Philadelphia police announced an arrest on Tuesday night in the execution-style murders of two women inside a Holmesburg rowhouse on Saturday. The killer appears to have been very familiar to the victims.
James Mears, 25, has been charged with two counts of murder for the slayings of Dollie Evans, 67, and Ruby Thomas, 57, inside Evans’ home on the 4700 block of Vista St. Mears lives on the same block, although police did not specify if he also lived with Evans or in a different house. There was no sign of forced entry into Evans’ house. The motive appears to have been robbery. Mears is in Philadelphia prison custody without bail while awaiting a Sept. 10 preliminary hearing.
The shooting occurred at 5:32 p.m. Police responded to the scene and found the front door of Evans’ home ajar. Inside, they found Evans lying unresponsive on the living room couch Thomas unresponsive on the floor of the front second-floor bedroom. Each had been shot once in the head, police said. Both women died at the scene.
Relatives and neighbors of the victims identified Evans as the longtime resident of the home, who was known to locals affectionately as “Grandma,” according to published reports. Thomas reportedly was a friend who had been staying at the home for months.
Those who knew Evans described her as a generous woman who was quick to help neighbors and others in need. 6ABC reported that Evans’ family told the station that the elder victim’s grandson also lived in her home and was shot on the block in July, but survived. The relatives added that Dollie Evans had received death threats recently, although they did not know who made them or why she would’ve been targeted.
The double murder was only the latest episode in a year-long deluge of violence and mayhem on the block. Crime reports supplied routinely to the Northeast Times by Philadelphia police show that there have been at least three aggravated assaults reported on the 4700 block of Vista St. since last August, including two incidents last month on July 5 and 18. The Daily News reported that the July 5 incident involved Evans’ 36-year-old grandson and that the victim, whose name was not released, was uncooperative with police investigating the shooting.
It is not known if the July 18 assault involved shooting. The block has also been the site of a robbery and at least three burglaries since last August, as well as another murder. That killing has been blamed on someone else with the surname Thomas.
On Feb. 2, Claude Thomas allegedly shot Rasheed Shannon in the face following an argument between the two in front of Thomas’ residence on the same block. It is unknown if Claude Thomas, 27, was related to Ruby or if he had any personal connection to either of Saturday’s murder victims.
Shannon, 25, of Torresdale, was hospitalized and died of his injuries on Feb. 3. Police arrested Thomas at his home two days later. Thomas remains in Philadelphia prison custody without bail awaiting trial for murder, which is scheduled to begin on March 9. ••