from the Judgment of Sentence January 8, 2016 In the Court of
Common Pleas of Luzerne County Criminal Division at No(s):
BEFORE: FORD ELLIOTT, P.J.E., RANSOM, J., and STEVENS,
James Edward Roche appeals from the judgment of sentence
entered in the Court of Common Pleas of Luzerne County on
January 8, 2016, at which time he received consecutive terms
of life imprisonment following his convictions of two counts
of first-degree murder. Appellant also received two
consecutive terms of two hundred forty (240) months to four
hundred eighty (480) months in prison for his convictions of
conspiracy to commit criminal homicide. After careful
review, we affirm.
April 21, 2014, Appellant and his girlfriend, Holly Ann
Crawford, shot and killed seventy-three year old Ronald
"Barney" Evans and his forty- three year old son
Jeffrey Evans in their home located in Hunlock Creek,
Pennsylvania. At the jury trial which commenced on November
2, 2015, numerous witnesses testified regarding
Appellant's anger toward Ronald Evans, with whom Ms.
Crawford had been involved romantically, and his history of
to trial, on February 24, 2015, Appellant filed his Omnibus
Pre-Trial Motion wherein he attempted, inter alia,
to suppress oral and written statements he had made to police
on April 23, 2014. Following a suppression hearing held on
February 26, 2015, the suppression court denied
Appellant's motion on March 20, 2015.
trial, Ms. Crawford's mother, Moya Linde, explained that
on the evening of April 21, 2014, Appellant was at her home
with Ms. Crawford and Ms. Crawford's daughter, Alexa
Balma. Appellant and Ms. Crawford were consuming alcohol and
watching a violent movie, The Boondock Saints, at
which time Appellant became extremely angry and began
exclaiming he was going to kill Ronald Evans. N.T. Trial,
11/2/15, at 108-110. Ms. Linde testified that Appellant had
repeatedly expressed his animosity toward and desire to kill
Ronald Evans prior to this time. Id. at 107. Ms.
Linde stated that Appellant proceeded to leave the home with
his gun slung over his shoulder, and Ms. Crawford went with
him. Id. at 116-17. Ms. Linde observed that although
Appellant had been drinking, he spoke clearly and left of his
own volition. Id. at 135-36. She also related that
he "[h]olds his liquor." Id. at 110.
Balma corroborated Ms. Linde's testimony regarding
Appellant's behavior on April 21, 2014, and his past
expressions of wanting to kill Ronald Evans. Id. at
143-47, 153. She also stated she had heard Appellant utter
his intent "to rush over there right now and put a
bullet in [Ronald Evans'] head." Id. at
146. To this, Ms. Crawford replied, "We should get Jeff,
too. He deserves to die. No one would miss him."
Id. The pair then drove away together from Ms.
Linde's home. Id. at 147.
April 23, 2014, Appellant and Ms. Crawford told Ms. Balma
they were going to Philadelphia, at which time they left with
Ms. Linde's car and bankcard. Id. at 149. Ms.
Linde immediately cancelled her bankcard and reported to
police that her car had been stolen. Shortly thereafter,
Appellant and Ms. Crawford returned when they discovered they
could not get any money and then fled into the woods near Ms.
Linde's home when they learned Ms. Linde had called the
police. Id. at 150-51.
ultimately discovered Ronald and Jeffrey Evans in their home
shot to death. Upon his examination of the scene and the
victims' wounds, Pennsylvania State Police Trooper James
Shubzda opined that they had been attempting to escape when
they were shot. Id. at 200-12, 226-28, 238-40.
Trooper Shubzda also remarked that after killing Ronald and
Jeffrey Evans, Appellant and Ms. Crawford took a wooden
display case containing a knife collection from the
Evans' house. Id. at 205-06.
Pathologist Dr. Gary Ross testified a total of ten shots had
been fired at the scene, nine of which penetrated the
victims' bodies. Specifically, Ronald Evans suffered four
gunshot wounds that had been fired from a distance. One shot
entered from the front, one entered from the side, and two
entered his back. Id. at 556-63. Jeffrey Evans
suffered a gunshot wound behind his right ear, three bullets
entered his back, and one penetrated his midline. Dr. Ross
opined that each of the wounds the victims sustained was to a
vital part of his body which independently could have caused
death. Id. at 565-73.
a Pennsylvania State Police helicopter spotted Appellant and
Ms. Crawford lying on the ground in a heavily wooded area
behind Ms. Linde's home. Id. at 77-80. Officers
discovered a cloth rifle bag partially concealed under some
leaves, a rifle with a scope, and a red towel within which a
revolver had been wrapped. Id. at 269-70. Three
bottles of alcohol also were found in the area. One bottle
was empty, one was almost full and the other was filled with
orange fluid. Id. at 278-79.
be discussed in more detail infra, Corporal
Christopher King testified that following his arrest,
Appellant waived his Miranda rights, and admitted to
shooting Ronald and Jeffrey Evans following a confrontation
at their home. Appellant indicated he shot the men because
they were armed, although he admitted he shot Jeffrey Evans
in the back, emptying all but one round from the clip.
Id. at 418-495.
testified in his own defense at trial. Appellant explained
that on April 21, 2014, he had been drinking and watching a
movie with Ms. Crawford when the two decided to go the
Evans' house to retrieve Ms. Crawford's purse which
contained her medication and money. Id. at 615-617,
629-30. Ms. Crawford entered the home, and Ronald Evans
exited soon thereafter waving a handgun. Id. at 619.
