Weeks before a woman’s body was found in the Jefferson National Forest in Southwest Virginia, her husband — charged with first-degree murder — threatened to kill her and her daughter, according to a criminal affidavit.
Steven Ray Crouse, 53, has also been charged with use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and disposal of a body after the body of his wife, Peggy Ann Crouse, 60, was found in the forest along Oriole Drive, according to the Wythe County Sheriff’s Office.
Authorities were called at 1:31 p.m. Saturday after the body was found near the roadway in a remote area close to Crawfish Road.
The woman had a “large upper right chest wound,” consistent with a gunshot wound, according to a criminal affidavit filed in Wythe County. The woman’s body was found lying on its back, it states.
The Criminal Investigation Division learned Peggy Crouse was staying with her daughter, Teresa Williams, in Marion, following an incident that occurred on May 29.
According to a witness of the May incident, Steven Crouse threatened the woman and her daughter while holding a shotgun. The witness said the man said he would kill both women and then proceeded to discharge the firearm into the sky, the affidavit states.
On Sunday, Wythe County deputies contacted Steven Crouse at his home on Old Wilderness Road in the Ceres community of Smyth County.
The deputy wrote in the affidavit that while visiting the Ceres home he saw a vehicle matching one observed the day before by witnesses along Crawfish Road near the crime scene. Photos of the vehicle were then shown to witnesses, who identified it as the same vehicle, the affidavit states.
Authorities said they then obtained a search warrant for the man’s home, where they found clothing in the washing machine that reacted for the presence of blood, as well as a pink purse, which the daughter said belonged to her mother.
The purse contained Peggy Crouse’s identification card, money, keys and other belongings, the affidavit states. The daughter said she last saw the purse when she left her mother at her apartment in Marion, it said.
Steven Crouse was arraigned by video Monday and was given a court-appointed attorney.
The man, who said he couldn’t read or write, told a magistrate that he was awaiting a cancer diagnosis from his Roanoke doctor and that he suffered from heart problems.
“Accused … denies killing his spouse,” a magistrate wrote.
He is being held without bail at the New River Regional Jail in Dublin after being transferred from the regional jail in Abingdon.
The Smyth County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, FBI and the U.S. Forestry Police are assisting Wythe County deputies.
Peggy Crouse was born in Maryland and worked at the Southwest Virginia Mental Health Institute in Marion for several years, according to her obituary.
Her husband’s prior criminal history includes a misdemeanor charge of destruction of property in 1984 and a violation of sewage disposal regulations in 2000, according to court records.
Saturday’s shooting occurred within 5 miles of the site of a fatal stabbing reported May 11 on the Appalachian Trail in the Jefferson National Forest near the Wythe-Smyth county line, Wythe County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Anthony Cline said Tuesday.
James Jordan, 30, of Massachusetts, was charged in the death of 43-year-old Ronald S. Sanchez Jr. of Oklahoma. A woman from Nova Scotia was seriously wounded in the attack, according to federal authorities. Jordan has been ordered to undergo a competency evaluation as the case is pending in U.S. District Court in Abingdon.
Wytheville Enterprise reporter Jeffrey Simmons contributed to this article.