PD: 'Suspicious death' was murder

James Kelley

James Kelley

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on July 25, 2012 at 1:21 PM

Updated Thursday, Jul 26 at 8:07 AM

MESA, Ariz. -- Police have made an arrest in connection with a death that was reported as a suicide, but that investigators quickly classified as suspicious. Now it's officially murder.

Mesa police officers were called to a home in the area of Guadalupe Road and the Loop 202 Santan Freeway shortly after 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.

Once on the scene, investigators found Brandon Crowther, 27, in the living room. He had been stabbed and was pronounced dead on the scene.

When police got to the home, which was owned by Crowther's grandmother, three other people, two of them women, were there.

According to Sgt. Tony Landato, a male called police to report his roommate's suicide, but when officers arrived on the scene, however, the information they were given and the injuries to the victim were not consistent with that.

"In listening to the stories, observing the injuries on the victim, officers just felt this was suspicious circumstances. We are investigating it as a suspicious death," Landato said that morning.

Wednesday afternoon, Landato identified the suspect as James D. Kelley. The 20-year-old had been staying at the home with his 30-year-old girlfriend and a 19-year-old friend of her. They had been there for about a week.

It's not clear why Kelley and the women were staying at the home, nor have police said anything about how Kelley and Crowther knew each other.

According to Landato, Kelley, who originally claimed Crowther's death was suicide, changed his story several times before finally admitting that he stabbed Crowther.

Detectives still don't know what prompted the stabbing, but they did recover a knife while searching the home, Landato said in a news release.

Kelley was booked for second-degree murder.

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