On November 30, 1983, Marcella Leach’s daughter, Marsalee Ann Nicholas, a senior at the University of California Santa Barbara, was murdered in Malibu during her thanksgiving vacation. She was murdered by an ex-boyfriend who had been stalking her.
Within a week after the funeral, Marcella and her husband Bob, realized that not only was the murderer out on $50,000 bail but his family had given him a Porsche which he was driving past their house with a new girlfriend. They were told that it would be at least six months before a preliminary hearing and two years before the trial.
They learned immediately that victimized survivors had no rights under the Victim Witness Assistance Act unless the victim found the body or witnessed the crime. Joining Ellen Griffin Dunne whose daughter Dominique Dunne, an aspiring young actress, was strangled to death in front of a witness with the murderer being sentenced to only three years in prison, they decided to oppose the present system together.
They founded an organization called Justice for Homicide Victims, Inc. and since its inception JHV gained a tremendous upsurge in Victims Rights. We now have Speedy Trials and previous crimes are now admissible. Marcella is also a founding member of Crime Victims United and is Vice Chair of this first California political action group.
For her great service to victims since 1983, Marcella has been highly honored by three governors, two congressmen and Senator Diane Feinstien. In 2005, she accepted the President’s award, the nation’s highest honor for Victims of Crime in Washington, D.C.