'It's been a nightmare,' family of teen left to die in the cold, still waiting for justice

Austin's body was found April 12, 2014. His cause of death was determined to be severe exposure to cold weather, according to court records obtained by NTV News.

Austin Wright's family entered the Hitchcock County Courthouse Thursday, hoping this would be the end to what they've described as a nightmare. Instead, they found out they'd have to wait a little while longer for justice.

"I'm really frustrated. It's been a long, over three years," said Angela Christner, Austin’s mother. Overcome by the grief of burying her son, Angela left court desperate for closure.

"The last words him and I actually talked to each other, he got out of the pickup and he said 'I love you mom'. And I said 'I love you too, Austin',” said Angela, as tears streamed down her face.

The body of Austin Wright, 18, was found in 2014 in rural Hitchcock County. John Leahy III pleaded no contest in his death.

Court records say the two men got in a fight in March 2014, then Leahy wrapped a sweatshirt around Austin's head, drove him to a rural area outside of Palisade, and left him there.

Austin's body was found April 12, 2014. His cause of death was determined to be severe exposure to cold weather, according to court records obtained by NTV News.

"It's been a nightmare. Our daughter lost her best friend. Our son lost his baby brother. Austin's three kids lost their dad. He has three kids that will never know him. One of them was born when he was missing, so he never got to meet her," said Angela.

Thursday, Leahy was set to be sentenced for the crime, but instead there was an unexpected delay.

"I don't see a reason to proceed with sentencing, unless I have made a decision on the number of days spent by Mr. Leahy in Nebraska," the judge presiding over the case said.

At the onset of Thursday's hearing, the prosecution disputed how much time a court report says Leahy has already served. At question is when Leahy stopped serving time for a crime in Colorado, and when his jail time for Nebraska started.

"We're talking about a difference of 572 days that Mr. Leahy may or may not be entitled to," the judge continued, left with no choice but to delay the sentencing until after he determines how much time should be credited to Leahy's sentence.

Now, Austin's family must continue to wait for justice.

"You just get tired of that roller coaster ride. You get your hopes up. You think this is finally starting to come to an end, where we can maybe start trying to get back to some kind of a normalcy in life. Then, they knock your feet out from under you, and you start all over again,” said Jamie Christner, Austin’s stepdad.

The judge has set a hearing for Sept. 5 in McCook, at 10 a.m. That hearing will be to determined the number of days Leahy should be credited. That day the judge is also expected to reschedule Leahy’s sentencing.

Leahy was initially charged with first degree murder, but on June 7, 2017 he signed a plea deal dropping his charges to manslaughter and kidnapping. He’s also charged with possession of meth with intent to deliver. All three charges are felonies.

Click below for previous coverage of this case:

Man accused of killing in 2014 could face 50 years in prison

Timeline of Events Leading Investigators to Murder Charge in Hitchcock County

Man Accused of First Degree Murder in Death of McCook Teen

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