April Dawn Pennington

Left and Center: April circa, 1996

Right: Age Progressed to age 32


Vital Statistics at Time of Disappearance

Missing Since: May 29, 1996

Missing From: Uncasville, New London County, Connecticut

Classification: Endangered Missing

Date Of Birth: August 22, 1980

Age: 15 years old

Height and Weight: 5’2″ and 100 pounds

Distinguishing Characteristics: Caucasian Female, Brown hair, Hazel eyes, April has a tan colored birthmark on her right tricep and her ears are pierced

NCMEC Number: 819031


Details of Disappearance

April was last seen in Uncasville, Connecticut on May 29th 1996. She was reportedly last seen leaving her family’s residence located on Orchard Drive during the early morning hours. She snuck out of her house either through her basement bedroom window and left to meet some friends. She never came back home and was never seen or heard from again.

April was discovered as a missing at 5:30 am when her mother, Hazel, went to wake her up for school. Whichever window she snuck out of was still open and her mother found a teddy bear stuffed animal tucked into her bed; this was so it looked like someone was sleeping in the bed. April has snuck out of her house previously but she always returned to her bed the other times.

April was apparently picked up by a 15 year old classmate, Patrick J. Allain, and George Leniart who was 30 years old in 1996. According to Allain, the three of them went to a secluded wooded area in Ledyard where they drank beer and smoked marijuana. Allain initially claimed that he and Leniart each had sexual intercourse with April. April agreed to have sex with Allain and was hesitant when asked to do it with Leniart. He then changed the story and said he and Leniart sexually assaulted April in Leniart’s pickup truck.

After the assault occurred, Allain stated Leniart said he wanted to kill April. He became nervous after hearing Leniart’s plan of killing April. Leniart then dropped Allain off near his home and drove off with April. He never saw her again and said he didn’t know what happened to her after that. He and April had snuck out of their homes before and had sex before.

At the time of April’s disappearance, Leniart was awaiting trial for raping a 13 year old girl. The girl who hasn’t been named publicly was attacked under similar circumstances to April’s disappearance. She snuck out of her home one night in November of 1995 and had Leniart pick her up. Allain and the girl we’re dating at the time and she was going to meet him that night. The girl testified that she and Leniart went to a camper behind his parents home on Massapeag Side Road to wait for Allain.

After Allain never showed up, Leniart gave the girl some liquor before he raped her and strangled her to the point where she lost consciousness. The next morning, she got up and ran away from him as he went to answer the phone. He was later convicted of the rape in 1997 and was sentenced to 4 years in prison. He was released in 2001.

Despite the possibility that April was murdered, investigators considered the possibility that April might have runaway. She previously talked about running away but her mother denies that she did so and doesn’t believe April ran away. April took no personal belongings with her when she snuck out of her house such as her purse. She was originally believed to have taken her black book bag with her but it was found in her locker at school.

April is listed as possibly taking a black duffel bag with most missing persons agencies. April had broken up with her boyfriend just a few days before her disappearance and she was so upset about it that she threatened to take her own life. April’s father, Walter, denies that April had any issues with her mental health and described her as an attention seeker.

An old family friend of the Pennington family, James Adrian Butler, told the family that he saw April at a blockbuster video store in Virginia Beach, Virginia in 1999. This was 3 years after April was reported missing. He claimed he spoke to her for approximately 15 to 30 minutes. He didn’t realize the girl was April until she introduced herself to him.

Butler said April looked unwell as if she had been abusing drugs. She was accompanied by a small child while they spoke to each other. They stopped speaking to each other when a man in his late 20s came into the store and told April to leave without getting a movie. Butler told her family about the sighting about 3 weeks after he saw her.

Butler was apparently unaware that April had been reported missing 3 years earlier. After this, investigators in the Virginia Beach area were notified but they found no evidence that what Butler said was true. It was later discovered that he suffered a traumatic brain injury and he lost a lot of his memory as a result. His sighting is largely discounted.

Hazel held out hope that the sighting was true. She believed that Leniart and Allain did in fact cause harm to April on the night of her disappearance but that she survived and was possibly sold into prostitution. Investigators found no evidence that April was still living but haven’t found a piece of evidence to concur that she was killed. Despite this, investigators believe April was killed on the night she disappeared.

In 2002, Leniart was found in a wooded area in Preston, Connecticut with a 14 year old girl. He was convicted of risk of injury to a minor and violation of probation ans was sent back to prison. In 2007, he was charged with 2nd degree sexual assault, illegal sale of liquor to a minor, and sale of a controlled substance to a minor in connection to a sexual assault against a teenaged boy in the 1990s.

Leniart was always considered the primary suspect in April’s disappearance but investigators didn’t have enough evidence to file charges against him and April’s body was never found. However, Allain would go on to tell authorities that Leniart admitted to killing April the day after she went missing. Leniart allegedly dragged April into the woods near Mohegan School where he raped and strangled her to death.

