A Perry man accused of driving to Cache Valley and taking significant steps toward committing a murder of several individuals will continue to wait for his day in court.
Charles Warren Leff, 65, was charged in 1st District Court with five counts of first-degree attempted aggravated murder, four counts of third-degree transportation of a firearm by a restricted person and additional misdemeanors. He also faces felony and misdemeanor counts of witness tampering and violation of a protective order in a separate but related case.
Leff was set to appear for a two-day jury trial in June. But during Leff’s appearance in court on Wednesday, the upcoming trial was struck due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions on the court. Judge Brian Cannell said he was hopeful the court would get approval from the Utah Supreme Court to proceed with in-person hearings around the end of the summer.
Once approved for in-person proceedings, Cannell said the court would implement measures to ensure safety and move pending cases forward. Plexiglas to sequester witnesses was “on order,” Cannell said, and senior judges were being considered to help carry the heavy caseloads.
After a brief period in the “yellow” phase of the Utah Courts risk response plan, Cache County was moved back to “red” in September due to increased COVID-19 cases. Courts in a red phase are restricted in conducting in-person hearings unless a judge finds exigent circumstances, and courts can be moved to a lesser color phase as transmission rates in the county flag.
Leff has been held in the Cache County Jail without bail since January 2020.
A probable cause affidavit filed with the court states Cache County Sheriff’s Office deputies received a report of Leff driving from Perry to Mendon with the intent to kill multiple alleged victims. One alleged victim called 911 after seeing Leff driving past their home.
“In the call you can hear (the alleged victim’s) voice and the sheer terror as she explains that … Charles was on his way over to her house to take her and the kids out,” deputies wrote. “She describes that he has multiple guns with him in his car and has just driven past her house.”
Deputies performed a traffic stop and took Leff to the Sheriff’s Office for questioning. Leff admitted to packing a suitcase with clothing, medications and four handguns; he told deputies he was leaving the area to live in Oregon and took the firearms so his wife wouldn’t have access to the guns.
He told deputies he never intended to kill the alleged victims but was intending to apologize for a prior dispute.
“The reasoning for taking the four handguns with him to go over to (the alleged victim’s) house in Mendon to apologize did not make sense because he had also left other firearms and ammunition accessible to his wife in their home,” deputies wrote. “I told him that he had packed the suitcase, so he could kill the family and then flee to Oregon, but he was stopped by law enforcement just before he was able to commit the murders.”
Leff is set to appear before the court again on June 2.