There was no sign of foul play. No suicide note.
But no one can say yet whether a former Bucks County police officer, found dead a day before her scheduled sentencing for theft, died naturally or took her own life.
An autopsy performed yesterday on Katherine Leese, 42, failed to determine the cause of death, First Assistant District Attorney David W. Zellis said. That finding depends on toxicology results, which typically take two or three weeks, he said.
Leese was found by her mother Monday in a bedroom of their Middletown Township home, said Leese's attorney, Ronald Elgart.
The former Falls Township officer had been scheduled for sentencing yesterday for embezzling more than $87,000 from the Bucks County Fraternal Order of Police. She was the FOP treasurer when the thefts occurred.
Elgart called the timing of her death "beyond bizarre," saying initial indications did not point to suicide.
"It looks to be natural causes," he said. "She was in very poor physical health."
Leese was found early in the afternoon. Her mother last heard her footsteps around 5 a.m., Elgart said.
There was heavy bleeding from Leese's nose, Elgart said, consistent with a possible aneurysm. Police counted pills in various medicine bottles and found no obvious shortages, he said. No note from Leese was found.
Zellis would not comment on those statements, saying only that the autopsy ruled out foul play.
On Jan. 28, Leese had pleaded no contest in Bucks County Court to felony theft charges. She was set for sentencing yesterday morning by Judge Jeffrey L. Finley, and faced significant prison time.
Elgart said that while she had not been treated for mental illness, Leese had shown signs of depression and withdrawal. Since her plea, he said, she had not answered or returned his calls and messages to her. Former colleagues at the Falls Police Department, where she was a 10-year veteran, reached out to her in vain.
Among them was Police Chief Bill Wilcox, a longtime colleague who said Leese "had a very good heart. She did a lot of good things for a lot of people in her life, but she made a bad decision that cost her her job."
"She's in a better place right now, and I hope she's at peace," Wilcox said.
Leese and former FOP president Gerald Conaway, a retired Upper Southampton officer, were charged in August with stealing more than $93,000 from a union bank account. Conaway, 66, who took $5,500 to pay personal debts, soon repaid the money.
In January, Finley sentenced him to three to 23 months in prison.
At that time, the judge indicated he might go harder on Leese, calling her "the more culpable of the two." Chief Deputy District Attorney Marc Furber, who handled the case, said she had repaid only about $6,000 of the stolen money, which went mostly for mortgage and credit-card payments.
Court documents say Leese embezzled the money via 24 electronic transfers from the FOP account into her own. She then manipulated the FOP's accounting software program to cover her tracks, the records show.
Elgart said that Leese, who never married, was worried about her mother, their 10 dogs, and the condition of her fire-damaged home. Since her arrest, he said, she had spent much of her time working on the house, which had burned before the thefts started.
"It was to make sure that her mother had a livable abode," Elgart said. "I think she was trying to get it in shape before she went away."