Houston Chronicle, July 19, 2003
Four found shot to death in Clear Lake
By ROBERT CROWE
Neighbors who first entered the Clear Lake home initially thought the man and woman on the couch were watching TV.
Then they saw the holes in their heads and a profuse amount of blood. The victims were still sitting up, with their heads bowed as if they were asleep. Except for the blare of the TV, the house was eerily silent.
On the living room floor in front of the TV was the body of a young woman, face down in a pool of blood; behind the couch was the body of a young man. All four had been shot multiple times and two of them had suffered blunt trauma to the head.
The grisly scene was discovered about 6:30 p.m. Friday in the well-tended Brook Forest subdivision off El Dorado Boulevard by friends who had stopped by the home, then ran outside, screaming frantically that people had been shot.
The victims were identified Saturday as Tiffany Nichole Rowell and her best friend, Rachael Ann Koloroutis, both 18; Rowell’s boyfriend, Marcus Ray Precella, 19; and Precella’s cousin, Adelbert Nicholas Sanchez, 21. Three of them — Rowell, Koloroutis and Precella — were former Clear Lake High School students. The women had graduated in May.
Police said they don’t know the motive for the slayings. There were no signs of forced entry, and police could not tell if anything had been stolen. No arrests had been made by late Saturday.
Angel Amador, one of the neighbors who discovered the bodies, said the living room was strewn with beer cans, pizza boxes and trash.
“It looked like they had a hell of a party, and they just hadn’t cleaned up,” he said.
Rowell lived at the home in the 3700 block of Millbridge – – a quiet, tree-shaded cul de sac — and her boyfriend frequently stayed there. Her mother died several years ago of cancer, and her father, Chester Rowell, who owns the home, usually stays with his wife on a farm in the Brazoria County town of Manvel, neighbors said.
Rowell, 57, was out of state helping his wife’s daughter move when the tragedy occurred, friends said.
He is a music professor at San Jacinto College’s Central Campus, plays clarinet for Theater Under the Stars, and also has played for the Houston Symphony and Houston Ballet’s Orchestra, friends said.
He could not be reached for comment Saturday night because he was still driving back from Kansas after learning of the killings.
“I really believe he’s in the first stages of shock,” said his friend, Ruth Stone of Deer Park, who spoke to him on the phone Saturday. “He said, `I’m driving down the road, and I can’t comprehend what has happened.’ ”
Tiffany Rowell had stayed at the Clear Lake home so she wouldn’t have to change high schools, but her father looked in on her because he taught school nearby, friends said.
Police think the shootings may have happened about 3:15 or 3:30 p.m. Friday based on noises neighbors reported hearing, but the bodies weren’t found until friends stopped by the house several hours later.
“I think it happened very quickly,” Houston Police Department homicide investigator Phil Yochum said of the crime. “But it was very, very violent. It looks like some type of confrontation happened at the front door, then moved into the living room.”
Evidence suggests two victims were taken by surprise, while the others may have tried to flee or perhaps defend themselves or their friends, police said. Investigators would not specify which victims suffered head trauma.
The tragedy transformed the quiet street Friday night into a sea of flashing emergency lights, crime tape and sobbing bystanders.
One frantic relative pulled up in her car, ducked under the crime tape and ran up to police officers, pleading, “Tell me it’s not the Rowell house, tell me it’s not the Rowell house.”
When officers confirmed her worst fears, the woman fell to the ground, weeping. Officers later escorted her elsewhere so she could grieve privately.
One victim’s father anxiously stood by, pleading with officers to tell him whether his child was in the house. When officers couldn’t tell him anything immediately because of the ongoing investigation, the father responded, “My daughter may be in there.” He then broke down in tears.
Young people and cars were frequently seen coming and going from the house, neighbors said.
“This is very shocking — it’s unbelievable,” said Jerry Wilson, who lives across the street from the Rowells. “I don’t care what was going on in there — young people being shot like that, it’s tragic.”
One of Clear Lake High School’s assistant principals, who lives next door to the house where the slayings occurred, declined to comment.
A friend of Rowell’s who stopped by to put flowers on her doorstep Saturday said Precella had some questionable acquaintances.
“I would have to say they were hanging around with the wrong people, I feel,” former classmate Jesse Wilson, 19, said of the victims. Precella, he said, “had the wrong ties.”
The women had been working for the past month as waitresses and bartenders at the adult entertainment establishment Club Exotica near Almeda Mall, but resisted invitations to become dancers because they were too bashful, co-workers said. When they failed to show up for work Friday night, co-workers called them all evening, but got no answer.
Employees at the nightclub were stunned to learn of the women’s deaths. “Oh, my God,” manager Randy Patterson exhaled, pressing his fingers against his forehead.
“They were both very bubbly girls,” Patterson said. “They were friendly, outgoing, weren’t afraid to talk to anybody. Everybody loved them.”
Precella worked as a waiter at Landry’s restaurant in Kemah, acquaintances said. His family members at a home blocks away in the same neighborhood declined to talk.
A steady stream of cars flowed down the street throughout the day Saturday and paused in front of the Rowell home. Some inside the vehicles were seen openly weeping.
“I’ve known Tiffany since the sixth grade — she was a really sweet girl,” said Kristin Salinas, 18, wiping tears from her eyes as she talked about her friend. “I honestly don’t understand why they would do that … for somebody to take somebody’s life when they have so much going for them. I mean, we just graduated a month and a half ago.”
Chronicle reporter Ruth Rendon contributed to this story.