Phone at double murder scene aided investigation

Posted at 11:43 AM, Feb 22, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-22 20:45:19-05

The discovery of a cellphone not belonging to either victim was a major break in the investigation into the shooting deaths of two women in a home in a Phoenix suburb, police said Monday.

Investigators searching the home after the Feb. 8 killings of 70-year-old Barbara Leslie of Surprise and her visiting friend 75-year-old Ruth Schwed of Albuquerque, New Mexico, found the cellphone on the floor, according to a police probable cause statement. The document explains the circumstances leading to the arrests of two men in the case.

Sgt.  Norm Owens, a Surprise Police Department spokesman, cited the ongoing investigation and wouldn't identify the phone's owner.

However, Owens said the phone didn't belong to either victim and that its discovery was a major break.

The probable cause statement said investigators obtained search warrants and acquired phone records that revealed "persons of interest."

Police identified two men arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder and robbery as Andrew Thomas Lauro, 24, of Goodyear and Montez Lavell Wright III, 23, of Southfield, Michigan.

According to the probable cause statement, police went to the home Feb. 9 after being contacted by Schwed's worried son, who found $23,000 in pending charges on Schwed's debit card and was unable to contact either woman.

Owens declined to describe the charges on the credit card.

According to the statement, a police source said Lauro talked about being involved in a robbery and shooting of two older women.

Lauro later told investigators during an interview that he and another man entered the home through the garage and that the other man shot both women, the statement said.

The statement said the victims were found lying on the living room floor, and that there was blood splatter and expended shell casings near their bodies.

Leslie's SUV was missing from the home, but it was found at a Phoenix-area apartment complex.

A judge set bond at $700,000 for one of two men accused in the murder of two women in Surprise.

Lauro spoke very little to the judge during his initial court appearance, only stating his name and date of birth. He did not have an attorney.

He faces two counts of first-degree premeditated murder and two counts of armed robbery with a deadly weapon, both felonies

Wright was arrested in Michigan, where he was awaiting extradition to Arizona.

Ruth Schwed's family has released a statement in regards to the arrests made:

“We applaud the work of the Surprise Police Department as they work to bring to justice those responsible for the murder of our mother and her friend. The arrests announced today are due to the diligence of the Surprise police department and multiple law enforcement agencies and those working with them. Our family continues to grieve the loss of our mother, grandmother, and sister. Our goal is to ensure that those responsible for these murders will never be able to harm anyone again.”