Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2001

Co-workers remember slain friend

Father-in-law released, no charges filed

June 21, 2001

Using 10-gallon buckets as makeshift chairs, Rob Cole and Joe Gensler sat in the open garage of a home under construction in west Lawrence earlier this week. Across the street they watched a crew of framers work on a home that their friend and colleague Michael Roach and his crew started but will never finish.

To many people, Roach was the 38-year-old Eudora man shot to death in a Linwood field, allegedly by his father-in-law. Authorities thought he was unemployed.

To Cole and Gensler, Roach was a regular, hard-working guy who, despite problems, managed to help build an affluent west Lawrence neighborhood.

"You can see what he did," Cole said, panning his eyes across The Villas off 15th Street west of Wakarusa.

As they look across the street, Cole and Gensler remark that the framing, which should be a four-day job, is taking much longer without Roach and his crew.

"We saw him every day for two years," Gensler said. "He was a quiet guy."

Roach's colleagues, who are painters, said they couldn't imagine how he didn't just crash from the workload when he went home at night.

Although they saw him as he left work the afternoon of June 11, before he was shot, Cole and Gensler said they've only heard stories about what happened between Roach and his father-in-law, Charles Leach.

"Everything seems OK, and then an hour later" Cole said, his words trailing off and shaking his head.

Leavenworth County officials arrested Leach on a first-degree murder charge. He was released June 13. Leach will not be formally charged until officials finish investigating the case and present the evidence to County Attorney Frank Kohl.

"Whether he had to use deadly force would be up to the jury," who said. "The determination of the charges have to be supported by the evidence."

Officials found two guns at the site, including a 9 mm semi-automatic, which officials determined was fired.

Cole and Gensler never heard Roach say much about his relationship with his father-in-law, but they saw the increasing amount of stress Roach was under.

Cole said health problems with Roach's parents and marital trouble took a toll on his outlook.

May 31 Eudora police were called when Roach threatened suicide.

Cole said Roach didn't show up for work for two days.

"We were really freaking out that day," Gensler said.

A week and a half later Eudora police answered a call about a domestic dispute between Roach and his 39-year-old brother.

Douglas County District Court records show Roach filed divorce papers to dissolve his marriage to his wife, Connie, the day he died. Cole and Gensler said they thought the Roaches were married about 20 years.

Cole and Gensler can only imagine what went through Roach's head that day.

"People do and say things they normally wouldn't," Cole said.

For Gensler, who said his brother died from a gunshot wound inflicted during an argument, Roach's death isn't his first experience with gun violence.

"All guns are good for is putting men six feet in a hole," he said. "I wish they'd never invented guns."

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