Parole denied for necrophiliac killer

This story involves violent sexual assault. Reader discretion is advised.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — A two-person panel last month voted to deny parole to a 74-year-old Sacramento Valley man who strangled his wife to death, defiled her corpse, and bit both of her nipples off, swallowing them.

Leslie Allen Closner pled guilty to second-degree murder in Sutter County in 1987 and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. Several habeas petitions he has filed over the years, in both Sacramento County and Sutter County, have been dismissed.

Closner, 40 at the time, turned himself in to police in Oregon two days after he accompanied his girlfriend, Jan Ferguson, to her daughter’s wedding reception in Yuba City. The couple stayed at a Motel 6 that night.

Following the festivities, according to a prosecutor who spoke at last month’s hearing, Closner became upset because his girlfriend was getting attention from men at a bar after he refused to dance the jitterbug with her. An argument broke out in the motel room, and Closner flew into a rage.

“He killed her, then raped, desecrated her corpse, left, came back, cannibalized her by biting off her nipples and eating them, and raping the corpse and leaving,” Sutter County Deputy District Attorney Thomas Gedde said.

Closner is said to have shoved his girlfriend to the floor, choking her to death before moving her body to the bed and ripping off her clothes. He violated her corpse and attempted to give it mouth-to-mouth before hastily leaving the hotel room.

“I was on top of her, choking her, and just couldn’t stop,” Closner recalled in a probation report 34 years ago. “I was out of control, like a robot, like Satan had control.”

On the way out, he realized he left his wallet in the room. He snuck back in through a back window where he, again, defiled his wife’s corpse – this time biting off and swallowing both nipples. He stole a two-door Sedan to flee Yuba City, later showing up at the police station in Reedsport, Oregon to turn himself in.

“Human beings are not biologically programmed to cannibalize people, especially people they were in a relationship with, and desecrate their corpse,” Gedde continued. “It’s disturbing, it’s sick, and it’s incredibly anti-social.”

Since he first came before the board in 1996, Closner has been granted parole three times, only for it to be rescinded once by the state’s full parole board and reversed twice by Governor Jerry Brown.

“Mr. Closner still appears to be missing the mark,” Brown wrote in a memorandum explaining his reversal decision in March of 2018. “I am not convinced that Mr. Closner truly understands the level of his depravity towards Ms. Ferguson in the commission of this crime. Until he can show otherwise, I do not believe he can be released.”

The much older Closner, peering behind a pair of glasses through a spotty videoconference from the hearing room at the state penitentiary in Oregon, said his brutal crime was fueled in part by a TBI he sustained while in the military, substance abuse, and a history of sexual frustration from a young age.

“There were several situations in my childhood, one particularly involved sexual issues, that triggered my sexual abuse behavior,” Closner said, reading off of a written statement. “After my parents divorced at the age of 11, my brother and I lived with our mother. I witnessed, on several occasions, my mother having sex with men she brought home from the bar.”

He said seeing other men have sex with his mother warped the way he viewed their relationship, eventually culminating in a twisted desire for intercourse with her. To overcome the frustration, he began watching sadistic adult films that featured women being harmed and tied up. Closner also apologized for killing Ferguson.

“I feel extremely guilty and ashamed of it,” he said. “And I have tried everything that I can possibly understand about it. But the main thing that I have to keep in mind is not to be controlling in my relationships with women. These are triggers of mine that I have to be very aware of.”

An attorney for Closner, also present at the hearing, told the board that he was “very insightful” and presented a low risk of violence upon his release from prison. Ferguson’s family members shot back.

“I don’t believe that any reasonable or rational person could possibly believe that this kind of deviant behavior, we’re talking necrophilia cannibalism, can be cured by prison therapy and self-help books a month here [and] a month there,” Ferguson’s sister, Deborah, said. “I’m sorry. I just don’t get it.”

Ferguson’s daughter, Tara Solhein, recalled the last moment she spent with her mother, at the wedding, before she was choked out by Closner mere hours later.

“There was a finality to our conversation and a sad look in her eyes that stuck me, even in the midst of wedding excitement, and I now know how afraid she was, kissing and hugging her goodbye that night,” she said. “I didn’t know how everything would change for us all.”

Following an hour of deliberation, parole commissioners John Garcia and Keith Betchley voted to deny Closner’s parole for at least the next three years, finding him to pose an unreasonable risk to public safety.

The commissioners said they weighed several factors in their decision including an aggravating criminal history and his inability to control his behavior.

“Those factors remain present in your life today,” Garcia said. “And, as previously noted, your lack of work in the areas of domestic violence, sexual deviancy issues, and an underdeveloped relapse prevention plan is [a] demonstration to the panel that, if released into the community at this time, you would present an unreasonable risk of repeating your crimes because you have not yet developed the skills to overcome those criminal impulses.”

The panel’s decision will now be reviewed by the full board for up to 120 days. If it is denied, Closner’s next hearing will be tentatively scheduled for 2025. He will be 77 years old.

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