Tommy Ross Jr. charged in Sacramento

He pleaded not guilty to a set of four felonies and a misdemeanor

SACRAMENTO — Tommy Lee Ross Jr., who had been accused of a 1978 murder in Port Angeles, pleaded not guilty Wednesday in Sacramento to an unrelated set of four felonies and a misdemeanor connected to an alleged knife-wielding incident Sunday at a home where he is living, according to court records.

Ross, 60, was in the Sacramento County jail late Wednesday afternoon on $50,000 bail, according to jail records.

He was charged earlier Wednesday in Superior Court with three felony counts of threats to commit a crime that could result in death or great bodily.

He also was charged with a felony count of assault with a deadly weapon and a misdemeanor charge of removing or destroying a wireless communications device, said Kim Pedersen, a Sacramento County Superior Court spokeswoman.

Ross did not enter pleas to the charges.

Pedersen said Ross, 60, has a settlement conference on the charges set for Monday.

“We try to settle as many cases out in as early a phase as possible,” Pedersen said.

Sheriff’s Office spokesman Shaun Hampton said Tuesday there did not appear to be any injuries in the incident that led to Ross’s arrest in the 8100 block of Point Loma Way, a south Sacramento residence where Ross lives.

Ross was arrested peacefully at 3:36 p.m. Sunday after a person called 9-1-1 about a half hour earlier to report a disturbance at the residence, Hampton said.

Children and an 86-year-old woman were present at the home, Hampton said.

A police report on the incident was not available late Wednesday afternoon.

The charge regarding the wireless communications device “means he was trying to prevent someone from calling 9-1-1 by either destroying or disconnecting a phone,” Hampton said Tuesday.

“It originally came in as an incomplete 9-1-1 call.”

Ross was charged with first- and second-degree murder in connection with the 1978 strangling death of Janet Bowcutt, 20, of Port Angeles until Clallam County Superior Court Judge Brian Coughenour dismissed the charges Oct. 23, saying the 40-year delay in the case violated Ross’s constitutional right to a speedy trial.

Ross served 38 of those years in a Canadian prison for the 1978 strangulation death of 26-year-old Janice Forbes of Victoria, British Columbia, getting arrested in Blaine for Bowcutt’s murder within days of his release.

Ross moved to California immediately after the dismissal of the charges to care for his mother, said his former lawyer, Lane Wolfley of Port Angeles.

The Clallam County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office filed an appeal of the dismissal to the state Court of Appeals in Tacoma.

Before Ross was transported to Canada in 1979 to face a murder charge in Forbes’ death, he was arrested in Los Angeles as a suspect in the strangulation murder of Bethel Wooldridge, 36, of the Pacoima neighborhood of Los Angeles.

A Los Angeles Police Department detective said Wednesday that Wooldridge’s murder remains under investigation and that Ross remains a suspect in the case.

“We’ve been actively investigating it for 40 years,” the detective said. “I’ve been working on this, crying out loud, for 19 years now. It’s still being investigated regardless of what people believe.”

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Senior Staff Writer Paul Gottlieb can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55650, or at [email protected] peninsuladailynews.com.

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