This much is clear: On the afternoon of Oct. 22, 2018, two people were shot to death outside their home in Sodus, near Rochester, NY. The victims were 28-year-old Joshua Niles and his girlfriend, 24-year-old Amber Washburn. The trial has now begun for the suspected shooter, 34-year-old Timothy Dean, who just happens to be a former police chief in Texas. The details surrounding the strange and sad case:
- Motive: Prosecutors say it all stems from a custody dispute, reports the Democrat & Chronicle. Victim Niles had two young children with an ex-girlfriend named Charlene Childers, 25, who had since moved to Texas and married Dean. When Niles was awarded full custody, Childers hatched a plan to have Niles killed, say prosecutors—and Childers herself agrees.
- Enlisting husband: "I told my husband the murder had to happen and he agreed," Childers, who has pleaded guilty to her role in the homicides, testified Tuesday at her husband's trial, per WROC. "We sat down and we planned it, describing how we were gonna do it and what would be used, what type of gun and when."
- The suspect: Dean once served as police chief in the small town of Sunray, Texas, though he was forced to resign in 2018 over unrelated charges involving "injury to a child," reports the Washington Post. Prosecutors say he drove across the country in a rented car to carry out the plot. He crashed in Kansas, and his wife went there to help him rent a second car in her name, say authorities. Then she returned to Texas.
- The murders: Multiple witnesses say a man in a hoodie confronted Niles in his driveway and opened fire. The shooter then killed Washburn, who was in her truck but had attempted to flee the scene by putting it in reverse. An infant was in the vehicle but was uninjured. That baby and an older sibling are the children at the heart of the custody dispute.
- Eyewitness: "I heard a shot and I turned and I saw Josh grab his chest and Amber threw her car in reverse," neighbor Tiffany Thayer testified Monday, per the Democrat & Chronicle. "I saw Josh crawling underneath his truck, calling for Amber." More damning for Dean: "When he turned and shot in Amber's car, I saw his face."
- Charges: Dean faces one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder, among his charges. His wife, who says the killing of Washburn wasn't part of the plan, has pleaded guilty to first-degree manslaughter. Another man, Bron Bohlar, pleaded guilty to second-degree conspiracy for his role in helping Dean rent the first car. He once worked with Dean at the Sunray Police Department.
(In another case, a suspect in a double homicide turned out to be a victim as well