The unsolved slaying of a Douglas County woman took a new turn Monday when the victim's parents made public their suspicions about her ex-husband, a Kansas State University English professor.
Since the body of Carmin D. Ross, 40, was discovered Nov. 14 at her home northwest of Lawrence, sheriff's investigators and family members have been silent about what they think happened to her. But on Monday, proceedings in District Court made clear that Ross' parents want answers from her ex-husband, Thomas E. Murray, whom Ross divorced last June.
"There appear to be unanswered questions about whether Tom perpetrated Carmin's murder," an attorney for parents Danny and Judi Ross wrote in a court motion filed Monday.
No criminal charges have been filed in the case. But the Rosses have petitioned the court to give them conservatorship -- or legal oversight -- in coming years of the roughly $300,000 Carmin Ross left to her 5-year-old daughter, Ciara.
Murray, who had joint custody of the daughter at the time of Ross' death, is challenging the Rosses' petition. Murray wants a Manhattan bank appointed conservator, and he appeared in court Monday asking Judge Jack Murphy to transfer the case to Riley County District Court in Manhattan -- a request Murphy granted.
Ross' parents, who live in Lapel, Ind., opposed the change in venue and sat at the opposite side of the courtroom.
"If Tom murdered Carmin, it is not in Ciara's best interests for the conservatorship petition to be heard in Tom's home county," a document filed by their attorney stated.
Among the revelations brought out by Monday's hearing and related documents:
l Two days before Ross was killed, she participated in mediation with Murray, trying to resolve issues related to custody of their daughter, according to a document filed by the Rosses' attorney. At that meeting, Ross told Murray that her romantic interest was moving from California to Lawrence within the week.
l Ross' parents intend to file a wrongful-death suit, though their attorneys stopped short of saying it would be filed against Murray.
l Danny Ross testified that shortly after the death, Murray told him that Murray and Carmin Ross had agreed that if one died, the survivor should be the administrator of the other's estate.
"I found that an unusual statement to make the first day meeting him after Carmin's death," Danny Ross said.
Shortly into the hearing, Murray took the witness stand and testified about why he thought the case should be moved to Manhattan. He said his daughter would start kindergarten soon in Manhattan and had been back to Lawrence only once since the slaying.
Murray's attorney, James W. Morrison, of Manhattan, asked whether it was true that the daughter was staying with him at the time of Ross' death. Murray said, "Yes."
But on cross-examination, Terrence J. Campbell, an attorney representing the Rosses, asked, "Wasn't she at the baby sitter's about the time of her mother's murder?"
Morrison objected. Campbell told Murphy, "I intend to go into a number of questions here related to Mr. Murray's whereabouts at the time of the murder."
But Murphy said, "He's not been charged" and didn't allow the line of questioning.
When Danny Ross took the stand, Campbell asked what interest he had in his granddaughter's finances. Danny Ross said he wanted to make sure his daughter's estate was managed properly.
"My daughter's dead. She's been murdered -- brutally, based on the death certificate we've seen," Ross said.
Status of investigation
Officials have not revealed how Carmin Ross died, though there are indications she may have been stabbed.
Shortly after the slaying, investigators searched Murray's home in Manhattan. A sheriff's spokesman later said Murray was not a suspect, but Monday Sheriff Rick Trapp said he wouldn't discuss anything about potential suspects because he didn't want to harm the ongoing investigation.
"It's still ours and my highest priority," Trapp said.
Efforts to reach Murray or his attorney by telephone Monday were unsuccessful. Murray said shortly after the killing that it was "the saddest moment in my life" but said his attorney had advised him not to say anything else.