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Auburn killing suspect surrenders after manhunt

MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- A man accused of killing three people at a party near Auburn University turned himself in Tuesday after a three-day manhunt that included a tense but fruitless search of a Montgomery home by police tactical units.

A Montgomery defense attorney said she arranged for Desmonte Leonard to surrender after getting word that his family wanted her help. Auburn Police Chief Tommy Dawson said the suspect was taken into custody at 7:57 p.m. by a U.S. Marshal at the federal courthouse in Montgomery.

His surrender was a low-key ending to a search that included the inch-by-inch scouring of the house by police armed with tear gas and spy gear. Hours after police conceded Leonard had evaded them at the house, Dawson said the suspect walked up the courthouse steps and surrendered peacefully to the marshal waiting just inside.

Leonard, 22, is charged with three counts of capital murder in a shooting Saturday night after a fight over a woman. He is accused of wounding three others. The dead included two former Auburn college football players, and a current player was among the wounded.

Dawson said that Leonard was being booked into a jail in Montgomery and will be moved to Opelika near the university for a first court appearance on Wednesday or Thursday.

After getting word that Leonard wanted help, Montgomery defense attorney Susan James said she contacted U.S. Marshals. Then she and her son, who works for her as an investigator, picked up Leonard. She wouldn't say where except that it was about 50 miles (80 kilometers) from Montgomery. They drove him to meet investigators at the federal courthouse, where snipers were perched on the roof.

“He was very calm, very tired and very ready to get this over with and very respectful,” said James, a well-known attorney whose clients have included disgraced former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman.

She said they had time to talk while driving to Montgomery and added: “When the full story is told, it may sound different than the perception now.”

She said she agreed to help Leonard even though she hasn't been retained. “You don't want a bad end for anybody,” she said.

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