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Wardrobe malfunction starts off Publix shooting trial | Crime

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Wardrobe malfunction starts off Publix shooting trial

Clearwater, Florida - The first degree murder trial of ex-Publix employee Arunya Rouch started off with, of all things, a wardrobe malfunction of sorts.

When the defendant walked into the courtroom Tuesday morning, she was wearing inmate garb prior to the arrival of potential jurors.  Typically, however, defendants wear their own clothing, so they will not prejudice a future jury.

Rouch's attorney, George Tragos, made a small mistake; he misjudged his client's size.  

By visible observation, Rouch has gained weight while serving time in jail awaiting her trial. Judge R. Timothy Peters delayed the start of jury selection so Tragos could acquire the proper clothing for 44-year-old Rouch.

After Rouch changed into a modest, long skirt and floral blouse, 56 potential jurors were brought into court.  The case has received so much publicity over the last two years that many people knew Rouch's story and what took place at the Tarpon Springs Publix just over two years ago.

In fact, 40 of the 56 jurors questioned Tuesday admitted to Judge Peters that they heard about the case, which legal analysts say, makes it difficult to seat a jury.

"Have you seen it on television, read it in the newspaper?  Do you know people in this case?" asked Judge Peters.  The majority of potential jurors answered yes.  Some even admitted to following the case "closely."

Tragos addressed the judge and motioned to have a change of venue, since the case was so widely followed by potential jurors.  Judge Peters denied the motion and continued questioning people after a short "comfort break."

Rouch is accused of gunning down her Publix co-worker, Greg Janowski, on March 30, 2010 just hours after she was fired for working without reporting her hours, which is against company policy for Publix.

Rouch was known, sources say, for arriving at the Tarpon Springs store early to start her shift at the sushi station.  

Employees maintain that she would begin her day prior to her official start time.  "She liked to prep her work station before her shift," one friend said.  "But, some people didn't like it."

The family of Arunya Rouch claims that Janowski badgered and belittled her constantly while on the job. The two often argued, employees say. 

Rouch was also accused of making death threats toward Janowski and crossing his name off the list of employee shifts for the week.

Rouch was fired just five hours before the shooting took place that fateful day.

Tarpon Springs police say that after Rouch was let go by her Publix managers, she left the store and then came back with a weapon and gunned down Janowski as he sat in his car in the parking lot while smoking a cigarette and drinking coffee before his shift began.

Janowski was married to his wife, Elizabeth, and was a father of four children.

The incident was partially caught on surveillance cameras in the store, showing Rouch quietly strolling through the front entrance with a green, recyclable Publix bag tucked under her arm, where she allegedly stored her gun.  She was then seen throughout the store, including climbing the stairs in a hallway where she was reportedly seeking out the managers who fired her earlier.

A fellow employee tried to take the gun away from Rouch while she was in the store.  Shortly after, Tarpon Springs police arrived on scene and shot Rouch four times.  After the shooting, she remained in intensive care for weeks.

Rouch's job at Publix meant everything to her, according to her friends and family. 

Prior to her firing, she received a service award. After all, she and her husband, Tom, both worked for the company and enjoyed their careers.  Rouch immigrated to the U.S. from Bangkok, Thailand and worked hard to obtain her citizenship, her family says.   Rouch and her husband met in church.  Her in-laws thought of Rouch as their "own daughter."

"She loves what she does," said her mother-in-law, Phyllis Rouch back in 2010.  "We don't know what happened.  We feel bad for the victim's family."

Rouch was said to have baked cupcakes the night before the shooting took place.

In this trial, she is facing a charge of first degree murder, two counts of aggravated assault, and two counts of attempted murder of a law enforcement officer.  If convicted, she could spend life in prison without the possibility of parole. Earlier in the case, Rouch said that she planned to invoke an insanity plea.  

She has been deemed competent to stand trial, but court-watchers say that her attorney will most likely try and prove that she "snapped" and didn't understand what she was doing at the time of the shooting.

However, that could be difficult to prove, say legal analysts, since she returned to the store just hours after she was fired and brought her gun with her, concealed in a Publix bag with a known target in mind, her co-worker with whom she shared an antagonistic relationship. 

Prosecutors call her a killer, as does the family of Janowski.

"She took everything away from us," said one family friend.  "Now those children are without a father."


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