On February 14, 2013 Nathan Leuthold picked his four year old daughter up from preschool and returned to the home he was sharing with his wife, their three children and his wife's parents. It did not seem clear how long Nathan and his wife, Denise had lived with her parents in the Peoria Illinois but it had been quite some time. Nathan and his wife had been Baptist missionaries at some point and it was unclear if they lived with her parents in between trips, if they intended to stay living there or if this was just a stop to save up and get on their feet. At some point during their stay the family had also brought in a Lithuanian exchange student named Aina Dobilaite to live there for a short time. The Leuthold's had met Aina in her native country when she was six years old on one of their missionary trips. When Aina was eighteen Nathan sponsored her and she moved to the United States to attend college. It seems that Aina went to school in Florida for a while before moving to Illinois to attend college there. By 2013 though it seems that she was living on her own in an apartment but still very much a part of the lives of, if no one else, Nathan.
At any rate on this Valentine's Day Nathan would make a 911 that afternoon when he returned home. He would tell the operator that he had found his wife dead and the home ransacked. Almost immediately upon their arrival things did not look right to investigators. To them the supposed ransacking looked staged. And while it is said that everyone grieves differently they just felt something was off with Nathan's demeanor. But, in the same respect, while we all know those closest to the victim are looked at first, Nathan seemed like the most unlikely of suspects. He had no prior criminal history and sure, it appears the marriage had some rocky areas, but what marriage does not?
Nathan of course would give investigators an alibi of his whereabouts of that day. But investigators would come to believe that not only was his alibi absolutely complete they felt that when he was seen on particular surveillance camera from area places that he had gone out of his way to do so. What I mean by this is that they felt he ensured that he was seen on these camera in order to appear to make his alibi look solid.
There were apparently items taken from the home that included a computer, a digital camera and some family jewelry. Although it is not clear as to if these items were completely found, and where but it does appear that at least the computer was found at some point because prosecutors would later claim Nathan had made certain searches on the Internet in the days and weeks leading up to his wife's murder. They would also find a few other things that pointed to Nathan. While I do not have an exact date in which Nathan was arrested and charged with the murder of his wife, I can tell you that he went on trial in June of 2014.
Here is what the prosecutor alleged. They believed that the motive behind Denise Leuthold's murder was in essence a “Valentine's Day gift” to Aina Dobilaite, who they claim was Nathan's mistress. In 2013 he was thirty-eight and she was twenty-one. Both Nathan and Aina would deny that they were having an affair and dismissed things like having a joint account and being with each other often in public as reasons resulting from her status living in the United States and her alleged difficulty in grasping the English language. She would call him her “mentor” and “employer” although I am sure what she meant by the latter. But it was not just these things that led prosecutors to believe that that the two were having an affair. About a month before the murder Nathan would send an email to Aina that began with “I let you down” and stated how he vowed to work harder on their relationship. The entire thing was riddled with references and phrases that did not make their relationship sound platonic in any way.
Investigators had found what was described as a handwritten note by Denise. It was not clear where this note was found or if it was addressed to anyone particular but in the note Denise complains about her marriage and even stated that she was sure he “wanted her dead.” As I said earlier the computer from the home was allegedly stolen but by all accounts it seems that the investigators either found it or were able in another way to determine searches that had been made on it. It appears that at first the searches were about specific ways to kill someone whether it be through electrocution, lethal injection or even methods of suicide. But clearly the most damaging search on the computer was the one that looked into how to silence a .40 caliber Glock handgun. Investigators knew that Nathan owned such a gun but it appears that the gun was never found because while it was determined that this was the type of gun used to kill Denise I found nothing that said a ballistic test was done to confirm that the bullets came from Nathan's gun.
