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Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Rec center employee under investigation by Bellingham Police, found dead in Spokane

By Hailey Palmer

An employee of the Wade King Student Recreation Center, identified as Kip Leonetti by police, was found dead in a Spokane hotel room on Monday, Sept. 10 in an apparent suicide. Leonetti was also an associate coach and general manager of Bellingham Slam, a semi-professional basketball team.

At his time of death, Leonetti was under investigation by the Bellingham Police Department on suspicion of video recording two Bellingham Slam players while they were showering after an event at Seattle Pacific University the weekend of Aug. 25-26. The players reported the incident to the Bellingham Police Department on Sept. 4.

Leonetti was contacted, interviewed and released by the Bellingham Police Department on Sept. 6 because probable cause for arrest had not been established, according to a Western Today article.

At a press conference on Sept. 13, Bellingham Police Chief David Doll said around 200 new pieces of evidence were seized from the home and cell phone of Leonetti from a search warrant. He had no previous criminal history.

“This investigation is of the highest priority for the Bellingham Police Department,” Doll said. “We have some forensic analysts who are looking at the large amounts of physical evidence that we have in our custody. Roughly 198 different pieces of evidence ranging from cell phones to individual DVDs have to be analyzed and examined to determine exactly the scope of what we have here.”

Doll also said the Bellingham Police Department is putting a high priority on identifying other images and victims.

University Police Chief Darin Rasmussen said they are currently working with the Bellingham Police Department to conclude the investigation.

Lieutenant Danette Beckley said detectives searched through Leonetti’s cell phone. Since the investigation is active, the Bellingham Police Department is not able to comment on what it found outside of what was originally reported.

“We were able to view his cell phone and the detectives were able to confirm late Friday night that the images that were reported were on his phone,” Beckley said. “At that point there was probable cause for voyeurism, however, the investigation was still continuing because there was so much more evidence.”

Paul Cocke, Western’s director of communications and marketing, said Leonetti was an employee at the rec center for 12 years in a clerical capacity.

“My understanding in terms of Mr. Leonetti is he was not involved with any programming whatsoever for any of the programs at Wade King,” Cocke said. “He did scheduling, he worked on the website.”

Doll said the Bellingham Police Department is providing care and outreach to victims, as is University Police. Rasmussen said University Police is reaching out to all faculty, staff, students and visitors affected by the incident.

The Bellingham Police Department said to call 360-778-8823 with any tips or information regarding this investigation. Students can contact the Student Counseling Center at 360-650-3164. Employees can contact Washington State Employee Assistance Program at 877-313-4455, or 866-704-6364 after hours, for support.

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