When Ronald Evans pointed the pistol at Appellant, the latter
"panicked, " crouched down and crawled to his trunk
where he retrieved his rifle. Id. at 620. Appellant
stated he "took a couple of steps toward him and
fired." Id. at 622. Jeffrey Evans then emerged.
A verbal and physical altercation ensued, and believing
Jeffrey Evans was reaching for a gun, Appellant stated he
fired his rifle in an effort to protect himself and Ms.
Crawford. Id. at 623-24. Before fleeing, Appellant
inexplicably found himself taking a knife display case and
Ronald Evans's handgun. Id. at 624.
stated that after the incident, he and Ms. Crawford returned
to Ms. Linde's house where they consumed more alcohol and
went to sleep. The next day, April 22, 2014, he and Ms.
Crawford continued drinking vodka, and he was feeling
"[s]till shook up. Sad." Id. at 625-27. On
April 23, 2014, the day of their arrest at the
"campsite, " the pair continued drinking and each
consumed a cheeseburger. Appellant indicated that at that
time he felt "terrible." He also admitted that
along with his statement to police, he wrote an apology
wherein he expressed remorse for what had happened and
indicated that he would "pray for everybody."
Id. at 628-29.
cross-examination, Appellant admitted that in the six to
seven weeks prior to the murders, from March 1, 2014, to
April 21, 2014, he repeatedly threatened to kill Ronald
Evans. Id. at 634. He also acknowledged that the
firearm shown to him in the courtroom was his and that he
used it to kill the victims in self-defense. Id. at
635, 638, 645-49. Notwithstanding, Appellant admitted that
while he watched a violent movie wherein people were getting
shot, he decided, "somebody should shoot Barney."
Id. at 641.
agreed his semi-automatic handgun required him to pull the
trigger and shoot Ronald Evans five separate times.
Id. at 650. He also stated that after he knocked
Jeffrey Evans down with a punch to his face, he shot him four
times in the back as he walked down the hall, because
Appellant believed that when Mr. Evans put his arm up, he had
a handgun. Id. at 652. In all, Appellant shot
Jeffrey Evans five out of five times. Id. at 653.
Appellant further admitted he never called the police after
the incident. Id. at 656.
trial, Appellant was convicted of the aforementioned crimes.
Although Appellant filed a motion for extension of time in
which to file post-sentence motions and the trial court
granted the same in its order of January 27, 2016, Appellant
did not file a post-sentence motion. Rather, Appellant filed a
timely notice of appeal on February 8, 2016. Both Appellant
and the trial court complied with Pa.R.A.P.
brief, Appellant presents two issues for our review, which we
have reordered to coincide with the manner in which Appellant
discusses these issues in the Argument portion of his
A. Whether the [t]rial [c]ourt abused its discretion in
denying the motion seeking to suppress Appellant's April
23, 2014 statement to police.
B. Whether the evidence at trial was insufficient as a matter
of law to support the jury's verdict for First Degree
Murder and Conspiracy to Commit First Degree Murder?
for Appellant at 4.
considering Appellant's challenge to the denial of his
motion to suppress his statements to police, we are guided by
the following, well-settled standard of review:
In reviewing a suppression ruling, we are bound by the
suppression court's factual findings, unless they are
without support in the record. We may reverse the legal
conclusions reached by the suppression court, however, if
they are in error. Thus, our standard of review of the legal
conclusions reached by the suppression court is de
novo. Where, as here, the defendant is appealing the
ruling of the suppression court, we consider only the
evidence of the prosecution, and so much of the evidence for
the defense which remains uncontradicted when fairly read in
the context of the [suppression] record.
Commonwealth v. Galvin, 603 Pa. 625, 645-46, 985
A.2d 783, 795 (2009) (citations omitted). "It is within
the suppression court's sole province as factfinder to
pass on the credibility of witnesses and the weight to be
given their testimony." Commonwealth v.
Gallagher, 896 A.2d 583, 585 (Pa.Super. 2006) (citation
omitted). This Court's scope of review from a suppression
ruling is limited to the evidentiary record that was created
at the suppression hearing. In re L.J., 622 Pa. 126,
146, 79 A.3d 1073, 1085 (2013).
he admits that evidence of inebriation will not necessarily
invalidate one's waiver of his Miranda rights or
his incriminating statements, Appellant maintains that on the
day of his arrest, he was severely "physically" and
"psychologically" compromised as a result of his
consumption of "dangerous amounts of vodka, on an empty
stomach and with little to no sleep the previous night."
Appellant avers that when he was spotted by a State Police
helicopter in the woods, he was lying prostrate on the ground
"exhausted and exposed to the elements" and that
under "such dreadful and debilitating
circumstances" he was incapable of comprehending the
significance of his waiver of his Miranda rights.
Brief for Appellant at 11. Appellant further asserts that
Corporal King, the Commonwealth's sole witness at his
suppression hearing, "conveyed an astonishing level of
indifference concerning the potential negative impact of
Appellant's excessive drinking on his physical and
cognitive state." Id. at 12 citing N.T.
Suppression, 2/26/15, at 24-27.
considering Appellant's motion to suppress, the
suppression court highlighted the following testimony