5 months since death, how mother died may never be known

Nique Leili

Nique Leili

LAWRENCEVILLE -- Five months since Nique Leili was ripped from their lives, family members of the Lawrenceville mother of three fear they may never know definitively how she was killed.

Citing police detectives and other officials, Leili's sister, Amy Elk, told the Daily Post on Tuesday a cause of death has been ruled undetermined and that forensic testing on her remains is coming to a close.

Despite the body's decomposition, all causes of death but asphyxiation and strangulation were ruled out, but none can be pinned down as the cause, Elk said, citing officials.

Police directed specific inquiries about the cause of death ruling to the Gwinnett County Medical Examiner's Office. Officials there could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

"It's a blow, obviously," Elk said. "Nothing's going to bring her back, but you're hoping for answers to your questions, and this didn't really give us any."

What progress investigators have made in finding Leili's killer in the intervening months is not clear.

"This is not a cold case and is still considered an active investigation," said Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. Jake Smith. "I can't say more than that."

Leili's body was found July 16 by volunteer searchers in a wooded area of her Lawrenceville subdivision. Her husband of 13 years, Matt Leili, is the only suspect named by Gwinnett police in his wife's slaying, but no charges have been brought.

Leili's autopsy did not reveal an exact cause of death, only that she hadn't died by gun or knife.

Samples collected during the autopsy underwent toxicology tests at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's lab. When that testing was expedited and finished in August, Gwinnett officials asked for additional testing.

Elk said she believes the "very thorough" process involved screening for poisons.

Meanwhile, a custody battle over the Leili's two daughters -- now 10 and 13 -- continues this week in a Gwinnett juvenile court, Elk said.

Nique's father scored more visitation time -- a weekend and two dinner visits per month -- with the girls in September. The girls reside with their father at other times. Elk has been restricted from seeing her nieces, she said.

Nique's family feels strongly that her husband was involved in her death, but provisions in the custody agreement restrict them from discussing the case with the girls.

Elk said Matt Leili, a native New Yorker, plans to uproot to Vermont with the girls should a judge allow that after hearings to finalize the custody arrangement conclude this week. Matt's attorneys could not be reached for comment Tuesday afternoon. He has denied all wrongdoing.

Smith, the police spokesman, said he wasn't aware of restrictions that would prohibit Matt from leaving Georgia.

Another legal battle over control of Nique's remains was settled outside court when the two sides agreed to separate funerals. Nique's family buried her in Athens, next to her grandfather.