Cops: Ex-con houseguest killed beloved Holmesburg woman, friend

Posted: August 28, 2014

THE CRIMINAL-justice system and even a kindhearted neighborhood woman who opened her home to James Mears gave the repeat felon just about every opportunity to get on the right track.

Instead, police said yesterday, Mears violently turned on Dollie Evans, 67, the Holmesburg woman known as "Grandma" on her block, who gave the convict a place to stay after he was recently released from jail.

In a plot to steal $500 from Evans, Mears attacked the woman Saturday afternoon in her living room on Vista Street near Torresdale Avenue, ruthlessly putting a bullet in her head when she fought back, Homicide Capt. James Clark said.

After killing Evans, Clark said, Mears - who had begun to stay in Evans' rowhouse about three months ago - went upstairs and tried to strangle a potential witness, Ruby Thomas, 59, a friend who'd also been staying with Evans. When that didn't work, Clark said, Mears turned his gun on Thomas, too, fatally shooting her in the head before fleeing with Evans' cash.

"It's a very cold-blooded act and a heartless act. You have an individual who these two females let into their house out of the goodness of their hearts, he turns on them . . . then ultimately takes their lives," Clark said.

Mears' court record shows a repeat offender who apparently slipped through the cracks time after time: He was paroled in January 2012 after having been sentenced just 10 months earlier to an 11 1/2-to-23-month jail term on a 2010 gun-possession arrest.

Within four months of his 2012 parole, Mears was arrested twice more - first for receiving stolen property and related charges and then on another gun charge, records show.

For violating his probation on the 2010 gun charge, Mears was sentenced in January 2013 to serve another 11 1/2 to 23 months, plus a separate nine-to-23-month jail sentence for the subsequent gun-possession conviction.

He was released from jail about three months ago, Clark said, and because he knew Evans from the neighborhood, she took him under her wing.

That was "Grandma" Evans' way, neighbors and relatives have said, as they struggle to make sense of the brutal fate that befell the woman: She was known for her eagerness to offer anyone a bite to eat or a place to sleep.

Clark said numerous witnesses from Evans' block who had seen Mears leaving the house after the gunshots on Saturday helped police to identify the accused gunman, who was picked up Monday by patrol officers in the Northeast. Clark added that homicide detectives are working to track down a second man possibly linked to the killings.

A friend of Evans, who asked to be identified only as Miss B, said yesterday that Evans' willingness to open her door to anyone sometimes brought around people with questionable motives.

"You know how you just have a funny feeling?" Miss B asked. "Whatever happened, she didn't deserve what happened to her."


On Twitter: @morganzalot

Blog: PhillyConfidential.com

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