Two retired detectives received distinguished awards form LASD Sheriff Jim McDonnell on Monday for their hard work for having turned the cold case about a slain local woman into arrests and convictions for murder.
Detective John Paillet was awarded a Sheriff’s Star Scroll, while Detective Steven Lankford was awarded a Quality of Service Award, in a ceremony inside the Sheriff’s office where both detectives were flanked by Captain Christopher Bergner and Chief Stephen Johnson.
The detectives were acknowledged and credited for their roles in the 1978 robbery, kidnapping, rape, and murder case of victim Leslie Long, a 20-year-old woman who worked at a Palmdale gas station.
It was during her shift on Sunday, Dec. 3, 1978, that Long was robbed at gunpoint by two male suspects, then forced to drive with them to an isolated desert area in the Antelope Valley.
There, she was raped, made to kneel on the ground and shot five times in the back of the head. Her body was found three days later.
Detective John Paillet headed the Leslie Long investigation in 1978. Because investigators insisted on a sexual assault kit with hopes for future processing and because Paillet collected key pieces of evidence, two suspects were convicted almost three decades later, LASD Deputy Lillian Peck wrote in a news release issued Tuesday.
In 2017, the suspects were sentenced to life without the possibility of parole.
Detective Steven Lankford returned to LASD Homicide Bureau as a 120-day contract employee after having put in 33 years of service.
He continued the work that was carried out by Paillet, having followed the evidence, tracked down witnesses and methodically presented the case.
Because of the diligence displayed by these two detectives, the persons responsible for the torturous and tragic ending to a young lady’s life were held accountable, Peck wrote in the news release.
They prepared for the future with considerable aforethought and collected valuable evidence, which ultimately helped solve the case, she wrote.
The dedication of the detectives to their craft and their bottomless tenacity perfectly illustrate the persona of the Homicide Bureau’s mascot, the Bulldog.
Homicide Captain Christopher Bergner said: “After almost 30 years of retirement, Homicide Investigator John Paillet returned to testify in a 1978 murder case, bring justice for the victim and closure to her family.
“At almost 88 years old, John is still committed to the Department and citizens of Los Angeles County,” Bergner said. “It was a pleasure to acknowledge his efforts and to meet such a humble man.”