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Thomas “Joe” Wall, a 34-year-old family man, Little League baseball coach, and veteran, was shot and killed in his home in San Mateo, Florida in 2015.
On a recent episode of “Cold Justice,” airing Saturdays at 8/7c on Oxygen, prosecutor Kelly Siegler and Cpt. Terri Hook of the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office in Wisconsin traveled there to help investigate the homicide. They worked alongside Captain Dominic Piscitello, Detective Klatyon Usina, and Detective Jason Theed from Putnam County Sheriff’s Office. “Cold Justice” previously collaborated with them on the case of Tyvon Whitford.
Investigators reviewed the facts of the case: Joe and his wife, Lauren, met and married in the military. After they were discharged, he went into a family plumbing business and she raised their son and daughter. On January 18, 2015, the couple had dinner at home together. Afterward, Lauren left to pick up their kids at their grandparents’ house. When she returned home, she saw Joe had been shot.
“He was shot at the top of the head and this side of the face,” said Hook.
There were no signs of a struggle or forced entry, but a sliding side door typically kept closed was open. The murder weapon wasn’t recovered but .38 caliber bullet fragments were found at the crime scene.
Investigators learned there were reports that Joe and Lauren’s marriage was rocky and that she was having a long-distance relationship with a man. He lived out of state and wasn’t considered a suspect, but it was a possible motive behind the slaying.
They also discovered Joe had a life insurance policy for $600,000.
Lauren’s actions the night of January 18 raised several questions: Why did she bring the dog with her when she went to get the kids? Why did she text Joe so many times on the way home? Why did she fail to mention she gave Charles “Chaz” Arrants, a landscaper, a ride home that night?
Arrants, investigators learned, bought bullets shortly before the murder that were consistent with ones used in the slaying.
Following the murder, Lauren and her whole family moved to northern Michigan.
“Were they trying to get her out of town for a fresh start?” Siegler theorized. “Or were they helping her escape?”
Since the murder, Joe’s son, Tommy, has lived with his paternal grandparents. He has had no contact with his mother or sister.
“I don’t think I could’ve asked for a better dad,” he told investigators. He also recalled a detail from the night his dad was killed. His mother demanded that he wait in the car when she went into their house, something he claimed she’d never done before.
Digital forensics expert Eric Devlin analyzed phone records. He turned up intimate texts between Lauren and her out-of-state boyfriend the same night she was supposedly preparing a romantic dinner for her husband. Although texts between Lauren and Joe on January 18 showed that she couldn’t be the shooter, the volume of messages she sent raised red flags.
There were no calls or texts between Lauren and Arrants.
After Joe’s murder, Arrants was arrested for a probation violation for an unrelated crime. Investigators separately questioned two of his cellmates. They said Arrants spoke about killing the husband of a woman he was seeing. The witnesses also mentioned an insurance policy and the kind of bullets used in the slaying, a detail that wasn’t public knowledge.
“He said he put the gun to the back of his head and blew his head off,” one former cellmate alleged.
“The credibility of inmates is always questioned,” said Hook, before adding that they were out of lockup and had no compelling reason to come forward.
Hook and Usina spoke with Arrants, who was agitated and sweaty during the interview. He did landscaping for Lauren’s parents and was at their house the night of the murder. He said Lauren brought him home when she came to get her kids.
He explained he bought bullets to use for hunting, and denied any involvement with Joe’s murder.
“I didn’t do this,” he said, adding that he didn’t get rid of any guns. “I didn’t kill anybody.”
In Michigan, Siegler and Theed interviewed Lauren’s father, Michael Gorski. He minimized his ties to Arrants, who had actually lived with the Gorskis, according to “Cold Justice.” Lauren’s dad also said he knew nothing about her marital and extramarital relationships.
The investigators spoke with Lauren, who, Siegler said, hadn’t inquired about progress on the case in seven years. They told her they had text messages between her and her out-of-state boyfriend the night her husband died and that Arrants had bragged to cellmates about pulling the trigger.
Lauren denied being involved in Joe’s killing and said that she didn’t get any life insurance money from her husband’s policy – but it was paid to her parents.
When asked about her relationships with Carter and Arrants as well as the insurance policy, Lauren said she would have to speak with her lawyer.
After reviewing evidence investigators eliminated the possibility of an unknown intruder.
What's next? “Detective Usina set up a meeting with the state’s attorney to run down the case,” said Siegler.
Tommy, now 19, expressed hope, he said, “for what's going to happen soon.”
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