Leesburg, FL – The mother of one of the men accused of murdering a 92-year-old woman for $70 to buy drugs said that her son didn't do it.
Sara Collins said that her son, 19-year-old Joshua McClellan, often did yard work for 92-year-old Rubye Harrison James, and that James was a family friend, WFTV reported.
When she learned that McClellan and his friend, 21-year-old Krystopher Laws, stole James’ car, she immediately took them to Leesburg police, she said.
Collins explained that she wanted investigators to understand that her son hadn’t killed James, and that he didn’t realize the vehicle he and Laws stole belonged to her.
“That was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life,” Collins said of turning her son in to police. “That’s my son…I want everybody to know my son didn't do this, and I'm not going to stop till I can prove his innocence.”
After his arrest, McClellan cried hysterically and said he had just gone into James’ car to steal money to buy marijuana, the Daily Commercial reported.
“I just took it for a drive,” he said, denying he had anything to do with her murder.
“I know my son didn’t do that,” Collins told WFTV. “He did not know [it was her car], and nothing will ever convince me that he did.”
But police said Laws has confessed that he and McClellan killed the retired schoolteacher, whose body was recovered from a shallow grave near Collins’ home on Feb. 13.
“[Laws] basically stated they had gone to her house looking for money for drugs,” Lake County Sheriff’s Office Lieutenant John Herrell explained. “And once they met her at the door, one of them confessed to striking her, knocking her down, and at that point, he said they both stabbed her.”
Police found James’ stolen car near the gravesite.
They discovered blood and a knife inside the vehicle.
Collins said that she still doesn’t believe McClellan had anything to do with the murder. She claimed that Laws carried out the killing on his own, then framed her son during his confession.
“I want everybody to know my son didn’t do this, no matter how bad it looks,” Collins said.
Both men have been charged with first-degree murder and home invasion robbery, and prosecutors have announced they will seek the death penalty if they are convicted, the Daily Commercial reported.
“The capital felony was a homicide and was committed in a cold, calculated, and premeditated manner without any pretense of moral or legal justification,” Assistant State’s Attorney Hugh Bass wrote in court documents, according to the paper.
“You don’t do what they did without a lot of hate in your heart,” said James’ son, Wayne Solomon, adding that he wished “it could all end tomorrow” for McClellan and Laws.