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Police: Discovery of cellphone at homicide scene a big break

PHOENIX — The discovery of a cellphone not belonging to either victim was a major break in the investigation into the shooting deaths of two women in a home in a Phoenix suburb, police said Monday.

Investigators searching the home after the Feb. 8 killings of 70-year-old Barbara Leslie of Surprise and her visiting friend 75-year-old Ruth Schwed of Albuquerque, New Mexico, found the cellphone on the floor, according to a police probable cause statement. The document explains the circumstances leading to the arrests of two men in the case.

Sgt. Norm Owens, a Surprise Police Department spokesman, cited the ongoing investigation and wouldn’t identify the phone’s owner.

However, Owens said the phone didn’t belong to either victim and that its discovery was a major break.

The probable cause statement said investigators obtained search warrants and acquired phone records that revealed “persons of interest.”

Police identified two men arrested on suspicion of first-degree murder and robbery as Andrew Thomas Lauro, 24, of Goodyear and Montez Lavell Wright III, 23, of Southfield, Michigan.

According to the probable cause statement, police went to the home Feb. 9 after being contacted by Schwed’s worried son, who found $23,000 in pending charges on Schwed’s debit card and was unable to contact either woman.

Owens declined to describe the charges on the credit card.

According to the statement, a police source said Lauro talked about being involved in a robbery and shooting of two older women.

Lauro later told investigators during an interview that he and another man entered the home through the garage and that the other man shot both women, the statement said.

The statement said the victims were found lying on the living room floor, and that there was blood splatter and expended shell casings near their bodies.

Leslie’s SUV was missing from the home, but it was found at a Phoenix-area apartment complex.

Lauro did not have an attorney during a brief court appearance over the weekend. The only statement he made was to provide his date of birth. He remained jail Monday.

Wright was arrested in Michigan, where he was awaiting extradition to Arizona.

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