The fiance of an Amherst woman found dead on a rural road in Orchard Park three years ago has been charged with killing her as part of a scheme to collect on her life insurance policy.
Ronald Epps, 44, is accused of shooting Angela M. Moss in the back of the head on the night of Aug. 28, 2009, leaving her for dead, and just a few days later filing a claim with her insurance company. He is currently in police custody.
Police said the federal indictment against Epps closes one of the region's high-profile cold cases and may give the Moss family some closure.
"Hopefully this can start the healing process," said Orchard Park Police Chief Andrew Benz.
Moss, 39, was found dead on California Road, not far from the nursing home where she worked, at about 6 a.m. the next day. At the time, Orchard Park police said they had no potential suspects or a motive in the fatal shooting.
"Over the next three years, this case was unsolved," said U.S. Attorney William J. Hochul Jr. "It was not, however, unworked."
Hochul said a wide range of law enforcement agencies combined their efforts to make a case against Epps, who at this point is charged with wire fraud, mail fraud and possession of Molotov cocktails.
The federal prosecutor said he has talked with the Erie County District Attorney's Office about the case and the potential for murder charges against Epps. There is no federal murder charge that would apply in the case.
Hochul said Moss was seen leaving her job at Absolut Care on Armor Road at about 11 p.m., just minutes before she was killed. She was found the next morning by co-workers.
"Mr. Epps picked her up at the place of her employment, and that was the last she was seen alive," he said.
Residents in the area said they heard what sounded like a firecracker or gunshot at about the same time she was seen leaving work.
Police acknowledged that Epps, who was engaged to Moss and living with her on Cascade Drive in Amherst, was a suspect early on in the investigation.
"In homicides, it's standard that spouses and friends are people of interest, people you want to look at," Benz said.
Still, it took three years before they could charge Epps.
What were the obstacles?
"I would say securing the cooperation of witnesses and interviewees," said Frank Christiano, resident agent in charge of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
The federal charges against Epps stem from his alleged effort to defraud Moss' insurance carrier, the State Farm Insurance Co.
The grand jury indictment against him claims the fraud began when Moss made Epps the primary beneficiary of her $100,000 life insurance policy. It also claims Epps and Moss tried to increase the policy to $150,000, a request State Farm denied.
Hochul said Epps' next step was to arrange Moss' murder.
"Mr. Epps defrauded [State Farm] by first killing Miss Moss and then trying to claim the insurance," he said.
Hochul said Epps' claim was denied by State Farm.
The indictment also charges Epps with fraud related to a separate renters' insurance claim against State Farm that stemmed from a fire at their Amherst apartment more than a year after Moss' killing. Epps is accused of setting that fire.
Hochul credited the Orchard Park Police, the ATF and Amherst Police with helping with the investigation.