Former prison inmates also testified that Leniart admitted to killing April and that he dismembered her remains before putting her in a lobster trap. The accounts regarding the location of her remains have differed. It was once rumored that April’s body was buried in a dry well near where Leniart lived in 1996. Some statements indicated that April’s body might have been placed in the mud on the Thames River or in the Long Island Sound.

Investigators searched bodies of water and wells for her remains but they never came up with a body. However, the statements from the inmates and Allain and other witnesses was enough to get an arrested warrant for Leniart in relation to April’s disappearance. On April 1st 2008, George Leniart was arrested in relation to April’s presumed death.

He was charged with capital murder, kidnapping, and sexual assault in April’s case. Allain and the prison inmates whom Leniart told the murder to all testified at his trial for leniency in exchange for their testimony. Leniart’s defense attempted to discredit them at the trial and called them “snitches.” Their testimony was heavily relied on during the whole thing.

Allain also testified against Leniart at the trial and detailed Leniart’s confession to killing April to him. Allain admitted he was only testifying to get his current prison sentence at the time shortened. He was serving a 10 year prison sentence for a sexual assault crime against a 14 year old girl when he was 26 years old. Leniart’s defense attempted to undermine Allain’s testimony by bringing up his criminal record as well as the various different stories he told regarding April’s disappearance.

The girl who was raped by Leniart in November of 1995 also testified against Leniart as well. She told the media she was happy Leniart was in prison and that his arrest and conviction could bring a length of closure to April’s family who suffered 12 years of not knowing. Leniart was convicted of all charges against him in March of 2010 and was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In June of 2016, Leniart’s conviction was overturned on appeal and he was given a new trial. The ruling occurred since it was alleged that New London Superior Court Judge Barbara Jongbloed didn’t let the jurors view video footage of a state police interview with Patrick Allain and that the judge improperly excluded the testimony of a defense expert witness on the reliability of jailhouse informants.

The excluded video was a 90 minute video of Allain’s state police interview which took place in August of 2004. The video took place shortly before he failed a polygraph test about April’s disappearance. However Barbara ruled that Connecticut courts do not allow polygraph evidence and that defense attorney Norman Pattis had the absolute right to cross examine Allain about his credibility in the pretest interview.

The Appellate Court justices, the court whom passed the ruling, stated that the video showed state police put subtle but a significant amount of pressure on Allain to testify Leniart as guilty. His defense wrote that Leniart proclaimed his innocence and that he implicated Allain as the one who murdered April that night. They also argued that the excluded evidence clouded any possibility for Leniart to show that Allain was motivated by a desire to not be charged with April’s death.

However, it’s been argued that the jurors did not need to see the video interview and would actually see Allain in person on the witness stand. Pattis was able to and did grill Allain there regarding his possible pressure from the State Police. It’s also been argued that the expert on jailhouse informants testimony had no specific knowledge on the practices in New London County or even in Connecticut.

This type of expert testimony had never been previously offered in the state of Connecticut before and was quite rare in the entire Country or the United States. The defense, however, argued that the jailhouse informants and Allain all gained something from their testimony which gave them motive to lie on the stand and that the jurors weren’t aware of how much informants can benefit from doing such.

The defense additionally argued that there’s no proof that April is dead and stated it’s possible she did runaway from her home. They used the fact that she spoke about running away as possible evidence and included the 1999 discredited Virginia sighting of her. The Appellate Court, however, ruled that there was evidence that Leniart confessed to killing April and that April was indeed deceased.

Leniart lost his appeal in June of 2020 and remains in prison for killing April. Her parents believe that Allain should’ve been criminally charged in the case as well but the statue of limitations for his alleged rape against April had expired by 2008.

Investigators believe that April’s body is possibly unrecoverable. Leniart was a commercial fisherman at the time of her disappearance and normally fished off Point Judith, Rhode Island in a boat which was named after his daughter. It’s possible he placed April’s remains inside of a single or multiple lobster pots and then dumped them off his boat to get rid of evidence.

At the time of her disappearance, April was a freshman student at Montville High School and had moved to the area in between 1993 and 1994. Her father, Walter, was a nuclear machinist mate and the family moved around as a result. They had plans of moving to New Jersey at the time which upset April because she didn’t want to leave her friends behind.

April was described as a good student previously but her grades began to drop by 1996 and she fought about with her parents previously. Hazel believes her daughter fell in with the wrong crowd in 1996 and her parents were aware of her trying marijuana. April also deliberately cut herself on two occasions.

Her mother believes April was just going through a rebellious stage in her life which was normal for teenagers her age. She doesn’t believe April had any serious problems at the time of her 1996 disappearance. Her friends described her as a normal person who made friends very easily. Walter has since retired from the Navy and has moved to North Carolina with Hazel.

April’s remains have never been found but foul play is highly suspected in her disappearance. Some agencies might list her as a runaway.


Investigating Agency

If you have any information concerning this case, please contact:

Connecticut State Police 860-848-6500


Source Information

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

The Charley Project

The Doe Network

NamUs

Unidentified Wiki

The Day

NBC Connecticut

Greensboro News

The Norwich Bulletin

The Norwich Bulletin

The Norwich Bulletin

The Day

The Day

The Day