Teacher's body identified, husband charged

October 30, 2008 8:41:48 AM PDT
Police say a body found near a Long Island highway has been identified as that of a teacher who vanished on her way to school this week. They say her husband has been charged with her murder. To see an update on this story, CLICK HERE. The body was found in a wooded area on the property of the North Hills Country Club on Wednesday morning.

The body was found about 50 feet from the north service road of the highway, for more than 24 hours, said Lt. Kevin Smith, a Nassau County police spokesman.

The discovery on the North Service Road, near Shelter Rock Road, is 13 miles from where Leah Walsh's car was found abandoned with a flat tire early Monday morning.

Police spokesman Sgt. Anthony Repalone said her husband, William Walsh, was arrested after authorities confirmed that the body was his 29-year-old wife's.

Repalone offered no details of how or why Leah Walsh was killed, saying a press briefing would be held Thursday. The cause of the woman's death was under investigation.

William Walsh, 29, had made several emotional pleas for his wife's safe return since she disappeared on Monday. He was expected to be arraigned on the murder charge the same day. He was in police custody Wednesday night, and it wasn't immediately known if he had a lawyer.

The special education teacher was reported missing after failing to arrive for work at at the School for Language and Communication Development in Glen Cove on Monday morning. She works with autistic children. Police said the school contacted Walsh's mother, Mattie Hirschel.

Hirschel then called her husband, Howard Hirschel, a school bus driver who happened to be driving children on the northbound Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway in Bethpage when he noticed his daughter's car, a 2005 black Ford Focus, disabled on the side of the highway.

Instead of calling police, he phoned the missing woman's husband, William Walsh, and summoned him to the scene and continued on to deliver the children to their school.

When Walsh arrived, he called 911, Smith said. Police helicopters, canine units and officers on horseback searched for hours in the area, which is near the massive Bethpage State Park, but all they found was the woman's purse, located in a nearby ditch.

William Walsh, who told police he was a mortgage broker, was questioned by detectives on Tuesday, but they emphasized it was a routine part of the investigation.

Earlier in the day, Walsh told Eyewitness News, "I just want my wife back." He said he last saw his wife around 6:00 on Monday when she left for her job.

At about 6:30 a.m. Monday, a state Department of Transportation vehicle left a sticker on the side window of her car indicating it had mechanical problems. The doors were locked, and the woman was nowhere in sight.

"Typically, they (DOT) leave a sticker on the driver's window, which tells them that the car was disabled, found in a disabled way, and that there was no one present. It's assumed that person went for help," Det. Sgt. Tony Repalone said.

Just five minutes before the vehicle received the sticker, William Walsh told a reporter, he had received a text message from his wife telling him, "Have a great day, love you bunches."

Later Monday, William Walsh and some highway workers found her pocketbook near the vehicle.

Leah and William had been married for three years; they have no children, police said. ----
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