San Luis Obispo man accused of sex acts on woman dying of cancer

A 51-year-old San Luis Obispo man is being tried for alleged sex acts with his girlfriend while she was unconscious and dying from cancer.

James Wayne Leach has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which also include annoying or molesting a child under 18 for allegedly taking photos that included young, naked children on local beaches.

Leach was in San Luis Obispo Superior Court on Monday for a preliminary hearing in Judge Michael Duffy’s courtroom.

The Tribune is not naming the woman because she was the alleged victim of a sex crime.

The woman died at age 51 in June 2009, but before her death, prosecutors say, Leach took photos of her private parts, including one in which he’s touching her sexually.

At the time, Leach was acting as his girlfriend’s caregiver, according to investigators.

San Luis Obispo Police Department Detective Sue Mickel testified during questioning from prosecutor Greg Devitt that Leach acknowledged to her in a recorded interview that he orally copulated the woman and used his fingers to penetrate her while she was unconscious.

Mickel said Leach told her he also took sexually explicit photos of the woman while she was unconscious.

Leach is a registered sex offender who was convicted of committing a lewd act against a child under 14 and annoying or molesting a child under 18 in 1990, according to court records.

The current case against him began when sheriff’s Deputy Ron Slaughter questioned him at Avila Beach in May.

Slaughter testified that while he was patrolling the area, he saw Leach with binoculars and a police radio in his car.

Slaughter asked him questions about his activities at the beach, which led the deputy to retrieve images from a digital camera and video recorder inside Leach’s vehicle.

The camera and video recorder allegedly contained dozens of images and scenes of children on the beach over the past few years — including naked toddlers at a public shower — and images of Leach’s girlfriend. Mickel said Leach later told her he used the images to masturbate.

Defense attorney Ron Crawford asked whether Leach appeared in any of the photos with the children or the alleged adult victim, and investigators said Leach didn’t.

However, video recordings show Leach and his girlfriend on camera together, according to testimony from detectives.

Duffy determined that enough evidence had been presented for probable cause, and the case will proceed to trial on the charges of oral copulation, digital penetration and annoying a child under 18.

But Duffy rejected charges of child pornography, saying that the children in the images would need to be engaged in sex acts or simulating sexual conduct to meet that legal standard.

Leach is due back in Duffy’s courtroom July 28 for a further arraignment. He remains in County Jail, where he is being held in lieu of $150,000 bail.