Local News

Wife says she never knew about husband's criminal past

Posted November 11, 2009 3:56 p.m. EST
Updated November 11, 2009 6:55 p.m. EST

— A Raleigh woman says she never knew her husband was on the lam for 17 years before federal authorities arrested him Monday.

Members of the U.S. Marshals Service Violent Fugitive Task Force detained Bobby Rea Irwin, 55, on a probation violation stemming from a 1989 manslaughter conviction in Phoenix.

A warrant was issued for his arrest but, authorities say, he left town, changed his name to Robert LaRoche and started a new life. Fifteen years ago, he married his wife, and the two moved to Raleigh, where they have lived for the past 10 years.

He recently started a job as a support technician in the computer industry

"It's hard. I haven't been sleeping well. It's not easy right now," said Irwin's wife, who asked that she not be identified out of fear for her safety.

She was shopping when marshals arrested her husband – a man she describes as well-mannered, very reserved and well respected by all.

Authorities say Irwin killed a white supremacist who had previously robbed and assaulted him. He fled out of fear of retaliation, they say. Marshals were able to track Irwin after a New Mexico traffic stop in 1999.

"Probably now, because of the bits and pieces of information I'm hearing, he probably did not tell me for my protection," Irwin's wife said.

Others who know Irwin as LaRoche say they are also stunned by his arrest and past.

"It's devastating. It's so shocking and surprising," said the Rev. Father Paul Kaplanis, parish priest at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church, where Irwin is an involved church member and singer in the choir.

"If you're in a church, a lot of times you're going to become closer to God, reconcile, change your life," Kaplanis continued. "Maybe this is where he sought refuge."

Irwin has waived extradition from North Carolina to Arizona, and his wife said she hopes the court there will take into consideration her husband's lifestyle since committing the crime.

"It's been too long. It's over 17 years. The whole thing should really be dropped, and we should be able to go on with our lives," she said. "We all have our ups and downs, but we live a good life."

"I think he's worried about everything," she continued. "We've worked really hard to accomplish what we did. It's a very devastating situation."