FORT EDWARD — A Fort Ann man who allegedly killed his 95-year-old grandmother has been indicted on a murder charge, and he and his wife have also been charged with felonies for trying to conceal evidence of the homicide.
The 15-count indictment against Kevin L. Gonyea, 50, and his wife, 35-year-old Melissa Gonyea, also includes counts that allege the two committed welfare fraud before Mr. Gonyea allegedly strangled Leona Twiss in her home on July 9.
Mr. Gonyea faces seven counts, including a charge of second-degree murder, felony counts of hindering prosecution and tampering with physical evidence and misdemeanor and felony charges related to welfare fraud, including counts that allege he submitted a forged letter from his grandmother for public assistance benefits. The murder charge alleges he intentionally killed Twiss.
Mrs. Gonyea faces eight charges, including felony counts of tampering with physical evidence, hindering prosecution and offering a false instrument for filing, the latter counts alleging forged letters regarding purported rent payments were submitted to the county earlier this year for public assistance. Court records show they sought heating assistance, but did not specify if they received any payments.
She was not charged with murder and not accused of taking part in strangling Twiss.
The tampering with evidence and hindering prosecution counts allege the couple disposed of a towel that police believe was used to choke Ms. Twiss. The Gonyeas had moved to Fort Ann from Florida during the summer of 2016 to take care of Leona Twiss and her late husband, who died of natural causes last fall.
Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said the prosecution’s theory of the case has not changed, but the welfare fraud allegations could lead to prison terms on top of the murder and evidence counts.
Police described the homicide as a “mercy” killing, saying Twiss suffered from dementia and was being considered for placement in a nursing home.
The Gonyeas claimed she died spontaneously, but Washington County sheriff’s officers were suspicious of parts of their story, and an autopsy found injuries that indicated she died from being choked, not natural causes.
Lawyers for the two defendants did not respond to calls for comment Friday. Mr. Gonyea’s lawyer is Gregory Teresi, Mrs. Gonyea’s lawyer is Robert Gregor.
Both Gonyeas are being held in Washington County Jail, and are expected to be arraigned late next week before Washington County Judge Kelly McKeighan.
Ms. Gonyea was scheduled for Thursday morning, but no date for her husband’s appearance had been set as of Friday afternoon.
The murder charge is punishable by up to 25 years to life in state prison, and the lesser charges could bring additional prison terms of up to 4 to 7 years apiece.