Deputies use DNA to track down man accused of robbing 97-year-old veteran at gunpoint

Deputies use DNA to track down man accused of robbing 97-year-old veteran at gunpoint
File photo of a Lake County Sheriff's Office patrol car. (WFTV.com News Staff)

LAKE COUNTY, Fla. — Deputies said a cigarillo found near where a 97-year-old World War II veteran was found unconscious and injured was the key to track down the man accused of robbing him at gunpoint.

In July 2019, deputies said Willard VanOrder, 97, drove his lawnmower to a convenience store near Okahumpka to buy groceries. When he got home, they said a man met him at his backdoor with a gun and stole his wallet.

Relatives told investigators they later found VanOrder unconscious with head injuries.

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Deputies said they found a Black and Mild cigarillo tip at the scene. Seven months later, they said the DNA from it helped them link the crime to 29-year-old Kevin Eugene Leeks Jr.

Investigators said Leeks was scene on surveillance footage from the convenience store purchasing a Black and Mild cigarillo around the same time VanOrder was at the store. They said a search warrant from Leeks’ DNA provided a match to the DNA found on the cigarillo on the scene as well as on VanOrder’s clothing.

Deputies said Leeks was located Wednesday by the U.S. Marshals Violent Fugitive Task Force at a hotel in Leesburg.

Leeks is facing charges of home invasion/robbery with a firearm and theft from a person 65 years of age or older.