Federal Prosecutors say a Palmyra, Pennsylvania man will serve 40 years in federal prison for a murder committed while he was trafficking methamphetamine from Indiana and Southern California to Cortland. 

39-year-old Kyle Leeper pleaded guilty to being part of the onspiracy that involved a Groton woman and five others and resulted in Leeper tying up a middle man with zip ties then shooting him eight times in the desert in Barstow, California, killing him om 2019.

WNBF first reported in August, 2016 a drug conspiracy operation that had involved Leeper and Arlene Rodriguez of Montebello, California and followed up with a report in February of 2020 with the murder accusation against Leeper and an additional arrest of another alleged conspirator.

Cortland County Sheriff mug shot Kyle Leeper
Cortland County Sheriff mug shot Kyle Leeper

In a news release from U.S. Attorney's office, Northern New York District on November 18, officials announced Leeper, who had been in federal custody since 2016, was sentenced to 40 years in federal prison for a murder committed during drug trafficking conspiracy, conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute 50 grams or more of methamphetamine and possessing a firearm and ammunition as a convicted felon.

In the intricate conspiracy, Leeper trafficked meth from Indiana and Southern California to Cortland County where he distributed it to local residents and drug dealers.

Photo: Wavebreak Media
Photo: Wavebreak Media

In the fall of 2018, 34-year-old Crystal Stephens of Groton, who was already in jail in Indiana for burglary, called Leeper and gave him the contact information for 57-year-old John Rice of Crawfordsville, Indiana so the Leeper could get crystal meth and a .380 caliber pistol from Rice until Rice was arrested in early January 2019 in Indiana.

After Rice's arrest, Leeper arranged to travel to the Los Angeles area get more meth using contact information, again, from Crystal Stevens. Leeper and 30-year-old Ramon Nieves-Cotto of DeRuyter, New York drove from Cortland to Los Angeles in mid-January, 2019 where they were introduced to Rodriguez and a middleman.

When Lepeer was to go through the middleman to buy 3 pounds of crystal Meth from 31-year-old Jose Pimentel Junior of Los Angeles but found he had been shortchanged on the amount of drug delivered to a motel in El Monte, California.

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Prosecutors say that's when Lepeer kidnapped the middleman and Rodriguez at gunpoint.  Nieves-Cotto later bought zip ties that Lepeer used to restrain the middleman before driving him into the desert in Barstow and shooting the bound man eight times from behind with the .380 pistol, killing him.

Lepeer, Nieves-Cotto and Rodriguez then continued to drive on to Cortland to distribute the meth.

The three continued to operate cross-country between L.A. and Cortland in 2019, buying drugs and another gun before Cortland County Sheriff's Deputies stopped Leeper and Rodriguez on February 19, 2019 for a cracked windshield and expired registration on their pickup truck and found four pounds of high-purity methamphetamine, the murder weapon and ammunition.

The six other co-defendants: Nieves-Cotto, Stephens, Rodriguez, Pimentel, Rice and 35-year-old Edgar Arredondo of Los Angeles, all previously pled guilty to participating in the drug conspiracy with Leeper and/or aiding and abetting the murder.

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