Updated: May 5, 2019
The Bricca Murders: An Unsolved Mystery in Westside Cincinnati
Imagine a peaceful, suburban neighborhood in Westside Cincinnati. It was a cool day in late September 1966, on the cusp of autumn. You see a modern, but modest Green Township tri-level home. This sets the stage for one of the most disturbing crimes ever committed in Ohio, let alone the Westside of Cincinnati. It remains unsolved after all these years. This article will discuss the facts about the horrifying event and offer a conclusion based on my opinion.
The Bridgetown neighborhood on the Westside of Cincinnati was besieged with a horrific crime 54 years ago. The unexpected and repulsive Bricca family murder still has unanswered questions and remains a mystery to this day. The murders of husband and wife Jerry and Linda Bricca (28 years old and 23 years old, respectively) and their young daughter 4-year-old Debbie, all found stabbed to death in their home sent shockwaves throughout the city. A half a century later, the mystery is still talked about in hushed whispers. Although it has been years since that fateful day, the questions still linger, is the perpetrator still at large?
The Scene of the Crime
The neighbors on Greenway Avenue haven’t seen the Bricca family for two days. Their garbage cans still not brought back from the curb, something everyone on the street did like clockwork. The rest of the block was understandably concerned. Two men decided to check the house discovering an unlocked door, and upon opening it, were immediately besieged with the stench of death. All three members of the Bricca family were found dead in their respective bedrooms, stabbed repeatedly.
Jerry, a chemical engineer, was stabbed nine times. Linda, a former flight stewardess, ten times, and little Debbie was stabbed four times. Both Linda and Debbie were in their nightgowns. The killer made sure that nobody survived. Jerry and Linda had been bound. There was a sock inside Jerry’s mouth. The dogs were locked in the basement.
If you were doing a profile of the murderer what can you determine by the crime scene? Stop and write it down, then please continue reading.
As anyone can imagine, the detectives conducted extensive investigations. The house was thoroughly searched for evidence. However, these were the days before forensic laboratories and technology weren’t as sophisticated as what we have now. This was an innocent time. Crimes like these do not happen in small, suburban towns where everyone knows everyone. It’s important to note by the time police had showed up the amount of people walking in and out of the house had completely contaminated the entire crime scene.
All throughout the years, the detectives who were assigned to the case have received little bits of information and anonymous tips. They had several theories on the intent from robbery, to a crime of passion, probably fallout from a rumored affair that Linda had with her employer at that time.
The case has drawn much publicity and all the pieces of evidence have been reviewed several times. The investigation of the murders still continues today. The Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office has opened the old evidence box and the detectives assigned to the case, who weren’t even born when the crime took place, are hoping that they can piece together what’s left, and finally solve this case. They are hoping that modern technology, which was not an option in the past, will give them the answers that detectives have been looking for.
J.T. Townsend’s ‘Summer’s Almost Gone'
Long-time Cincinnati resident, author, local historian, and armchair detective J.T. Townsend recently published a long-overdue book entitled ‘Summer’s Almost Gone’ on the murders. The events had a profound impact on then 13-year-old Townsend and he became obsessed with it. True to his investigative writing style, the 500-page case dissection mentions that he has a good idea who is behind the killings.
At the time of her death, Linda Bricca worked for local veterinarian Dr. Fred Leininger. There is evidence that Linda and Leininger had an affair. In fact, Linda was shown to have sexual intercourse one day before her death. The person she had intercourse with was not her husband. Leininger was never charged, but an evidence bag contains his hair samples and a piece of veterinary tape found on Jerry Bricca’s face. Townsend was allowed to listen to 400 interviews about the case, and he flagged 16 suspicious ones, two of which were interviews with Leininger. J.T. Townsend believes that he is the prime suspect on the Bricca family murders.
Although the house was ransacked, nothing of value was taken so it wasn’t a robbery. It wasn’t a mob hit because of the absence of firearms, and it wasn’t a serial killer because no other murders of the same pattern took place in the area. The investigators also believed that the murderer was emotionally involved with the victims. They knew the killer because there were no signs of forced entry. Little Debbie had to be killed because she knew Leininger and even called him Uncle Freddie. It was a personal crime, with the murderer seeing no way out of a conflicting situation but to take out their lives.
Although the Briccas seem to live a picture-perfect life, neighbors have noticed that Jerry usually worked long hours and often came home late at night. Linda filled the void that her husband left by looking after Debbie, or often times hiring a babysitter. This freed up her time for indulging her passion for animals, and taking part-time work at the Veterinary Hospital on Glenway Avenue. This is where young, beautiful Linda attracted the attention of Dr. Leininger, known to have occasional affairs with pretty ladies. Many people have testified that Linda had a “male friend” whom she seems to have an intimate relationship with. Many people can attest to seeing Leininger at a nearby convenience store on the night of the murder, acting erratic and strange. The Bricca dogs who were locked in the basement were found to have been given a sedative to keep them quiet, something a veterinarian will have access to.
So who really did it?
It is true that if you want people not to find you, or to suspect you in any way, all you need to do is hide in plain sight. Dr. Leininger ran a successful practice until his retirement in 1995. Now deceased, Dr. Leininger’s 2004 obituary presented him as a prominent and respected Westside veterinarian. He is described as a devoted husband and father. There was even an announcement of his 50th wedding anniversary celebration in 2002, with his children and grandchildren in attendance. Despite this seemingly happy façade, Dr, Leininger and his wife took their own lives, dying together in a Cincinnati hotel.
There is enough circumstantial evidence to make me believe in Dr. Leininger’s involvement in the gruesome murders of the Bricca family. Those who do remember encountering him have mentioned that he was a decent veterinarian, but rather reserved in his manner. The investigators found his interviews suspicious, but after hiring a lawyer named Richard Morr, he refused to even answer a single question, successfully eluding further investigations.
So who do you think did it? Do you agree with me? Were more people involved? Tell us what you think in the comments below.