Less than a month after nabbing a suspect in a deadly attack on the Appalachian Trail, Wythe deputies returned to the national forest on Saturday to investigate the discovery of another dead body – this one a female.
On Sunday, they charged the woman’s husband in her shooting death.
Steven Ray Crouse, 53, of Ceres was given a court-appointed attorney on Monday to represent him on charges of first-degree murder, use of a firearm in commission of a felony and disposing of a body on public property.
According to police and court documents, deputies were called to Oriole Drive in the Jefferson National Forest at 1:31 p.m. on Saturday after 60-year-old Peggy Ann Crouse’s body was found lying next to the roadway near Oriole Drive’s intersection with Crawfish Road.
An investigator wrote that she had “a large upper right chest wound” and that rescue workers said the body was still warm to the touch when they arrived.
During the investigation, deputies learned that an unoccupied gold Chevrolet SUV had been seen parked near the crime scene. A witness also claimed that Steven Crouse had threatened Peggy Crouse and her daughter with a shotgun on May 25.
“The witness reported that Steven Ray Crouse stated to Peggy Ann Crouse while holding a shotgun that he would kill them and then proceeded to discharge the firearm into the sky,” an investigator wrote in an arrest warrant.
After the incident, Peggy Crouse moved in with her daughter in Marion, according to court documents.
Teresa Williams said she last saw her mother alive when Williams left her apartment at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday. Peggy Crouse’s body was found four hours later.
On Sunday, police went to Steven Crouse’s 1591 Old Wilderness Road residence and found out that he had a vehicle matching the SUV’s description. Police said a witness confirmed that the SUV was the same make, model and color of the one seen on Crawfish Road.
Based on the information, deputies got a search warrant for Crouse’s Smyth County residence and collected clothing – including some from a washing machine – that tested positive for the presence of blood, according to the arrest warrant.
They also found a pink purse hidden inside a camper beside Crouse’s single-wide trailer. Identified by Williams as belonging to her mother, the purse contained Peggy Crouse’s identification card, money, keys and other personal items, police said.
Arraigned by video on Monday, Steven Crouse is being held without bond in the New River Valley Regional Jail in Dublin after being transferred from an Abingdon jail.
His prior criminal history includes a misdemeanor destruction of property charge in 1984 and a violation of sewage disposal regulations in 2000, according to court records.
Crouse, who said he couldn’t read or write, told a magistrate that he was awaiting a cancer diagnosis from his Roanoke doctor and that he suffered from heart problems.
“Accused…denies killing his spouse,” a magistrate wrote.
If a judge finds probable cause during Crouse’s Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court preliminary hearing, he’ll send the charges to a grand jury for consideration.
If Crouse is indicted, he’ll stand trial in Wythe County Circuit Court.
In the May 11 Appalachian Trail attacks, a Massachusetts man is awaiting trial on federal court in the death of one hiker and the wounding of another.
Jeffrey Simmons can be reached at 228-6611, extension 19, or firstname.lastname@example.org.