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Trial in Tarpon Springs Publix murder postponed

LARGO — The murder trial of Arunya Rouch, who is accused of fatally shooting a coworker in the parking lot of a Tarpon Springs Publix last year, was postponed at a hearing Friday afternoon.

Rouch's trial on charges of first-degree murder and attempted murder of law enforcement officers was set to begin Tuesday. It has been rescheduled for March 13.

Prosecutors said the family of the victim, Gregory Janowski, would not be pleased with the continuance. Family members, who have attended every prior court hearing, could not attend Friday because of other family obligations, said Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub.

"They want this case to be tried and they want it to come to a conclusion because they live this every day," Schaub said.

Close family friend Cristina Blanco, who acted as a family spokeswoman in the days after the murder, said this week that the pain of Janowski's untimely death haunts his family.

"It'll never go away," said Blanco, 34, of New Port Richey.

Rouch is accused of shooting Janowski, whom she blamed for getting her fired from her job in the seafood department at Publix, police said. Rouch was fired for threatening Janowski, who had reported her to management for violating a company policy, authorities said.

Just hours after she was let go by the company on March 30, 2010, she returned to the store and shot Janowski multiple times as he sat in his car before his shift was to begin, police said. Janowski, a 40-year-old married father of a young daughter, died at the scene.

Rouch then went into the store and tried to shoot at least one other employee, creating a chaotic scene in which shoppers abandoned their carts and ran for the exits. She exchanged gunfire with Tarpon Springs police and was finally disarmed when police Sgt. Michael Trill shot her several times, authorities said.

Rouch spent more than a month in the hospital before she was released to the Pinellas County Jail. On Friday, Rouch, wearing blue jail scrubs and black glasses, wrung her shackled hands in her lap as she sat at the defense table. Her husband Thomas attended.

Rouch's attorney, George Tragos, said he plans to pursue an insanity defense.

On Friday, Tragos asked a judge to force the prosecution to give him a copy of a personality assessment test that Rouch took for her evaluation by a psychologist who was hired by prosecutors.

The prosecutor, Schaub, said that ethical and legal sanctions precluded the doctor from releasing the test to anyone other than another licensed psychologist. He said he had not even been given a copy of the test.

Schaub likened it to IQ or law school admissions tests, which are heavily guarded so they aren't leaked. If test-takers had a copy of the test before taking it, the results would be invalidated, he explained.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Timothy Peters agreed and said the test would be released to a psychologist hired by Tragos.

In order to give that doctor time to evaluate the assessment and to give Tragos time to prepare his case based on that information, the trial would be postponed, Peters said.

Rita Farlow can be reached at farlow@sptimes.com or (727) 445-4157.

Trial in Tarpon Springs Publix murder postponed 10/28/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 6:24pm]
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