Crime & Courts

Wichita man sentenced for murdering wife, leaving her in a dumpster, stabbing her dogs

Donnell Stafford, 31, who was convicted of murdering his wife, dumping her body in a trash can and stabbing her two dogs, was sentenced to life in prison on Thursday, court records show.

On April 9, a woman’s naked body was found in a dumpster behind the Cave liquor store on South Seneca. The woman had stab wounds to her neck and face, evidence of strangulation and blunt-force trauma to the head, an autopsy says.

Detectives were able to identify the woman by her fingerprints as 37-year-old Leuh Moore, Stafford’s wife.

Stafford and Moore’s relationship had a history of domestic violence, a probable cause affidavit shows.

In January, Moore filed for a divorce after Stafford beat her bad enough to put her in the hospital, a friend told detectives.

About three weeks before she was killed, Moore let Stafford move back into her home, the friend said.

Surveillance footage near the liquor store caught the dumping of Moore’s body on camera. At 4:33 a.m. on April 8, a man pulled up next to the dumpster in a Jeep Cherokee. He got out and pulled a body from the rear driver’s side seat and put it in the dumpster. He also threw away a door mat and a XXL McDonald’s work shirt, which he had been wearing.

Stafford had recently stopped working at the McDonald’s near Pawnee and Seneca, detectives learned from an employee. But he had been issued two work shirts that matched the shirt found in the dumpster.

Police learned Moore owned a 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee. When they went to her home at 1118 W. Dayton, the Jeep was not in the driveway. There was blood in the yard, on the front porch and on the front door of the home Moore and Stafford had been staying in together, the affidavit says.

Inside the house, police found more blood. It looked like there had been a disturbance in a bedroom, detectives said. Three dogs were in the house, and two of them — a tan pit bull and dark-colored pit bull — had been stabbed.

Stafford woke Moore’s son later that morning. He seemed to be in a hurry, the boy told police. He drove him, in Moore’s Jeep, to a female relative’s house and asked if she could watch him for the day.

The relative agreed, and Stafford left town. Two days later, he was arrested in Davenport, Iowa, when a state trooper noticed the Jeep’s license plate matched a stolen vehicle report from Kansas.

According to a sergeant with the Scott County jail in Iowa, when Stafford was being booked into jail, he told a jail staffer that he killed his wife in Wichita and that’s why detectives were coming to speak to him, the affidavit says.

He was transferred back to Wichita on April 12, jail records show. On Oct. 26, a jury found him guilty of first-degree murder and two counts of animal cruelty.

Sedgwick County District Judge Faith Maughan sentenced Stafford to what is commonly called “The Hard 50,” a life sentence without the possibility of parole for 50 years.

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Chance Swaim won the Betty Gage Holland Award in 2018 for distinguished service to honor and protect the integrity of public dialogue on America’s college campuses. He has been a news reporter for The Wichita Eagle since 2018. You can contact him at 316-269-6752 and cswaim@wichitaeagle.com.
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