Trial in cold case murder delayed

PORT ANGELES — The murder trial of 59-year-old Tommy Ross, accused of strangling to death a 20-year-old Port Angeles woman 40 years ago, was delayed last week from Oct. 1 to March 18 after a second lawyer was named to defend him.

Judge Brian Coughenour continued the trial at a hearing Tuesday and set a status hearing for Oct. 23 “for possible resolution” of the case and any other matters that might arise.

Attorney Myles Johnson of Tacoma will assist in Ross’ defense, Ross’ other lawyer Lane Wolfley, of Port Angeles, said at an Aug. 7 hearing.

Wolfley said in a later interview that 11,000 pages of police reports in the case need to be reviewed.

County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said subpoenas need to be mailed out to witnesses from other countries, including possibly from Fiji. Devlin is prosecuting the case following the recent departure of former Prosecuting Attorney Deb Kelly, who was spearheading the case pro bono.

Wolfley said Saturday that he expects that Ross’ and the county’s attorneys will begin negotiating in the next few weeks on settling the case against Ross, who has been incarcerated in the Clallam County jail since November 2016 on first- and second-degree murder.

“I do expect that we will start entering serious talks in the next few weeks,” Wolfley said Saturday.

“It could very well end in some sort of agreement to resolve the case.

“It could involve a plea.”

Wolfley said a meeting originally scheduled for last Monday “to discuss various aspects of the case, including a possible settlement” was not held because other projects took precedence.

“I expect to sit down and talk, like lawyers do on probably most everything,” he said.

Devlin said Friday a trial or a plea is possible.

“If the defense wants to meet with us, we would be glad to meet to discuss the case,” she said.

Janet Bowcutt, a Port Angeles High School graduate, was a hotel housekeeper and the mother of a 6-month-old boy when she was strangled with a piece of yarn in her apartment on Eighth Street in Port Angeles.

Ross, 59, has confessed to the murder, according to court documents.

Fingerprint records, which Wolfley has disputed, and DNA tests have linked Ross to Bowcutt’s death.

Ross, whom Wolfley said is illiterate, was 19 when Bowcutt’s body was found in her bedroom April 24, 1978.

Ross served 37 years in Canada for murder in the May 14, 1978 strangulation death of Janice Forbes, 26, of Victoria.

He was paroled in early November 2016 after serving 37 years for Forbes’ murder and was arrested on Nov. 15, 2016, at the Canadian border in Blaine in connection with Bowcutt’s death.

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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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