Originally created 01/06/00

Ex-girlfriend testifies against man



A year before Sajid F. Leslie became a suspect in the burning death of an ex-girlfriend, he placed a gun to the head of another ex-girlfriend, the woman testified Wednesday during Mr. Leslie's murder trial.

Mr. Leslie, 29, had pleaded not guilty to charges of felony and malice murder and arson in the April 22, 1999, death of 30-year-old Lori J. Hastings. His Richmond County Superior Court trial began Monday.

Betty J. McClenehan testified Wednesday that a week or two after she and Mr. Leslie broke off their five-year relationship in April 1998, she received a call from Ms. Hastings that she had been romantically involved with Mr. Leslie since February of that year. Ms. Hastings also put Mr. Leslie on the telephone to admit it was true, Ms. McClenehan testified. A couple of hours later, he showed up at Ms. McClenehan's home and broke through the backdoor, she continued.

"He walked over to me and put his gun to my head," Ms. McClenehan testified. "I started pleading with him, telling him not in front of the kids. Then I started calling on Jesus."

Ms. McClenehan filed criminal charges against Mr. Leslie over the incident but dropped them a couple of months later because their son, then just 2 years old, missed his father so that he would wake up crying at night, she testified.

Mr. Leslie spent a lot of time with their son, Ms. McClenehan testified, and he spent about three hours with the boy at her home on April 22.

Contrary to what Mr. Leslie told investigators about burns on his face -- that he had burned himself on April 21 when fire flashed from a vehicle's carburetor -- Ms. McClenehan said she didn't notice any burn or injury to Mr. Leslie's face the evening of April 22.

Ms. Hastings' body was found at about 11 p.m. April 22 after firefighters put out a vehicle fire in a secluded parking lot area off Regency Boulevard.

Defense attorney Maureen Floyd on Wednesday grilled the lead investigator in Ms. Hastings' homicide, Sgt. John Gray of the Richmond County Sheriff's Department, about other men who might have had reasons to want to harm Ms. Hastings.

The detective did investigate information that Ms. Hastings had filed sexual harassment complaints in 1997 and again on April 19 against two doctors at Aiken Regional Medical Centers where she worked, Sgt. Gray testified. But he did not conclude the physicians should be considered suspects, Sgt. Gray testified. Nor, he testified, did he conclude that there was any connection found between Ms. Hastings' slaying and the Nov. 22, 1997, stabbing death of Aiken nurse Janice M. Wessinger, 47.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226.