

The judge said the defendant was only thinking about himself when Kennedy's life hung in the balance as he experienced severe medical distress and that he failed to call for help, then deprived Kennedy's parents of closure by ``hiding the body and lying to the world.''

Sex and drug parties continued ``just feet away'' from Kennedy, Lowenthal said.

In a statement read in court that directly addressed the defendant, Kennedy's father said, ``He was happy until he met you, Scott Leo ... You are a predator ... You stole my son's life.''

``You placed him in a grave away from us,'' Jeffrey Kennedy said in his statement, noting that his son was ``laying in a grave you made in your back yard.''

Deputy District Attorney Simone Shay told jurors during the trial that Leo was ``willing to do whatever it takes to make sure nothing is going to stop the party going on at his house,'' the Long Beach Post reported. Defense attorney Matthew Kaestner told the judge that his client wasn't convicted of victimizing anyone and wasn't prosecuted for burying Kennedy.

Outside court after the hearing, Jeffrey Kennedy said he still wishes that Leo had been successfully prosecuted for murder. `It should have been a murder charge,'' he said, noting that he is going to ``miss my son forever.''

Leo was initially arrested by Long Beach police in August 2020 and spent about five months in custody before being released on bond. He was taken into custody again after the jury's verdict.

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