It bothered James Roche that his 39-year-old girlfriend had a past sexual relationship with 73-year-old Ronald Evans, according to state police.
They say a witness told them that Roche and his girlfriend, Holly Ann Crawford, argued often and that Roche threatened to kill Crawford’s former lover dozens of times.
Roche made good on those threats Wednesday, using a shotgun to blast a hole in Evans’ chest, and to kill Evans’ son as well, police allege in criminal complaints released on Thursday.
Roche, 31, and Crawford, both of 71 Dobson Road in the Sweet Valley section of Ross Township, were charged on Wednesday with two counts of criminal homicide in the deaths of Evans and his son, Jeffrey Evans, 43.
According to criminal complaints, state police at Shickshinny received a call from Crawford’s mother, Moya Linde, at 12:40 p.m. Wednesday telling them that Crawford and Roche stole her car and her credit card and that they were on their way to kill Ronald Evans, after which they planned to flee to Philadelphia.
About 28 minutes later, police arrived at Evans’ residence at 71 Sunset Lake Road in Hunlock Township and found Ronald Evans lying on his back on the rear deck, dead, with an apparent gunshot wound to his chest. Inside, they found Jeffery Evans face down, dead, in the hallway, with multiple gunshot wounds, court papers state.
Linde called state police again at 12:50 p.m. to tell them Crawford and Roche had returned and walked into the woods behind her house with a bottle of alcohol, Kool-Aid mix and a gun. The pair were spotted from a state police helicopter and taken into custody without incident. Police found a gun case containing a rifle, handgun and several knives nearby.
On Wednesday afternoon, Emory Kocher, of Kingston, sat in his minivan with his wife in the parking lot of Northwest Area Intermediate School, just down the road from the Evans residence, waiting to talk with state police.
Kocher told a reporter that Ronald “Barney” Evans was his best friend. He said he was anxious to learn what state police would tell him and was concerned about Evans because of recent threats he said Evans had received.
Informed that Evans and his son had been shot to death, Kocher and his wife broke into tears.
“The old man asked me to get him a gun the other day. He said the boyfriend threatened to shoot him. Barney said the guy put a gun to his head because (Evans) was seeing his girlfriend, Holly,” Kocher said.
Later Wednesday, police interviewed an individual, unidentified in court papers, who told them Crawford began to date Roche about two years ago, and shortly after that, Crawford told Roche about her previous relationship with Evans.
The individual described the Crawford-Roche relationship as “tumultuous,” characterized by numerous arguments during which Roche would bring up the past relationship with Evans, saying it was “upsetting to him,” and threatening to go to Evans’ home and kill him, adding that he would “take on Jeff (Evans) too.”
The individual allegedly heard Roche and Crawford yelling about Evans on Monday, with Evans saying he was going to go kill Evans that night, with Crawford saying she would go with him, adding that Evans didn’t deserve to live. They left and returned about an hour later, the individual told police.
The first individual and a second person told police that Crawford told them on Tuesday morning that she “blew a hole in Ronald and Jeff’s head.” Asked if she had remorse, she replied, “It was just like shooting a deer,” the criminal complaints state.
Roche told police on Wednesday that he and Crawford went to the victims’ home late Monday evening, Crawford knocked on the door off the back deck and Ronald Evans came out with a handgun and yelled at Roche to get off his property, court papers state.
Roche said he got out of the vehicle, took a rifle from the trunk, loaded it and shot multiple rounds at Evans, who fell to the ground. Roche said he approached the deck and found Jeffery Evans kneeling by his father and yelling, “You mother ******, you shot my father.” Jeffery Evans got up and went inside, and Roche followed, shooting him in the back multiple times, court papers state.
Roche allegedly told police Crawford was in the kitchen at the time and that he took the handgun Evans had as well as a glass-encased knife set before he and Crawford fled, court papers state.
Crawford related a similar series of events to police during an interview, according to the court papers.
Crawford and Roche were arraigned before District Judge John Hasay late Wednesday night and, because bail is not an option in homicide cases, were jailed at the Luzerne County Correctional Facility to await their preliminary hearings, scheduled for 10 a.m. May 7.
Hasay said it was likely the hearings would be continued because Crawford’s and Roche’s statements differed slightly and it was likely that conflict counsel would be called in.
Both defendants have criminal pasts. Crawford was found guilty of animal cruelty for docking the tails of kittens, piercing them and marketing them as “Gothic kittens” in 2009. She also has been arrested on charges of theft, burglary and possession of drug paraphernalia and had two drunk driving arrests in 2013, according to court records.
Roche had a warrant for his arrest after failing to respond to a summary citation for public drunkenness that alleged he walked down a road and through people’s fields and properties, visibly intoxicated, carrying a rifle and alarming residents to the point that they called police on March 24.