This article originally ran in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on August 16, 2002.
Leslie Leon Burchart, the homeless schizophrenic believed to be the worst serial killer in Richmond history, died earlier this month, apparently from natural causes.
Burchart, 52, was serving four life terms plus 105 years for seven beating and strangling deaths that occurred during six violent months in 1996. Four of his victims were among the "Golden Years" killings that claimed the lives of older women living alone. He had been housed at the Wallens Ridge State Prison in Wise County. On July 30 he was taken to the Lonesome Pine Hospital in Big Stone Gap for an unspecified illness, said Larry Traylor, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Corrections.
Two days later, on Aug. 1, Burchart died. His body was taken to the Roanoke Medical Examiner's officer for a cause-of-death determination, which has not yet been released.
During prison interviews two years ago, Burchart said his life had been so miserable and devoid of accomplishment, he "never would've crawled out of the womb" if he had a chance to do it over again.
Burchart grew up in South Richmond and worked a series of menial jobs before beginning treatment at the Richmond Mental Health Center when he was 29. He was later housed at Central State Hospital and a Richmond group home for the mentally ill before drifting into homelessness.
His six-month span of violence is believed to have coincided with his decision to stop taking his anti-psychosis medication. He claimed he liked hearing the voices in his head.
"They kept me company when there was no TV or radio around," he said. "They'd talk about heaven being a really glorious place. You can do anything you want to do in heaven. You can even scuba dive. There's water in heaven."
The killings began on Jan. 1, 1996, with 75-year-old Lucille Boyd, who was beaten and strangled in her West Grace Street home. On March 28, Mamie Verlander, 84, was killed in her Augusta Avenue home.
On April 23, police found the bodies of Jane Foster, 55, of Monument Avenue, and Elizabeth Seibert, 69, of North Nansemond Street.
The body of Montaque Winston, 35, was found on June 22, 1996, but he had probably been killed two weeks earlier. Burchart then killed Gary Wayne Shelton, 46, on June 14, and John Wade Pleasants, 42, on June 29.
During prison interviews with The Times-Dispatch, Burchart said he killed another man whose body was not found by police.
He also claimed that he falsely confessed to the "Golden Years" killings because "I thought I could be a celebrity killer. If I couldn't be the best man in the world, I'd just try to be the worst man who ever lived."
No physical evidence linked him to the crimes, but Richmond detectives say he was aware of intimate details about the slayings that only the killer would know.
Burchart's half-year of violence also included the beating of a 48-year-old man who suffered 36 skull fractures and was in a coma for three weeks. "I thought he was dead," Burchart said.
When asked to summarize his life, Burchart said, "There was so much negativity in my life, when I had a choice, I chose the negative one."