$1 million bail for Bellingham man accused of Valentine’s Day murder plot

Bail was set at $1 million Tuesday, Feb. 17, for a Bellingham man accused of trying to murder his estranged wife’s new boyfriend on Valentine’s Day.

Patrick Allen Leach, 42, stole a fifth of alcohol and a Benelli Nova 12-gauge shotgun from his cousin on Starry Road on Saturday morning, Feb. 14, according to a statement read in court by Deputy Prosecutor Dona Bracke.

Leach drove a green Ford Aerostar — his wife’s minivan, though she’d left it at her son’s home in the Sehome neighborhood — to an apartment complex on Northwest Avenue. He took the battery out of his phone, Bracke said, so he “couldn’t be tracked.”

Leach’s wife, Stacey, 40, who filed for divorce in December, saw the van in the parking lot. She thought her son was driving, so she and her boyfriend, Jon Hildebrand, 34, went down to meet him.

Instead, Leach got out. He reached back into the center console and pulled out the shotgun in a soft-carry case. Stacey Leach and Hildebrand ran up to him and tackled him. The gunman kept trying to reach for the trigger as they wrestled in the parking lot, and he reached around Stacey Leach’s neck to choke her, Bracke said.

“He’s got a gun, he’s got a gun, and his finger is on the trigger!” Hildebrand shouted, according to Bellingham police reports.

A neighbor called 911 for help. Officers showed up and took the gun, which had been “sandwiched” in the pile of people. It was half in the soft scabbard and the safety was off, police said. The gun was loaded with two rounds of Remington birdshot. Birdshot can be fatal at close range.

Patrick Leach was “very frank” with detectives that he planned to kill Hildebrand. He said he’d come up with the plan the night before, according to police.

Hildebrand told police Patrick Leach had made death threats in the past, but he didn’t think the man would actually try to kill him.

The Leaches had been separated for about a year, according to court records. Divorce papers outline a recent mental breakdown by Patrick Leach: He made at least three suicide attempts in the past year, put a tracking device on his wife’s phone, and hacked into her Facebook page to post “terrible things,” according to his wife and daughter.

Leach faces charges of attempted murder in the first degree, domestic violence assault in the second degree and theft of a firearm. Superior Court Commissioner Thomas L. Verge set bail Tuesday at his first appearance in court.