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Suspect in Death of Ex-INS Agent Held

Crime: Gregory Pisarcik, who led police in a pursuit Sunday through Ventura County, is expected to be booked in the Santa Ana slaying.

July 02, 2002|TIMOTHY HUGHES and DAVID HALDANE | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

An unemployed sales clerk who was arrested after leading police on a wild chase through Ventura County over the weekend was expected to be booked late Monday in connection with the beating death of a retired immigration agent, authorities said.

Gregory Michael Pisarcik, 25, is a suspect in the slaying and robbery of Narciso Leggs Jr., 53, said Jim Amormino, spokesman for the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Leggs' battered body was found by sheriff's deputies Saturday inside his garage apartment in the 2100 block of Irvine Boulevard in Santa Ana.

The victim was bound and gagged and had been tortured, investigators said. Leggs' landlord became suspicious after not seeing his tenant for two days and called police.

An autopsy performed Sunday revealed that Leggs died from a blow to the head, Amormino said. The victim had been killed at least two days earlier, he said.

Robbery was the likely motive for the attack. The victim's apartment had been ransacked and several personal items had been stolen, Amormino said.

"He's definitely our suspect," Amormino said of Pisarcik. "The murder investigation is ongoing, but we're only interested in him. [The body] was badly assaulted. It was a violent confrontation."

Pisarcik was arrested late Sunday night after leading Ventura County authorities on a two-hour chase that began in Ojai when he refused a deputy's order to pull over for questioning. Pisarcik was driving the victim's late-model Lincoln Continental.

Although he declined to give details, Amormino said Orange County sheriff's detectives believe Pisarcik is linked to several robberies in recent months against gay men in south Orange County beach communities.

"We are asking for help on this," Amormino said. "Hopefully, if the public has information they will come forward with it."

Two of Leggs' handguns--a .45-caliber and a .357 magnum--were among the items allegedly taken by Pisarcik, officials said. The .357 magnum, loaded and cocked, was recovered from Leggs' car along with a box containing 50 rounds and several loaded gun clips.

Leggs' converted garage apartment is connected to a house in an upper-middle-class neighborhood between Tustin and Santa Ana.

Leggs "had a gentle spirit about him. He was kind of laid back," said neighbor Jody Preston-White, 41.

She said Leggs often polished his two prize automobiles--the white Lincoln Continental and a mauve Rolls-Royce.

Preston-White said that Pisarcik, whom she recognized from a television news broadcast Monday, drank from her garden hose last Thursday. A few hours later, she heard the two men arguing in the apartment.

"It was weird," she said. "He just didn't belong. It just didn't sit. It gave me the heebie-jeebies. The whole thing has really freaked me out."

Pisarcik, a transient, had previously stayed with friends and relatives in Ojai and Orange, Amormino said.

Witnesses told investigators that in recent weeks Pisarcik had been a frequent visitor to Leggs' apartment, Amormino said.

A key break in the case came Sunday afternoon when a young girl at a Ventura shopping center noticed a man changing the license plates on a parked white Lincoln Continental similar to the one stolen from Leggs.

The girl told her father, who informed the car's owner of the switch. Sheriff's deputies were given the new plate number and spotted Pisarcik a few hours later in Ojai, Amormino said.

Pisarcik then led Ventura County sheriff's deputies and California Highway Patrol officers on a chase throughout the western end of the county. He was taken into custody after surrendering at an equipment yard on Ventura's west side.

During the pursuit, Pisarcik drove between 25 and 100 mph, swerving across lanes and driving into oncoming traffic.

At one point, Pisarcik allegedly fired Leggs' .357 magnum at Deputy Robert Davidson's vehicle.

"He fired a shot at the passenger window, and it was an attempt to scare Deputy Davidson off," said Capt. Gary Pentis of the Ojai sheriff's station.

Leggs retired from the Immigration and Naturalization Service in 1997 after a 22-year career as an agent, said Francisco Arcaute, a spokesman for the INS office in Los Angeles.

At the time of his retirement, Leggs was a supervisor in the detention and deportation office at the INS, which handles immigrants suspected of violating deportation laws, Arcaute said.

Pisarcik was sentenced to 60 days in Ventura County Jail in July 2000 in connection with a grand theft and embezzlement conviction.

He also had served time for narcotics possession in Orange County, Amormino said.

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