On the day of the murder someone reported seeing someone wearing a black hoodie either in or around the neighborhood it seems. The body type of the person described Nathan but it is unclear if the person could fully identify him. At least one witness the prosecution presented did not come without controversy. It was former inmate named David Smith. The prosecutors would admit two things when it came to Smith. First, they would open that not all inmate testimony is reliable but they felt that his was and that it went with what other evidence and witnesses stated. Secondly, the prosecution and Smith it seems would openly admit that his testimony against Nathan would not only shave off four years of the fourteen year sentence he was serving but would also get some pending drug charges dropped. With this being said the prosecutors believed that his testimony was critical to their case. According to Smith while he had been serving time with Nathan in the county jail the two had become friends and talked in the yard often. After they talked Smith would often go back to his cell and write down what Nathan had told him. He would claim that Nathan had told him that he had waited in a hall closet for Denise to return home from taking their four year old daughter to her afternoon preschool class. He then emerged from the closet, have a brief argument with her and then he shot her. He had apparently ransacked the home prior to her arrival. He then fled on foot to his car that he had parked at a nearby park and changed out of his black hooded sweatshirt. The very strange thing about Smith's testimony is that the defense did not cross examine him in any way. They did not challenge him or fight about his credibility. This is something you rarely see.
Aina Dobilaite would testify in Nathan's trial but whether she testified for the prosecution or the defense is not clear. However, she came with a lot of controversy of her own. First she was provided with a translator since she would claim that she needed one due to the language barrier. Then when she first went to the stand she seemed reluctant to talk when the prosecutor questioned her (this is leads me to believe she was forced to testify for the prosecution). It was said that several hours were spent hashing out things with the judge and apparently her lawyer before things moved forward with her testimony. In the end she was granted immunity for anything she said which meant she had to testify or she would be held in contempt of court. She eventually talked of how the couple had brought her to the United States and how Nathan had been her sponsor. He also apparently took her on trip to Europe. Whether those trips were alone with only him or with the family, I cannot say. At some point she began correcting the translator. Then, amazingly, Nathan Leuthold would ask the judge if he could be the translator for her, the judge correctly said no. What was even more astonishing was that when Aina began her testimony she seems to not understand very much English, in the middle she is correcting the translator and by the end she was speaking perfect English. It was implied that she had exaggerated her inability to understand in attempts to not testify or in hopes that her testimony would not last long, but it appears that her ego and temper got the best of her. It does appear that she did express some disdain to Denise. Aina would claim that Nathan was the only person she could talk to in her native language. Prosecutors would point out that Denise also knew the language but Aina would claim that Denise was not fluent, nor did she like to speak the language. Prosecutors were able to let the court know that Nathan's parents had paid for Aina's legal representation and that they had told her not to speak to the police. Whether it came out in court, or just in the media later, it was discovered that the money used for Aina's legal fees, said to be $2,500 had been taken from an account that was to go to the surviving Leuthold children by Nathan's father.
Prosecutors argued that this was a planned murder and that Nathan did so in order to move forward with his mistress. They told the jury that just after midnight two days before the murder Nathan had called the police to report a “suspicious vehicle” parked in the driveway across the street. When the cops arrived the car was no longer there and according to the responding officer Nathan said not to disturb the neighbors. The officer drove around for a while and never saw a car as described. Prosecutors believe that this was a ploy on Nathan's part to elicit suspicion of prowlers in the area.
After six days of testimony the jury deliberated for about ninety minutes before they returned a verdict of guilty of murder in the first degree. At his sentencing of course Denise's family had harsh words for their former son in law but there was apparently a good many witnesses who attested to all the good that Nathan had done in his life. When the judge was pronouncing his sentence on September 27, 2014 he stated, “I have to give you credit. You have led a law-abiding life and for many years, you did good things. But, you have poisoned it all.” It was said that while Nathan had not shown any emotion throughout his trial or his sentencing that even the judge's voice cracked speaking to him. In the end the judge sentenced him to serve eighty years. He was not given a sentenced that read “life” with or without parole, which the latter in Illinois means just that....life. He has a “projected parole date” of March 6, 2093. Of course that just gives him false hope because he will never live that long. Of course Nathan Leuthold has appealed his conviction but in 2016 his conviction and sentence were upheld.
I was curious whatever happened to Aina Dobilaite but I could not determine. I mean her “sponsor” is in prison so does that mean she was deported? Did Nathan's parents step in and help her even more? And who has the children? They were four, ten and twelve when their father murdered their mother. They will be left with that for their entire lives.