Boston murder draws attention to food operators' hiring practices

July 18, 2002

BOSTON -- A brutal murder in which a Burger King cook is accused of stabbing to death a socialite may put fast-food operators' hiring practices under a microscope, according to a report in the Boston Herald.

Questions have been raised about the restaurant's screening of potential job candidates after it was learned that Paul J. Leahy, the 39-year-old cook who was arraigned July 18 on charges including murder, kidnapping and armed robbery in connection with the stabbing death of New England socialite Alexandra Zapp at a Boston-area rest stop, was a registered sex offender.

Company spokeswoman Kim Miller told the Herald that Burger King does not require franchise owners to perform background and criminal record checks on prospective employees. But she said the company has considered requiring such checks.

It is not known whether the operator of the Burger King where Leahy was employed, Boston-Wyman Inc. of Hyannis, knew of Leahy's record before his arraignment. On that subject, Miller declined comment. But she said Boston-Wyman was working with the police on their investigation.

According to the Herald, Leahy has two dozen convictions on his record for offenses including assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, breaking and entering, malicious destruction, possession of marijuana, making threats, car theft and causing a disturbance.

He served 13 years in prison for a knifepoint rape in a pizza shop in 1984. The same year, he was convicted of wielding a knife while terrorizing a 13-year-old girl.

According to police reports, Leahy was taking a cigarette break when he followed 30-year-old Zapp to the women's room of the rest stop and attacked her as she came out. Zapp, who stopped to use the facilities as she drove home to Newport, R.I., was stabbed to death during a struggle. Leahy was nabbed at the scene by a state trooper who heard the ruckus.

Burger King rival McDonald's does not require criminal background checks for employees but does "strongly recommend' they be done, said spokeswoman Tara Richards. "It's up to the individual operator to decide whether to carry that out,' she said.

Job applicants at Domino's Pizza are asked whether they have ever been convicted of a felony, said Tim McIntyre, Domino's vice president of corporate communications. Domino's also examines the driving records of all employees who will deliver orders.

Topics: Crime

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