Murder trial underway for woman accused of shooting ex, setting body on fire at house outside Lawrence
photo by: Journal-World file photo
Story updated 5:37 p.m. Monday, Jan. 28, 2019:
A jury was selected Monday and opening arguments were planned to begin Tuesday morning in the trial of a Lawrence woman charged with murdering her ex, then setting his body and the house it was in on fire to cover it up.
Tria L. Evans, 39, appeared in Douglas County District Court alongside her appointed attorneys, Carol Cline and Kenzie Singleton. Prosecutors Amy McGowan and Nicole Southall are representing the state.
Judge Kay Huff is presiding over Evans’ trial, scheduled to last a week and a half.
Joel Wales, 34, of Eudora, died on Nov. 3, 2017, at his mother’s house at 1104 East 1200 Road, where he was housesitting.
Wales was shot six times and died before gasoline was poured on his body and lit on fire, according to testimony at the preliminary hearing and information in an affidavit written by detectives. A neighbor heard yelling before hearing gunshots, seeing flames erupt on the front porch and then seeing a person running from the house to a car.
Evans — who had a child with Wales and a tumultuous relationship since the couple broke up — is charged with first-degree murder, conspiracy to commit murder, arson and aggravated burglary.
Evans’ alleged co-conspirator, Christina L. Towell, 38, of Leavenworth, is charged with the same crimes. Her trial is scheduled for March.
Evidence expected to be shared at trial includes phone calls and texts between the two women that prosecutors say show they were plotting to kill Wales. Text messages include exchanges such as, “This needs done this week,” and “When we taking care of this?”
Detectives recovered a GPS device from Towell’s red Ford Mustang showing it was driven from Leavenworth to Evans’ house in Lawrence and to the scene of the crime and back again.
Preliminary hearing evidence also included a former friend of Evans who said Evans offered to pay her to kill Wales months earlier; forensic test results showing all the bullets that hit Wales came from the same gun; and fire investigators who tested the scene for gasoline and later took an accelerant-sniffing dog to both Evans’ and Towell’s homes.
photo by: Journal-World File Photo
• Feb. 4, 2019 — Woman guilty of murder in slaying, burning of Eudora man
• Feb. 14, 2018 — Affidavit: Two women plotted to kill Eudora man and cover it up