William ‘Bill’ Leasure’: California Traffic Cop Headed Yacht Theft Ring, Masterminded Murders On ‘Married With Secrets’

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William Leasure, known as Bill Leasure, the traffic cop who went down for the murders of three people more than two decades ago, is the murder subject for the next Married With Secrets on ID. People who knew Bill Leasure say that he led a secret life, which included the contract murder of Ann Smith, Tony de los Reyes, and Gilberto Cervantes. He was also the mastermind behind a multi-million dollar theft ring targeting yachts. For his crimes, William “Bill” Leasure was sentenced to prison. Investigation Discovery’s Married With Secrets episode titled “The Mastermind,” will do a recreation of events, along with commentary from California law enforcement officials.

On tonight’s Married With Secrets, detectives are on the trail of a man who is suspected of masterminding a boat-theft ring worth millions. But they find out that yachts aren’t the only thing he masterminded.

Bill Leasure, who is referred to as “Mild Bill,” is considered one of the dirtiest cops around. The 40-year-old former traffic cop was arrested and charged with the murders of three victims. His accomplice, Dennis France, was also arrested, according to the News Ok.

By all accounts, William E. Leasure was considered a mellow cop, who often allowed people to escape traffic tickets by giving them a warning. His personality and character gave no indication that he was a contract killer and a serial law breaker.

Authorities say that in 1977, 64-year-old Gilberto Cervantes was murdered. The rich old man was killed after returning home from church.

It turned out that 76-year-old Gilberto Cervantes’ own stepson, Tony de los Reyes, requested that Leasure kill him. It was alleged that Dennis Dean Winebaugh, a friend of Bill Leasure, actually carried out the killing. An article in the Los Angeles Times explains it this way.

“Gilberto Cervantes, the owner of extensive real estate holdings and the El Sol Tortilla Factory in Los Angeles, was gunned down in front of his San Gabriel home as he returned from early morning Mass. Nothing had been taken, so robbery was ruled out as a motive. According to Dennis France, Cervantes was shot by a friend of Leasure’s, Dennis Dean Winebaugh. Leasure allegedly paid Winebaugh for the hit, acting as middleman for the victim’s daughter-in-law, Paulette de los Reyes, who wanted control of the tortilla factory. Cervantes’ stepson, Tony de los Reyes, and his wife Paulette, had been the prime suspects.”

Dennis France Admits to 1980 and 1981 Murders

In the summer of 1980, 41-year-old Ann Smith (Anne Smith) was killed inside her mother’s beauty shop in Highland. Ann was going through a bitter divorce at the time with her husband, Arthur Gayle Smith, Bill Leasure’s friend. The crime scene was manipulated to look like a robbery. The Los Angeles Times continues with the following details.

“Anne Smith was shot once in the back while styling hair in her mother’s Highland Park beauty shop on the morning of May 2, 1980. A man had entered the shop shortly before it opened, walked by the cash register and three other women, then grabbed Smith and walked her at gunpoint to the rear of the store.”

In 1981, karma came back to claim Antonio “Tony” de los Reyes, the same man who set up the murder of his stepfather, Gilberto Cervantes. According to prosecutors, Tony de los Reyes was killed outside of a bar after his wife Paulette de los Reyes and Arthur Gayle Smith hired William Leasure to carry out the murder.

Tonight’s Married With Secrets will trace detectives steps in connecting William Leasure to the murders and to the thefts of luxury boats. William Bill Leasure ended up pleading guilty to the murders and was given a sentence of 15 years to life. He is doing his time at the Mule Creek correctional facility in California.

Here are a few more details

  • The book Murderer With a Badge: The Secret Life of a Rogue Cop by Edward Humes is based on the case.
  • Dennis Dean Winebaugh was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. He died in 1991. The cause of death was listed as heart failure.
  • Paulette de los Reyes agreed to testify in William “Bill” Leasure’s trial. She was sentenced to time served after her charges were reduced. She was released, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Married With Secrets: The Mastermind airs tonight at 10/9 p.m. Central on Investigation Discovery.

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