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Police chase leads to fatal bridge leap

Man pursued after 911 calls

The Interstate 190 overpass over the Quinapoxet River in West Boylston, where Roger A. Leo, 64, leaped to his death. The Interstate 190 overpass over the Quinapoxet River in West Boylston, where Roger A. Leo, 64, leaped to his death. (Worcester Telegram & Gazette)
By Linda Bock and Scott J. Croteau
Worcester Telegram & Gazette / July 26, 2011

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WEST BOYLSTON - A ski industry writer from Princeton jumped to his death from the Quinapoxet Bridge yesterday after leading police on an early-morning, 3-mile pursuit.

Roger A. Leo, 64, died after jumping headfirst off the Interstate 190 bridge to a rocky embankment 47 feet below.

Leo’s death came after Princeton police responded to a 911 call at 12:15 a.m. on Houghton Road, about 2 miles from Leo’s house.

At the Houghton Road address, Leo allegedly tried to drown a man who lives there in the family pool. State Police said he then struck the man with a cinder block.

Leo, who knew the married couple living at the residence, fled in a 2005 Jeep Liberty, prompting the pursuit that ended at the Quinapoxet Bridge, officials said.

David Procopio, a State Police spokesman, said Leo’s arrival at the house was not a random act. He said an autopsy will be conducted.

The victim, whom police would not name, is being treated for injuries, officials said.

Leo had a 34-year career at the Telegram & Gazette, including work as a reporter, photo editor, local news editor, outdoor and ski columnist, and editorial writer. After retiring in 2005, he was a ski industry writer and blogger, including Eastern seaboard editor for OnTheSnow.com.

He reported and photographed from points around the world, including Alaska, Afghanistan, and Iraq, where he was embedded with the First Battalion, Eighth Cavalry Regiment in Baghdad.

Some of his frontline images from Iraq and Afghanistan were displayed at a 2009 exhibit at the Princeton Arts Society. He also wrote a blog called Men at War, chronicling his visits to the areas.

The Princeton police log indicates police received two 911 calls shortly after midnight. The first call was abandoned but the second call “came in again as a party reporting her husband is fighting with someone out in their driveway. Party disconnected call due to being concerned for her children in the house.’’

On a call back to the residence, the woman put her husband on the phone.

Princeton police, joined later by State Police, tried to stop Leo southbound on Route 140. The pursuit continued onto Interstate 190, State Police said.

The pursuit, which lasted less than 3 minutes, reached speeds between 50 and 75 miles per hour, State Police said.

Leo’s Jeep slowed down and pulled into the breakdown lane where it traveled for a short distance before stopping at the Quinapoxet Bridge, which spans the West Boylston-Holden line and can reach a height of 117 feet.

At 12:38 a.m., Leo exited his vehicle and ran southbound for about 130 feet. Trooper Matthew Moran pursued and ordered him to stop.

“Trooper Moran, still running after him, yelled at him to not jump, but immediately observed the man jump headfirst over the right side of the bridge,’’ State Police said in a release.

The death is being investigated by Troop C of the State Police and State Police detectives.