Preliminary hearing scheduled for 2 women charged with murder of Eudora man

Defendant Tria Evans, 38, of Lawrence, second from right, stands with her attorney, Carol Cline, during an appearance before Judge Kay Huff on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018, in Douglas County District Court. Also pictured is Christina Towell, 37, of Leavenworth, far left, next to her attorney, Michael Clarke. The two are accused of killing Joel Wales, whose body was found in a burning home.

A Douglas County judge on Tuesday set a March 29 preliminary hearing for two women charged in the death of a Eudora man.

District Judge Kay Huff scheduled the hearing for the two defendants after the prosecutor and defense attorneys told her they would need a full day for the proceedings. The purpose of a preliminary hearing is for the court to determine if there is enough evidence to order the accused to stand trial.

The Douglas County District Attorney’s Office on Friday charged Tria L. Evans, 38, of Lawrence, and Christina L. Towell, 37, of Leavenworth, each with one count of first-degree murder; conspiracy to commit first-degree murder; arson; and aggravated burglary.

The body of Joel Wales, 34, of Eudora, was discovered shortly after 9 p.m. Nov. 3, 2017, inside a house at 1104 East 1200 Road, just south of Lawrence. The man listed in county property records as the owner of the house, according to Wales’ obituary, is the companion of Wales’ mother.

Sheriff’s deputies were initially dispatched to a report of a house fire with the sound of gunshots in the area, the sheriff’s office has said previously. After the fire was extinguished, Wales’ body was found inside the house.

Evans is the mother of Wales’ child, and the two had been involved in multiple domestic disputes over the past several years, resulting in criminal charges against both, according to Douglas County District Court case files. Towell does not have a criminal record in Douglas County.

Evans’ attorney, Carol Cline, asked Huff to reduce her client’s bond from $1 million to whatever the judge found appropriate. Cline said Evans had family and other significant links to the community and was not a flight risk. Prosecutor Amy McGowan, however, objected to any bond reduction because of the seriousness of the crime. Huff said she would consider the request after the preliminary hearing.