Part II: Mystery In Paradise

Was Randy Latona's Death A Suicide Or Murder?

It's been two years since the death of Randy Latona.

Vince Latona, the retired head of a multi-million dollar engineering company, is now devoting his time and money to prove that Randy's girlfriend, Leslie Spiering, murdered his son.

He's traveled numerous times to Honduras and has invested at least $100,000 on the case.

"I want the Hondurans to take away the stigma of suicide," says Vince. "The Honduran authorities refuse to consider this the act that it was."

Randy's family has hired Wayne Hollingsworth, a celebrated former prosecutor from Maine, to help overturn the suicide ruling.

"I have no question that this was a homicide. There's not a professional alive that would ever classify this a suicide," says Hollingsworth. "I don't know what Spiering's involvement was. I know that she's lying. Why she's lying, I don't know."

In Roatan, Honduras, Hollingsworth overheard stories about threats Leslie made against Randy just days before his death. "She told a number of people at the small tiki bar that if she did not have a ticket to Los Angeles by Saturday she was going to kill him," says Hollingsworth.

He also reviewed Spiering's statements to the Honduran police, and noticed inconsistencies: "The timing was way off by hours. It just couldn't have happened the way she said."

Spiering told police that the night before Randy's death, she used cocaine several times while partying in a nearby town, and didn't return to the condominium until early in the morning. In her statement, she says Randy was awake when she got back. They had a short, uneventful conversation and then the couple went to bed.

Hours later, Spiering says she awoke to find Randy's lifeless body lying right next to her. Incredibly, she also says she slept through the fatal gunshot.

"A 9-mm Glock that's only 12 to 14 inches from your head sounds like an atomic bomb going off," says Hollingsworth. "There's no way in the world that a living human being would not be straight up, hanging from the chandelier."

Hollingsworth also says that crime scene photos taken by the Hondurans further prove that Spiering can't be believed. For instance, he takes issue with the way the blood flowed from the wound: "It shows that there was nothing between Randy and the other side of the bed."

If Spiering had been lying next to Randy, as she indicated to the police, Hollingsworth says the blood would never have pooled in the sagging mattress. "It would have stopped when it came to her body," he says, adding that the photos also provide clues as to the real time of Randy's death.


Vince also hired Miami forensic pathologist Raul Vila to review the evidence. His conclusion?

"I don't think Randy took his own life. I think this is a homicide," says Vila, who adds that the police photos reveal a murder made to look like a suicide.
According to Hollingsworth, a paraffin test that failed to detect gunpowder residue on Randy's hand supports the theory that the gun was planted in his hand.

But Honduran investigators Rafael Soto and Gonzalo Sanchez stand by their ruling of suicide. They point to the unusual way Randy was holding the gun as proof. And they also believe that Spiering was telling the truth because she had blood on her shirt.

In her statement, Spiering says Randy occasionally used cocaine and that just days before the shooting, he was depressed and drinking heavily.

"He did not leave his apartment for three days, he was drinking alcohol, which is another sign of being possibly suicidal, and he had not shaved," says Sanchez.

But Randy's sister, Megan, says she spoke to her brother on the phone just two days before his death and everything seemed fine.

"Anyone would be excited and happy to see his family," says Soto. "But you have to understand, this was depression. Shooting oneself can happen in the blink of an eye."


48 Hours asked an independent expert, renowned forensic pathologist Vincent DiMaio, to examine the evidence.

DiMaio, San Antonio's chief medical examiner, specializes in gunshot wounds. He agrees with the Latonas that much of what Spiering told investigators can't be believed – especially her claim that she slept through the gunshot. "This is in the realm of fairy tales," he says.

But he doesn't believe that Leslie staged Randy's death to look like a suicide. Like the Honduran investigators, he points to Randy's grip on the gun as proof.

"This is not an uncommon method of holding the weapon in suicides. But most people, the general public, don't know that," says DiMaio. "In the cases that I have seen where someone took a homicide and attempted to make it look like a suicide, they usually just put the gun next to the hand. They don't think of putting it this way."

But what about the absence of gun powder residue on Randy's hand? "The autopsy describes soot and powder inside the wound, so all of the residue coming out of the gun would have gone into his head," says DiMaio.

So, in his expert opinion, was this a suicide or homicide? "When you analyze the objective evidence: the autopsy, the photographs, there is nothing inconsistent with a suicide," says DiMaio.

"The most probable manner of death is suicide…We really don't know what the other person is thinking. We think we know. We live with people all our lives and sometimes we don't even know the people we live with."


Vince Latona, however, maintains the evidence points clearly to his son's murder.

"Dr. DiMaio is a reputed forensic pathologist. I can't dispute what he says," says Vince. "But I can take issue with the fact that other forensic pathologists disagree. So this is a case of my expert vs. your expert. Doesn't change my opinion whatsoever."

Just last January, Vince filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Leslie Spiering. "The purpose is to try and get her to give a deposition and get her into court," says Vince.

"No amount of money is going to bring my son back," adds Randy's mother, Jill. "I just want her to know that she can't get away with it."

The Latonas hope a deposition will give them the answers they're looking for. In the meantime, the Honduran authorities insist they will remain open-minded.

"If any new evidence emerges and has the potential to reverse the results of our investigation, the case may be reopened and we may reach a different conclusion," says Sanchez. "Because we are not perfect."

For now, the Latonas are left with the strength of their family and the memories of their lost son.

"I tell them, when you see a jet streaming across the blue sky, the contrails behind it, I say, 'Look up and say, 'Uncle Randy is surfing the sky,'" says Jill.

One followup about the Latona's civil suit. Lawyers for the family say Leslie Spiering was served a summons but didn't respond. It's now up to the federal judge in the case to decide what happens next.

Part I: Mystery In Paradise