'Til Death Do Us Part.' The twisted murder of Leah Hirschel and her husband's cover-up

An all-new season of News 12’s original series Crime Files premieres with the story of a young couple’s romance that harbored a dark secret. A brutal murder, a twisted cover-up and the shocking truth revealed - don’t miss “Til Death Do Us Part."

Rachel Yonkunas

Mar 29, 2024, 8:00 AM

Updated 16 days ago

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Below is reporting from Rachel Yonkunas for "Crime Files."
In 2008, Leah Hirschel was killed at the hands of her husband, Bill Walsh. Her brutal murder and Walsh’s twisted cover-up stand out as one of the most shocking crimes in Long Island history.
Hirschel's parents spoke publicly for the very first time in an exclusive interview with News 12 as they prepare for the possible release of their daughter’s killer.
Hirschel was a vibrant and beloved special education teacher from Rockville Centre. Growing up, she was a star student, a brilliant violinist and an avid soccer player.
“She was just fun to be around,” said Mattie Hirschel, Leah’s mother. “She was a clown. I mean, she brought everyone out of their shells. I miss, “I know mom, I know, I know” when I tell her be careful going out. She was just a really fun person. We miss her very much.”
Hirschel was a small-town kid with big dreams. She finished college at UMass with a double major in marketing and communications.
“One of her close friends from school made a conscious statement. She says she was great with time management: she never missed a test, a paper or a party,” her father, Howard Hirschel, said as he laughed. “Whatever suited her fancy, and whatever she undertook, she was passionate about. She didn't do anything halfway ever.”
Everything in Hirschel's life pointed to success. After college, she got her first job at a small marketing company. This is where she met Bill Walsh. Their courtship started as an office romance and quickly blossomed into a serious relationship.
After four years of dating, the couple got married in July 2005. Hirschel's parents didn’t know it at the time, but the young couple’s romance harbored a dark secret.
“He was playing around, and she was going to confront him with it,” Howard said. “The cellphones were in her name, you know, and she got a list of his calls and whatnot and she knew full well that he was playing around. We weren't aware of it.”
Armed with what Hirschel believed was evidence of her husband’s infidelities, she confronted Walsh when he returned home from a weekend in Atlantic City on Oct. 26, 2008.
“They got into a verbal altercation. They then started to tussle, and he describes them falling to the floor with his arm around her neck,” said retired Nassau County Police Capt. John Azzata. “At some point, he realized that she wasn't alive.”
Walsh concocted an elaborate plot to make Hirschel's death look like an abduction. He left his wife in their apartment for hours as he went about his day trying to establish an alibi.
Walsh went to McDonald’s, the gym and the laundromat. He even pretended to be Hirschel by using her cellphone to send himself and her friends fake text messages.
At nightfall that Sunday, Walsh covered Hirschel's body in garbage bags and left her in a wooded area along the Long Island Expressway in North Hills. He then ditched her car on the side of the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway and deflated the front passenger tire.
“There were so many ways to fix this without having to kill the person that you swore to stand next to until death do you part. That's not what it meant,” said Hon. David Ayres, the judge who presided over Walsh’s case.
The next morning, the Hirschels got a call from Leah’s school where she taught fourth grade saying that she never showed up for work. Howard Hirschel tried calling his daughter dozens of times, but there was no answer.
Howard Hirschel was a school bus driver. As he was driving a bus full of kids on his normal route that afternoon, he spotted his daughter’s car abandoned on the side of the highway. This time, he called Bill Walsh and summoned him to the scene.
Walsh put on an act for the family, police and the public. He put up flyers with Leah Hirschel’s picture on them and made phony emotional pleas to the media for his wife’s safe return.
Leah Hirschel was missing for three days until police found her body in the woods about 15 miles from her Bethpage home.
“When they came to the door, the detectives, everything just drained out of me,” said Mattie Hirschel. “I couldn't scream. I couldn't cry because I said this can't be, you know? She's somewhere else. This is not her. And as it turned out, it was her.”
Walsh’s attention to detail in his twisted cover-up ultimately led to his arrest. After he ditched her car and walked back to their apartment, he noticed her lunch for the next day was in their refrigerator.
Walsh returned to the scene and placed the lunch in her car to make it look like she was on her way to work.
“He didn’t walk back this time. He drove back,” said Ayres. “And he drove a taxicab yellow Mustang muscle car that is loud and obnoxious and visible. You know it when you see it driving past you.”
As luck would have it, someone did see that car. A New York state worker told police he saw Leah Hirschel’s car on the side of the highway just before sunrise. When he pulled up to help, he said he spotted a man get into an unmistakable, bright yellow Mustang and speed off.
Police brought Walsh back in for questioning. Detectives spent several hours interrogating him, and this time he confessed to killing his wife.
In 2010, Walsh pleaded guilty to second-degree murder of his wife. He was sentenced to 18 years to life in prison for the murder of Leah Hirschel.
Walsh will be eligible for parole in two years at the age of 48.
“Think about Mattie Hirschel waking up every morning. Howard Hirschel, Josh, waking up every morning, and the first thing that they think about is that their daughter is gone and was brutally murdered at the hands of a family member. A person that they had embraced as their own,” Ayres said. “And then think about the next thought that comes into their head, which is ‘what day is it today? How close are we on the calendar to having to go to the parole board to convince them to keep this monster in prison?’”
If denied release, Walsh will have parole hearings every two years or less under New York state law.
“No sooner do you get over it, you have to start all over again, which is nerve-racking,” Mattie said. “There's no compassion for the survivors. Just ‘let's get this guy out’ and that's it.”
Leah Hirschel’s legacy lives on at the Tiegerman School where she taught fourth graders with developmental disabilities. The school planted a tree outside with a memorial beside it to celebrate her life. They also dedicated her old classroom with a plaque outside the door that honors her memory.


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