Omaha police are investigating whether a man found dead Wednesday in Regency Lake was responsible for the beating of a 77-year-old woman in a lakeside apartment complex.
Douglas County Attorney Don Kleine said investigators have reason to believe that Hunter Hawthorne, 21, of Bennington was at the Regency Lakeside apartments in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, when Jaqueline Leahy was severely beaten.
Hawthorne’s body was found in the lake Wednesday morning.
Kleine gave the following account:
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Omaha police are probing a dispute between Hawthorne and his girlfriend that occurred Monday night or early Tuesday. The two had an argument at a west Omaha bar.
The girlfriend left and returned to a Regency Lakeside apartment where she lived with her grandmother.
Leahy is no relation to the girlfriend or her grandmother.
Early Tuesday, a man kicked in Leahy’s apartment door. Leahy confronted him, asking what he was doing.
The intruder proceeded to beat the woman so severely that she ended up in intensive care.
The man ran away before Omaha police arrived.
Now, Kleine said, investigators are investigating whether the man either ran and fell into Regency Lake or tried to swim across the lake.
Kleine said investigators were pulling surveillance videotapes to identify the intruder.
In a missing persons report, Hawthorne was listed as last being seen near Regency shopping center at 106th and Pacific Streets about 3 a.m. Tuesday. He was wearing a black T-shirt, black shorts and brown flip-flops.
Authorities recovered his body about 9:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Leahy has been in the intensive care unit at Creighton University Medical Center-Bergan Mercy.
A relative of Leahy’s said Thursday that she was “doing better.”
In an emailed statement, Leahy’s family said they “know two families are suffering.”
“There are no words to express our profound sadness,” the family said. “This tragedy has forever impacted the lives of two families. We are kindly asking for your prayers for both families during this difficult time. We would like to thank the Omaha Police Department for their continued support and guidance during this difficult time.”
Hawthorne’s family could not be reached for comment.
Kleine said a Douglas County coroner’s physician is conducting an autopsy, including toxicology tests, on Hawthorne.
Results could take several days.
World-Herald staff writer Jessica Wade contributed to this report.