FORT EDWARD — Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan directed Friday that the woman charged with assisting her husband after he allegedly killed his grandmother remain in jail, as the victim’s family said they believe she deserves to be jailed for life.
Relatives of Leona Twiss said they do not buy accused killer Kevin L. Gonyea’s explanation that he killed Twiss because of her dementia and concerns about having to put her in a nursing home.
And they question whether his wife, Melissa Gonyea, was more involved in the plot than the charges allege.
“She needs to be locked up for the rest of her life,” said Sandra Beaudet, Mrs. Twiss’ niece.
“We don’t know if it was all him,” said another woman who said she was a niece of Twiss’ but declined to give her name.
Twiss’ loved ones attended Mrs. Gonyea’s arraignment Thursday as she answered to charges that she helped her husband dispose of evidence after the killing of Twiss, who was Mr. Gonyea’s grandmother. Mr. Gonyea is accused of choking Twiss to death with a towel that police believe his wife tried to hide or destroy.
Mrs. Gonyea pleaded not guilty to felony counts of tampering with physical evidence, hindering prosecution and offering a false instrument for filing. Police allege she submitted forged letters about rent payments to the Washington County Department of Social Services earlier this year when seeking public assistance. She has not been accused of involvement in the homicide itself.
The Gonyeas were living with Twiss in her Twiss Road home at the time of her death. They had moved from Florida to care for Twiss and her husband, who died last fall of natural causes.
In court on Wednesday, Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan argued that Mrs. Gonyea should continue to be held for lack of bail, saying she has limited ties to Washington County and a criminal record in Florida that included a probation violation and arrest warrant.
“We received information that she had said she couldn’t wait to leave Fort Ann and get back to Florida,” Jordan said.
Mrs. Gonyea’s lawyer, Robert Gregor, questioned that comment, and said his client had a job lined up at Burger King in Queensbury if she was released from jail.
Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan ordered Mrs. Gonyea held for lack of $30,000 cash bail or $60,000 bail bond. She is due back in court on Nov. 17.
Gregor said he had no further comment on the case as of Thursday.
Kevin Gonyea will be arraigned before McKeighan at 1:30 p.m. Friday. He faces seven charges, including counts of second-degree murder, tampering with physical evidence, hindering prosecution and charges related to welfare fraud.