One mother prepares to bury her son, an aspiring opera singer. Another mother wonders if she did something wrong, because her son now stands accused of the opera student’s murder.
Jackson County prosecutors accused him and another man Wednesday of plotting the home invasion robbery that ended with the death of Aaron Markarian, 23, a senior baritone at the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s Conservatory of Music and Dance. Three other victims, including two women, survived being wounded during the robbery and shooting late Thursday in a house just south of the Country Club Plaza.
Prosecutors charged Alonzo D. Ruff, 20, and Anthony J. “Tony” Williams, 21, both of Kansas City, each with 10 felonies: second-degree murder, robbery, three counts of assault and five counts of armed criminal action.
Neither has a criminal record, and both graduated from high school, police said.
Williams was adopted at age 2 by parents who also adopted five other children.
“My wife kept thinking she did something wrong,” Wilbert Williams said Wednesday. “I spent last night trying to convince her that she was not a bad mother. We did everything we could for those kids.”
Markarian’s mother declined an interview Wednesday, saying she was preparing to view her son’s body. She was too devastated to speak, other than to say: “He was wonderful and well-loved.”
Ruff’s family could not be reached for comment.
According to court records and police, Williams and Ruff allegedly were looking for a place to rob when they decided on the college students’ home in the 4900 block of Brookside Boulevard. Williams had been at the home before to smoke marijuana, police said. He wore a ski mask to avoid being recognized and allegedly rang the doorbell while holding a machete. Ruff allegedly had a gun.
Behind the door, eight young people, mostly college students, had gathered for a birthday celebration, police said.
When Markarian opened the door, the robbers barged inside. They demanded that seven of the victims sit on a couch. The eighth victim was in a bedroom. The robbers stole cellphones and $400.
Williams allegedly pressed a machete to one victim’s neck and demanded to be taken to his marijuana stash. The victim gave the robbers about one gram of marijuana.
As the robbers prepared to leave, Ruff allegedly opened fire at Markarian and the others on the couch. The victims did not resist, and the shooting was unprovoked, police said.
The victim who had his marijuana stolen told police he recognized Ruff from high school. Police believe Ruff may have opened fire because he wasn’t expecting to know anyone inside the home and wanted to prevent the victims from recognizing him.
After arresting the suspects Tuesday night, Kansas City police dropped them directly at the Jackson County Jail. Police bypassed their own jail at Police Headquarters because one victim’s father works in the building. The suspects remained in jail Wednesday.
Markarian, of Warrensburg, Mo., had been set to graduate in May with a bachelor’s of music in vocal performance. He loved to cook and was known to bring fresh homemade bread to rehearsals for the cast and crew, said Marciem Bazell, the conservatory’s director of opera.
“He was complicated, talented, brilliant, funny and fearless,” Bazell said. “He was the first one to rehearsal, where he would fling himself all over the rehearsal space warming up the physical part of all his roles and looking for a spark that would reach the audience. ... His thirst for knowledge was never-ending.”
UMKC officials said they were “grateful for the quick action by the Kansas City Police Department on this shocking crime.”
Meanwhile, news of Williams’ arrest stunned his parents.
“We were trying to figure out what was going on in his mind and what happened,” said his father, Wilbert Williams.
Tony Williams was in Boy Scouts and graduated from Archbishop O’Hara High School in 2009. He then worked for a bagel restaurant where he befriended Ruff, who also attended O’Hara for a short time. Both were fired about a year ago. Tony Williams collected unemployment until it ran out, his father said. He talked about joining the Marines so he could learn to become a chef.
A few months ago, Williams asked if Ruff could move into the family’s south Kansas City home. He didn’t have a place to stay. The family agreed.
Relatives saw the pair in recent days and didn’t notice any change in their behavior. Tony Williams made breakfast, a spinach omelet, for his father over the weekend. On Monday, Tony Williams bought groceries and made his mother an elaborate birthday dinner complete with banana pudding for dessert.
“We’re so shook up here also,” Wilbert Williams said through sobs. “We’ve had some problems with Tony, but always minor, just routine traffic violations.”