Tuesday, November 21, 2017
News Roundup

'I will kill you,' witness says Publix murder suspect told victim

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ST. PETERSBURG — Prosecutor Fred Schaub pointed to the petite woman at the defense table.

Her name is Arunya Rouch, he told 12 jurors, and on March 30, 2010, she approached a silver Honda in the parking lot of a Tarpon Springs Publix. Arms extended, she pointed a gun into the open driver side window and fired two shots at a man sitting inside. She turned to go, the attorney said, then stepped back and fired two more times.

She knew what she was doing when she killed 40-year-old Gregory Janowski, he said. It was a carefully planned attack.

Wearing a white button-down shirt and black skirt, Rouch sat still with her arms crossed through Schaub's hourlong opening statement. Her eyes were blank, her lips frowned, her face rigid.

Then, her defense attorney addressed the court. George Tragos told jurors that Janowski had tormented Rouch for months before the killing. He used racial slurs against Rouch, who is from Thailand. He told her to "get back in her hole." Then, when she was fired, Rouch lost her mind. The shame was more than she could bear.

As Tragos spoke, Rouch began to sob. She pushed her black-rimmed glasses up on her head and pressed a tissue to her eyes.

After two days of jury selection, testimony in her first-degree murder trial began Thursday morning. Though prosecutors called nine witnesses to the stand, no one offered any surprising revelations. Likely the most critical portions of the trial — the testimony of the doctors who analyzed Rouch's psyche — won't come until next week.

The first witness was Publix employee Donald Frevold. Three days before the killing, he told the court, Janowski confronted Rouch in a room behind the produce section. Rouch, a seafood specialist, often worked "off the clock," coming in before her shift began to get ahead on her duties. The company prohibited the practice and, on that morning, Janowski, a meat cutter, told Rouch to quit doing it.

"It's none of your business," Frevold overheard her tell him.

"It is my business," Janowski said, "if you're working off the clock."

"I will kill you," said Rouch, before she stepped away.

"Oh," he said, "now you're threatening me."

Rouch turned and walked back to him.

"Where I come from," she said, "this is what we do to people like you."

Rouch slid a finger across her throat.

It didn't end there.

On a sheet displaying employees' schedules, Rouch drew an "X" through Janowski's name. Pamela Tatum, another co-worker, asked Rouch about it over the phone.

"I kill Greg," Rouch said to her. "I kill Greg. I kill Greg."

Rouch was fired three days after the initial threat. She apologized and cried and begged for another chance. But it was too late, her boss said, and a manager escorted her out of the building.

Five hours later, she came back wearing slacks, a dark sweatshirt and sunglasses. She shot Janowski, then tucked the gun into a lime green Publix shopping bag slung over her shoulder like a purse.

Rouch wandered the building, prosecutors say, looking for other targets.

Within minutes, officers from the Tarpon Springs Police Department had descended on the property. She fired several rounds at them before a sergeant shot her four times.

Tatum told the court she had long feared Rouch might do something extreme. Tatum had warned Janowski about the threat, and though he reported it, he didn't seem to take it seriously. Tatum did, she said, because Rouch was a serious person.

During heated arguments in the months before the shooting, Rouch had threatened to kill two other employees.

In one case, Tatum explained to jurors, Rouch had told her she would slit a man's throat.

John Woodrow Cox can be reached at [email protected].

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