September 29, 1995 in Nation/World

Valley Rampage Ends In Flames Gunman Kills Brother, Wounds Sister, Before Taking Own Life In Burning Home

Adam Lynn And Gita Sitaramiah S Brian Staff writer
 

It was, Richard Ross said Thursday afternoon, “time for me to die.”

Ross had just killed his brother and critically wounded his sister, and set fire to his life-long home.

Deputies, armed with shotguns, rifles and handguns, ringed his yellow Spokane Valley house.

Neighbors and a sheriff’s negotiator implored him to surrender as authorities evacuated a two-block area around his home at 801 N. University Road.

Smoke billowed from the growing blaze.

But apparently he had made up his mind.

Standing near a second-story window, Ross shouted that he was tired of taking care of his elderly mother and was tired of living.

He then took the nickel-plated handgun authorities believe he used minutes before to shoot his brother, Bob Ross, and sister Barbara Janosky, and faded into the inferno behind him.

Two shots rang out, and he didn’t appear again, neighbors said.

“I saw him in the window and told him his house was burning, that it was time to come out,” said Weston Withers, who lives across the street from the house Ross shared with his elderly mother.

“He come to the window and said, ‘Wes, it’s time for me to die.’ He took a couple steps back and didn’t say anything ever again.”

Bob Marks, another neighbor, also heard Ross’ final words.

“He said he’s tired of taking care of his mother for the last 15 years,” Marks said. “He said he just wants to die.”

Authorities believe Ross exploded in rage after his two victims came to the house at to talk about putting his mother into a nursing home.

Neighbors said Ross had taken care of the widowed and nearly blind Ruth Ross for the past several years.

The discussion apparently turned violent about 3 p.m. when neighbors reported two shots fired.

When deputies arrived on the scene moments later, they found a man dead on the front lawn.

More shots ensued, said one neighbor who was evacuated.

“By the time I left my back door and got to my car, I heard six shots,” said the woman, who lives three houses away.

Lucy Johnson was returning to her nearby home when she heard shooting.

“At first, I thought it was fireworks,” Johnson said.

Deputies and state troopers pulled Janosky, who was shot an unknown number of times, and Ross’ mother out of the yard not knowing whether Ross still was a threat.

Janosky was taken to Deaconess Medical Center for surgery. She was listed in critical condition late Thursday.

Ross’ mother was treated and released from Valley Hospital and Medical Center, a nursing supervisor said. She was not shot, but suffered minor injuries while escaping from her son.

After shooting his visitors outside, Ross holed up in the home and refused to come out.

Deputies believe he splashed gasoline around and set the 87-year-old house on fire.

Authorities evacuated the area around the house as ammunition Ross kept inside began exploding like popcorn. Authorities believe there were as many as 300 rounds stored in the basement.

“That’s ammunition, folks. I want you back another block,” a deputy yelled at a group of onlookers gathering on Broadway east of the home.

First yellow and then black smoke boiled from the home as huge flames reduced it to rubble.

Deputies called for Ross to come out as the blaze raged out of control.

“Whatever happened today can be fixed, OK, Richard?’ deputy Jim Speaks said over a bullhorn. “Nobody wants to hurt you.”

Deputies didn’t retrieve Bob Ross’ body for some time, fearing that his brother still was alive inside the house and might shoot at them. They also kept firefighters from putting out the fire.

The roof collapsed with a shower of sparks about 4:30 p.m., and firefighters moved in to douse what remained.

Authorities pulled a body believed to be that of Ross out of the debris about 7:30 p.m.

They began letting families return to their homes later in the evening.

The intersection of Broadway and University was closed throughout the night and will remain so today while authorities gather evidence and clean up the scene.

Ross had become increasingly resentful over the past few years because he had to care for his mother, according to Withers.

“It just started weighing on him and weighing on him,” Withers said.

Johnson, who lives next door, agreed.

“In this day and age, people just get so fed up that they can’t take it anymore,” she said.

“In the Valley here, you just don’t hear about stuff like this.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: 3 Photos (1 Color)

The following fields overflowed: BYLINE = Adam Lynn and Gita Sitaramiah Staff writers Staff writer Brian Coddington contributed to this report.

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