LEESBURG, Fla. – Deputies made two arrests Friday evening in connection with the murder of 92-year-old Rubye James, who was found dead in a shallow grave after being reported missing, according to the Lake County Sheriff's Office.
Krystopher Laws, 21, and Joshua McClellan, 19, are facing robbery and first-degree murder charges, deputies said.
The men made their first appearances before a judge Saturday morning. The judge appointed them public defenders, but denied bond for both men. Their next court appearance is scheduled for March 6 at 8:30 a.m.
News 6 reporter Erik Sandoval was at the Lake County Jail when the two men were brought in around 7:30 p.m. Friday. McClellan, who was in tears, said he knew James for years. He admitted to breaking into her car to steal money to buy marijuana, but denied any involvement in her death.
"I was just looking into empty cars just to find some money to buy some weed. And I came back to the car that had a key, but the switch was just stuck on it and I popped it open and it worked, so I just took it for a drive," McClellan said before entering the jail.
He said he did lawn work for James.
"Out of everybody in her family, the ones who kicked her out into the rain, I was the only one that was ever really there for her," he said.
Laws remained silent.
Lake County Sheriff's Office deputies received a request for well-being check on Wednesday and when they arrived at James' home on Edgewood Road in Leesburg, they found the house empty and the woman's car missing, a news release said.
Remains were found in the neighborhood Wednesday, along with James' car, but deputies did not positively identify the body as being that of James until Thursday afternoon. Her death was classified as a homicide, but few other details were provided.
Neighbor Sara Collins said she saw authorities take the body from the shallow grave and she was certain it was James, even before the identity was released.
"I watched them pull the little lady out of them woods and they lifted up a big sheet that was covered in blood and I couldn't help but to ask myself, 'Who the hell could do something like that to a little old lady?" Collins said.
James spent decades working as a school teacher in Sumter County before retiring in 2002 at age 78.