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Homicide


#LASD Retired Homicide Detectives Recognized for their Dedication and Commitment to Service

In an effort to recognize the particular deeds of two dedicated investigators and ensure the achievements of their hard work did not go unnoticed, Sheriff Jim McDonnell awarded two retired detectives with distinguished awards. Detective John Paillet was awarded a Sheriff’s Star Scroll, while Detective Steven Lankford was awarded a Quality of Service Award, in a ceremony inside the Sheriff’s office where both detectives were flanked by Captain Christopher Bergner and Chief Stephen Johnson.

The detectives were acknowledged and credited for their roles in the 1978 robbery, kidnapping, rape, and murder case of victim Leslie Long, a 20-year-old female employee at a Palmdale gas station.

It was during her shift on Sunday, December 3, 1978, that Leslie was robbed at gunpoint by two male suspects, then forced to drive with them to an isolated desert area in the Antelope Valley. There, she was raped, made to kneel on the ground and shot five times in the back of the head. Her body was found three days later.

The detectives recognized were:

• Detective John Paillet was hired in 1956 and retired in 1988. Detective Paillet initially headed the Leslie Long investigation in 1978. Because investigators insisted on a sexual assault kit with hopes for future processing, combined with Detective Paillet’s effort in collecting key pieces of evidence, the two suspects were convicted almost three decades later. In 2017, both suspects were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Homicide Captain Christopher Bergner stated, “After almost 30 years of retirement, Homicide Investigator John Paillet returned to testify in a 1978 murder case, bring justice for the victim and closure to her family. At almost 88 years old, John is still committed to the Department and citizens of Los Angeles County. It was a pleasure to acknowledge his efforts and to meet such a humble man.”

• Detective Steven Lankford retired in 2017 after 33 years of service, but returned to Homicide Bureau as a 120-day contract employee. He was also instrumental in the Leslie Long case and continued the investigation begun by Detective Paillet. He followed the evidence, tracked down witnesses and methodically presented the case.

Because of the diligence displayed by these two detectives, the persons responsible for the torturous and tragic ending to a young lady’s life were held accountable. They prepared for the future with considerable aforethought and collected valuable evidence, which ultimately helped solve the case. The dedication of the detectives to their craft and their bottomless tenacity perfectly illustrate the persona of the Homicide Bureau’s mascot, the Bulldog.