In the 1980s and 1990s, Kevin Legg was an old-school, tough-guy police gunslinger with a career that sounds like something in a detective novel.
Starting at age 20, he patrolled the roughest parts of town in the blue uniform of the Bakersfield Police Department, racking up an impressive arrest record and never backing down from a fight. He was involved in eight shootings, he says, and killed four suspects. He was a SWAT unit member.
After six years in uniform, he became a detective.
He was amazingly successful as a homicide investigator solving, he said, 40 of the 42 cases he worked.
Gangsters put a price on his head as he moved from case to case, solving one murder after another, including some of Bakersfield’s most notorious child killings.
In the end, it all caught up with him.
His 10-year marriage ended in 1998. Then, a therapist’s diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder explained Legg’s night sweats and panic attacks. A ruined knee cemented his decision – he would have to leave law enforcement. He took a stress-related disability retirement in 2000.
His career was over after just 16 years. He was only 36 and starting his life over.
It was rough going at first. In 2007, there were domestic violence and drunken driving convictions. There was a DUI in 2008.
Court orders erased convictions from his record, except for a single 2014 misdemeanor – in 2007, he was ordered not to own a gun for 10 years. Seven years later, he was arrested for possessing a weapon.
But he’s living quietly now and working with kids. He has remarried and is a teacher at a special needs preschool. He says investigating child murders caused him to form a deeper love for children.
But the Kathleen Heisey case remains a big part of his life.
He says he solved 40 of 42 cases. Heisey was one of the cases he couldn’t make – the other case happened the same 1998 week as the Heisey case.
Legg said no crime scene was as brutal or shocking as what he saw in the Heisey family home that summer day.
Legg says he went down every possible avenue when it came to finding Heisey’s killer.
The Heisey house, on the western lip of Raymond A. Spruance Court, backs onto what is now the parking lot of the Panama Lane Lowe’s home improvement store. In 1998, it was a large dirt lot where truckers parked. From the cab of a big rig, it was possible to look into the yards and windows of the homes on the cul-de-sac where Heisey lived. Legg chased the possibility that a truck driver passing through town was responsible, but got nowhere. He looked for similar crimes all over the west, but says nothing matched.
He examined Heisey’s romantic life and even pored through the dating classifieds in newspapers to see if she might have met her killer on a date.
On Aug. 6, 1998, six days after Heisey’s body was found, Legg got a tip: Heisey’s cousin, a registered sex offender with a violent history, had moved to Bakersfield just days before the killing, and was gone the day after.
The cousin was Charles Curran Shannon, then 43 – seven years younger than Heisey. Legg checked records and found Shannon’s 1981 conviction for attempted rape officially labeled him a sex offender and required he notify local authorities every time he moved.
He hadn’t registered in years. That gave Legg an opening to question Shannon.
Legg and two other BPD detectives made the long trip to Glennville, where Legg – a homicide investigator – arrested Shannon on the misdemeanor registration violation.
He returned Shannon to the county jail and questioned him. Shannon denied any involvement in his cousin’s killing and, ultimately, no proof was developed to connect him to the crime. Shannon was sentenced to a year in jail for failing to register. He moved to Mexico shortly after his release, and still lives there.
Legg says that as he worked the clues in the Heisey case, he kept coming back to Heisey’s colleague, Lloyd Wakelee.
He never found proof implicating Wakelee. Wakelee – now incapacitated by dementia and unable to be interviewed for this story – took a lie detector test, gave a DNA sample and has an alibi, his wife says.
On the night Heisey’s body was found, Legg spoke with several of Heisey’s coworkers at Browning Road Elementary School, who told him Heisey and Wakelee did not get along. A day later Legg heard from Heisey’s son, Timm Heisey, who told him Wakelee threatened his mother shortly before her death.
But Wakelee had a lawyer, and it was one of Bakersfield’s top criminal defense experts. One of the first things attorney Kyle J. Humphrey did was send a letter to the police department invoking Wakelee’s right to remain silent. Humphrey warned investigators that Wakelee would not consent to any search without a court order.
Humphrey’s letter reminded investigators he represented Wakelee in the Heisey case, and that Wakelee should not be approached by officers without Humphrey present.
Legg was stumped, but he didn’t give up.
In 1999, after he found out about a road rage incident involving Wakelee, he felt he had a second chance.
No charges had been filed in the case, but Legg – still assigned to the homicide detail – built a case on the misdemeanor road rage case.
He convinced prosecutors to file charges in the case and personally arrested Wakelee in 2000.
As part of that case, Legg obtained a warrant for a sample of Wakelee’s blood, giving him a DNA sample.
Humphrey was furious. In court documents, he described Legg’s behavior as being inappropriate and immoral. Humphrey argued he had warned police to stay away from Wakelee in the Heisey case, and that Legg’s investigation of the road rage case was a mere “ruse” to get around that warning.
He said Legg was obsessed with making a case against Wakelee in the Kathleen Heisey case, which gave him tunnel vision and prevented him from solving the homicide.
Even after Wakelee invoked his Miranda rights in the road rage case, Humphrey wrote in court documents, Legg continued to question him. While Wakelee was detained in the road rage case, Legg showed him pictures of Heisey’s mutilated body and told him, “We’ve got you now,” and “you’re going to fry,” according to documents.
But it didn’t happen.
It took a year, but Wakelee ultimately pleaded no contest to reduced charges and then, a couple years later, even those convictions were expunged from his record.
By then, the PTSD had taken its toll on Legg. He left the police department. He says he never found out if the DNA he took from Wakelee bore any relation to the Heisey crime scene.
Wakelee’s wife, Debbie, said she never heard the results, either. But, she said, the fact that Wakelee never was arrested demonstrates the DNA cleared him of involvement in the case.