Ronald George Powell sat nervously twitching his right leg and seemed to be surprised when a district judge announced Friday that state police were charging him with homicide in the shooting death that morning of his wife.
“What’s that?” Powell, 70, of Carroll Township, asked District Judge James Ellis.
“Murder,” Ellis replied.
“I was defending myself,” said Powell, who was remanded to the Washington County jail without bond in the killing of Leslie Powell.
State police provided a different narrative of the crime in court documents released at the man’s arraignment.
They accuse Powell of awakening about 3 a.m., retrieving a shotgun from under his bed and using it to shoot his sleeping wife in the head while he illuminated the room with a hand-held lighting device.
Ronald Powell then telephoned Washington County 911 at 4:15 a.m. to report what occurred, police stated in the affidavit.
Washington County Coroner Tim Warco pronounced Leslie Powell, 62, dead at 6:02 a.m. of a gunshot wound to the head. Warco ruled the death a homicide, according to a news release from his office.
Neighbors told reporters near the crime scene along a dead-end street that Ronald Powell had been showing signs of dementia and was a jealous husband.
“It’s sad. It really is,” said Tammy Reese, who lives two doors away from the Powells’ small, tidy white house.
Reese said no one heard anything unusual before state and local police arrived in the neighborhood.
Ronald Powell, who was wearing blue jeans, a blue-and-white plaid shirt and a gold chain with a four-leaf clover pendant around his neck, appeared jovial in court.
“I don’t have much education, your honor,” he said, adding that his only brush with the law involved false accusations that he stabbed a boy when he was 12 years old.
He said he retired in 1995 from a Canonsburg factory, had nearly $250,000 and could afford an attorney.
He then asked state police to get a message to his daughter to find him an attorney before his preliminary hearing, which is scheduled for 10 a.m. April 10.
“I don’t understand everything,” Powell said. “I got an idea of what’s going on today.”