Family Calls Hostage-Taking an 'Act of Desperation'

Family says Eisenberg sought mental health help but was turned away.

ByABC News via logo

Dec. 3, 2007 — -- Leeland Eisenberg, the New Hampshire man who police say took staffers at a Hillary Clinton campaign office hostage last week, was no stranger to police, family members told "Good Morning America" today.

In fact, Eisenberg was supposed to be in court on a domestic dispute charge Friday, the day he allegedly strapped a fake bomb made of road flares to his chest and held three terrified young staffers hostage for nearly six hours.

Just days earlier his wife, Lisa Eisenberg, filed for divorce against the unemployed 46-year-old. His family said he wanted help for drinking and mental health problems and called the incident at the Rochester, N.H., office an "act of desperation."

"He kept expressing he wanted to get help," Eisenberg's stepson Ben Warren said today in an exclusive interview with "GMA." "He wasn't able to get it because he didn't have insurance, he didn't have money."

The family says earlier last week Eisenberg, seeking mental health help, was turned away from a hospital because he had no money or insurance.

Eisenberg apparently went to the Clinton office because he saw an ad on television, in which a New Hampshire man said Clinton helped him get health insurance.

Eisenberg told a family member he was going to do something to get in the hospital. The next day witnesses say he walked into the Clinton office, wearing what he said was a bomb, demanding to speak to the senator.

Family members said they never imagined Eisenberg would do anything that extreme. Eisenberg had been drinking heavily the night before he went to the campaign office.

"Honestly at the time, I didn't pay it much attention," Warren said. "He had been drinking all night. I figured if anything it would be some kind of suicide attempt."

Family members and friends said that Eisenberg could be a funny and sweet man when he took his medication.

"When he was on his medication he was always making me laugh. He spoiled me. It was perfect in my eyes," Lisa Eisenberg told "GMA." "Without the medication and with alcohol, he turned into a different person."

A neighbor of the Eisenbergs agreed. "When he's not drinking, he's the nicest guy you can meet. You know, he don't bother anybody. But when he's drinking, he's altogether different," said Cecil Plaisted.

Now Eisenberg is facing felony charges and jail time. His family said they were relieved when they saw Eisenberg give himself up to police with no one getting hurt, but the future is anything but clear.

Lisa Eisenberg said, "I still love him. I'm still here, and I wish there was something I could have done. And I'm sorry things ended up this way."

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