Gary Lenon – 1986

Date of crime: July 6, 1986

Crime: Homicide

Victim: Gary Lenon

Suspect: Jose Ballardo

Lenon was stabbed 104 times in his home. A few days later, Ballardo was arrested for disturbing the peace after firing a gun stolen from Lenon’s car into the air. Due to a failure of communication between Caldwell PD and the Canyon County Sheriff’s Office, authorities didn’t put two and two together until after Ballardo vanished from the county.


Canyon County authorities continue to search for murder suspects — sometimes decades after the crime  – May 27, 2012

Source: Idaho Press, John Funk

Casey Lenon knows the pain and frustration that comes from a long wait for justice. Her son, Gary Lenon, was murdered in 1986 — and the main suspect disappeared shortly after. Gary managed a Jackson’s store in Wilder, and Casey believes a confrontation outside the store may have led to his death.

“We went to have a picnic with him on the Fourth of July,” Casey recalled. “So that was the last time I’d seen him. That was on a Friday, and we didn’t find him until Monday. I called him Saturday and he didn’t answer, and I called him Sunday, and no answer. So I thought he’ll call me on Monday morning, because he opens the store at five in the morning, and then, no answer.”

She finally called Gary’s landlord at 8 a.m. that Monday, and learned that the police had been there all weekend. Gary had been killed Saturday evening.

When Casey and her other sons arrived, the police advised against viewing the body — Gary had been stabbed 104 times.

Shortly after the murder, Caldwell police arrested Jose Ballardo for disturbing the peace after he’d fired a gun into the air — a gun stolen from Gary Lenon.

“He stole it out of (Gary’s) car and they were shooting up in the sky, celebrating after they did what they did,” Casey said. “(Investigators) never did put two and two together, that there had been a murder.”

Gary had run across Ballardo and his companions before, Casey said, and occasionally conflicts arose at Gary’s Jackson’s store. They sometimes demanded that he reopen the business after hours to sell them beer, which Gary refused to do. The last such confrontation, Casey suspects, led to her son’s death.

Ballardo was released from jail and ordered to return to court in September 1986 for the disturbing the peace charge. He never did. Canyon County authorities don’t know where he went, or where he is today, but they’re still looking. And that helps Casey rest a little easier.

Even more encouraging, she said, was the recent extradition of Jose Flores back to Canyon County from South Carolina. She knows the system can work, even if it hasn’t yet found the man suspected of slaying her son. In a way, Casey may have even helped it happen.

“They kind of included me, giving me credit, because I’m the one who’s been pushing for it. I’ve been bugging them a lot.” she said. “I was glad. It showed me that they’re doing something. But a lot of people — friends of mine — called me up, and they thought it was mine that they solved.”

In the meantime, she still waits for that fateful phone call from the task force, telling her they’ve found Ballardo. And she still does whatever she can to raise awareness for outstanding murder cases.

“I’m not going to quit doing it, either,” Casey said.

“You’re not supposed to,” Sheriff’s Office victim-witness coordinator Aleshea Lind told her. “It’s your boy. You’re not supposed to.”


Officials seek public’s help in cracking cold case murder

Source: KTVB, 2016

WILDER – Three decades later and still no closure with the biggest homicide case that Wilder has ever seen.
It has been nearly 30 years to the date and police are once again calling for the public’s help in tracking down the suspect in a 1986 stabbing.
Law enforcement knows exactly who the suspect is: Jose Ballardo, a 5’5″, 51-year-old man. They just don’t know where Ballardo is.
“It still hurts 30 years later,” Canyon County Sheriff Victim Witness Coordinator Aleshea L. Boals said.

With every year that passes, Casey Lenon can never forget that dreadful July day in 1986 – the day her son Gary was brutally stabbed to death.
“The hope that she has is that we can locate the suspect and hopefully bring him back to Idaho so that he can face this family and hear the hurt he has put them through,” Boals added.
With every year that passes, Wilder Police Chief Dusty Tveidt says they don’t give up.
“We want to bring that person to justice,” he told KTVB. “We want to give that to the victim and the victim’s family.”
Officials say it can be one person, one phone call that’s going to break this case. Law enforcement received tips several years ago, leading them to believe Ballardo ran off to Mexico.
“Our community is still talking about it, wondering where the person is and when the family will be able to put closure on it,” Wilder resident Alice Reyes said.
The crime was shocking and worrisome for longtime residents in the tiny agricultural town.
“It was kind of devastating because there haven’t been too many of those incidences in Wilder throughout the years,” Reyes added.
Ballardo’s warrant is still active, and the Lenons – alongside law enforcement – say they will continue searching for him until that warrant is served.
“It’s tough but we take all the time that we can, spare time here and there,” Chief Tveidt added. “We’ll bring it back up, make phone calls to different agencies.”
Since officials received those tips that Ballardo was in Mexico, they’ve been actively working with the country’s government. But since 2008, law enforcement has not received any current tips or information at all.
Meanwhile, the Lenons are still seeking closure.
“I think sometimes it’s hard to put it behind you and move forward with knowing that person is still out there on the loose,” Chief Tveidt said.
Investigators say there are other challenges in this case: Mexico doesn’t keep records the same way we do in the U.S, and finding witnesses and officers from 1986 is almost impossible.
But Chief Tveidt is optimistic that resources and technology available today could help link the suspect to the evidence.
If you have any information call Crime Stoppers at (208) 343-COPS or the Wilder Police Department at (208) 482-6401.