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Accused Publix shooter wanted "suicide by cop," says defense | News

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Accused Publix shooter wanted "suicide by cop," says defense

Clearwater, Florida - Jurors listened to a full day of testimony in the Publix shooting trial where a 44-year-old sushi preparer, who was fired, is accused of gunning down her co-worker at the Tarpon Springs store back in March 2010.  

For the first time during her trial, Arunya Rouch showed emotion, collapsing into tears, while listening to her attorney, George Tragos, as he described the treatment she says she received from her co-workers, namely Greg Janowski.

He turned out to be her target, police say, for revenge and murder.

Defense attorneys for Rouch say she was devastated when she was fired, that she went insane and wanted to "commit suicide by cop."  

However, the state tells a much different story. 

Prosecutors maintain that Rouch was not only sane, but "knew right from wrong" and had a plan all along for Janowski and others.

Tragos said, "She is harassed at work.   She's called names like c---k.  She's told to get into her hole."

Defense attorneys describe their client as someone with a strong work ethic, so strong that she often began her shift before her official start time, which is against Publix policy.   

"She would clean the fish container and work hard," said Tragos.   He claimed that she wanted to do well at her job and get a head start on her day.

Her attorney went on to say that Greg Janowski harassed Rouch about "working off the clock."  

One witness testified about watching them argue.

Publix produce manager Donald Freebold said, "That's when the defendant said I'll kill you.  And, then Janowski said, oh now you're threatening me?  Then, [Rouch] walked back and got right in his face and said, where I come from, this is what we do to people like you, then did the throat slash."

Eventually, Rouch was fired for not reporting her hours. 

Police say she blamed Janowski, holding the father of four responsible for her disgrace in losing her job. 

Tragos told jurors, "You need to remember the culture.  You need to remember how important her testimony is, to saving face in the Thai culture, and how when you're disgraced, that's an act of violence to you and how it's worse than death."

Her manager at Publix testified about firing her.  He talked about how upset she was and how she sobbed in his office.

"She was very apologetic, so emotional," said Mickey McPhee.  "I can't tell you how many times she said, I don't know why I say such things. I know I hurt myself, my family."  

Prosecutors painted Rouch as a difficult person, someone who had problems at her previous positions at HSN and Jabil.  She always had emotional problems, the state told jurors, at every job and couldn't get along with others.

While the defense claims that Rouch was "fragile" and unstable,  the state told a different story.

Assistant State Attorney Fred Schaub started out his opening statements by saying that "this is not an insanity case."

But, defense attorneys vehemently disagree. 

They claim Rouch wanted to commit suicide by cop and die in a gunfight at Publix.  "She lay there in a pool of blood," said Tragos.  "She wanted to die.  She was upset. This was her wish all along. But, she was Bayflighted to Bayfront Medical Center."

Schaub pointed out that that Tarpon Spring police tried to stop Rouch from hurting anyone else in a brief, but extremely dangerous, shoot-out in the store where the 44-year-old was shot four times.

Schaub described the officers as they arrived on the scene.  "He yells out don't shoot, don't shoot, drop your weapon, drop your weapon, don't shoot!"

Also taking the stand today for testimony were several women who worked at a nearby hair salon, just a few feet from Publix.  They talked about seeing Rouch walk into the store after "shooting [Janowski] in the parking lot."

"I heard the gunshots," said one stylist.  She pointed out Rouch in the courtroom when the state asked her to identify the alleged shooter.

A Publix cashier also testified about Rouch's behavior when the 44-year-old walked into the store that day.  "She walked briskly and had a green bag under her arm," the woman said.  Police say inside that green bag was a handgun.

Inside the courtroom was the family of Greg Janowski, often seen tearing up during testimony. Jurors were also seen tearing up during testimony. Ten women and four men currently sit on the jury where there are twelve members and two alternates.

Rouch faces life in prison if convicted.



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