Arunya Rouch found guilty in Tarpon Springs Publix murder

ST. PETERSBURG — Kally Singletary pulled from her purse a stack of tissues as thick as a Bible.

She passed them out to her family.

About seven hours later, when the jury reached its verdict in the killing of her son, a tissue just wouldn't do.

Her body trembling, she pressed a cloth handkerchief to her eyes. She reached into her purse and removed a printed letter from an envelope. She pulled herself up from the wooden pew and staggered to a lectern in the middle of the courtroom to make a statement before the sentencing of Arunya Rouch.

Two years ago, Singletary's son, Gregory Janowski, was shot to death in the parking lot of a Tarpon Springs Publix. Just before 11 p.m. Thursday, a jury of nine women and three men found Rouch, his co-worker, guilty of murder.

Singletary stood at that lectern, slipped on a pair of gold-rimmed glasses and began to read.

"No words," she said, "can describe the pain, the suffering and the loss I feel."

Janowski's widow, Elizabeth, soon followed.

"My heart," she told the court, "will forever be broken."

Sitting at the defense table, Rouch, 44, never reacted. Not to the verdict. Not to the tearful words. Not to the life sentence that a judge would deliver minutes later.

Rouch's husband, Thomas, watched from the second row directly behind her. For hours before the verdict, he had paced the hallways and stared out from the fourth-floor window. He had taken the stand earlier this week in his wife's defense.

As a clerk read the jury's decision, his face showed no expression, other than exhaustion.

The nine-hour deliberation surprised some onlookers who expected jurors to quickly find Rouch guilty.

For Janowski's family, the wait was arduous. They lingered through the night in a musty tile hallway just outside the courtroom. They ordered Domino's Pizza. Some watched videos on their cellphones. Others wandered into the rainy night for a smoke.

Originally scheduled to end last Friday, the trial was contentious and punctuated with lengthy delays. Attorneys lodged hundreds of objections and requested dozens of sidebars. Judge R. Timothy Peters' frustration with the constant interruptions was obvious: He rolled his eyes, shook his head, frequently sighed and, a few times, raised his voice at the lawyers.

Rouch's attorney, George Tragos, had for two weeks tried to make the case about his client's mental health rather than her actions on the day of the shooting. He told jurors she was insane at the time, driven mad by months of teasing and bullying from Janowski.

In a shocking strategic move Thursday afternoon, Tragos elected not to give a closing argument.

The decision prevented the prosecution from giving the second — and likely most powerful — portion of its final address, which would have attacked Tragos' assertion that Rouch didn't know right from wrong.

Still, in a brief statement, prosecutor Tom Koskinas delivered the last words jurors heard before deliberations began. And his argument was pointed.

Rouch, he said, knew exactly what she was doing on March 30, 2010. One by one, he detailed her actions in the days before and moments after the killing.

She threatened Janowski three days earlier. She marked an "X" through his name on a schedule. She told another co-worker she would kill him. She apologized for the threats to her bosses before they fired her. She went home, changed her clothes and retrieved a gun. She later came back to the store and shot Janowski with precision. She hid the gun in a green Publix bag. She walked into the store, searching for others who had contributed to her firing. And, finally, she shot at and nearly killed two law enforcement officers who tried to stop her.

"She's reacting out of anger. She's reacting out of ego. She's reacting out of retaliation," Koskinas said. "And that's what this case is about."

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at jcox@tampabay.com.

Arunya Rouch found guilty in Tarpon Springs Publix murder 06/21/12 [Last modified: Friday, June 22, 2012 11:12am]

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