FBI's top fugitive lived simple life

RICHMOND, Va. -- Accused killer Leo Koury, who headed the FBI's 10 Most Wanted List for more than a decade, lived his final years in modest anonymity, walking to his part-time job as a convenience store clerk in San Diego.

Koury, charged with two murders and a variety of other crimes, had been on the FBI's list of top fugitives since 1979 -- longer than anyone else. The FBI announced his death late Friday in a San Diego hospital after confirming Koury's identity through fingerprint records.


The FBI has not determined what Koury was doing in San Diego or how long he had been there. 'It's going to take a while to unravel this stuff,' said Special Agent Wilber Garrett Jr.

But the Richmond (Va.) Times-Dispatch reported Sunday that Koury lived alone under an alias in a tiny apartment in a working-class neighborhood of San Diego.


Koury, who used the name William Franklin Biddle, didn't own a car and walked daily to his part-time job as a clerk in a nearby convenience store.

Using the alias, Koury admitted himself to Villa View Community Hospital in San Diego last Sunday because of failing health. He died early the next day of a brain hemorrhage brought on by high-blood pressure, the FBI said. Koury, a diabetic, was 56.

An anonymous caller told an acquaintance of Koury's about his death and the acquaintance notified authorities.

Agents were disappointed their hunt for Koury ended with his death.

'We would have much rather have found him alive,' Garrett said. 'But at least we closed our fugitive investigation.'

A grand jury indicted Koury in 1978 but he disappeared before authorities could arrest him. He was once seen in Brazil and two national television shows, 'America's Most Wanted' and 'Unsolved Mysteries,' did segments on him.

The FBI once plastered his photograph on Richmond-area billboards in their attempt to track him down.

He was a restaurateur and many of the charges against him resulted from his attempts in the 1970s to control gay bars in Richmond.


Koury, originally from Pittsburgh, was reared in Richmond and broke into the restaurant business in the 1950s. In the 1960s he opened some of the area's first restaurants to cater to homosexuals.

When competing clubs opened, authorities charged, Koury retaliated violently. He was accused of killing a bouncer at one bar and of sending a thug to blast another with a shotgun, killing one person and wounding two others.

Koury also was charged with mail fraud, loan sharking and planning the kidnap-for-ransom of former pharmaceutical magnate E. Claiborne Robins Jr.

Before vanishing, Koury lived with his wife and the couple's four children. She moved from Richmond last year, a neighbor said.

In San Diego, Carrie Strawder lived next door to Koury for six years but said she knew nothing of his past. She characterized her neighbor, whom she knew as Biddle, as a kindly man who bothered nobody.

'He was just a big, fat, heavy man, very nice. Everybody who met him liked (him). All the kids and everybody,' Strawder said.

He kept his personal life secret. He told his neighbors he was reared in a San Diego orphanage.

'He didn't like anybody talking about him,' said Aboud Abousassall, nephew of Koury's boss at Sam's Convenience Store, where the fugitive worked for about seven years.


Strawder said she never heard Koury mention having lived in Richmond, but another fellow worker at Sam's, Isam Housham, said he made passing references to Richmond.

Housham characterized Koury as an obese man with a large mustache. He didn'tdrink, smoke or have girlfriends, Housham said.

His San Diego friends were stunned to learn of Koury's past. Strawder refused to believe her neighbor is Koury.

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