Ex-fiancee says she's no longer alibi for Rowcroft

Posted: Sunday, November 09, 2003

Frank Brian Rowcroft's former fiancee testified Friday she lied when she initially told police she was sure he was in bed next to her when the lights went out at Kmart on Easter morning last year.

"I'm no longer trying to protect him," Alia McAlister said while being cross-examined by Rowcroft's attorney, Louis Menendez. "I'm not going to give him an alibi."

Rowcroft, a former loss-prevention supervisor at the now-closed Juneau store, is standing trial on a first-degree theft charge alleging he stole nearly $100,000 in cash, checks and credit receipts from the safe. The theft was discovered after a staged power outage at the store at around 5 a.m. on March 31, 2002.

McAlister said she had known Rowcroft at Juneau-Douglas High School and he had hired her to work under him at Kmart in early February 2002. She quit in March 2002 because a relationship had developed between them and she felt it was unethical to be involved with her boss, she said.

McAlister disputed previous testimony from a Kmart employee that put her at the store at 3 a.m. She said she was sure she was home. When the telephone rang at around 5 a.m., she let it ring and went back to sleep.

At around 6:30 or 7 a.m., Rowcroft was there and took a call from Kmart, she said.

Assistant District Attorney Doug Gardner asked if there was a difference in the money Rowcroft spent before and after March 31, although he was unemployed soon after the theft.

McAlister said that before, Rowcroft might average spending $50 to $100 when they went out - to dinner, movies, karaoke. After March 31, the average probably went up to $300, she said.

She also recalled purchases of furniture and a trip to Ketchikan. Everything was paid for in cash, she said.

About a week after the theft, Rowcroft brought between $40,000 and $47,000 in cash into the apartment. She said Rowcroft asked her to count part of it. He told her it had been at a relative's house.

"I had never seen him with that much money before," she said.

Rowcroft had bought her an engagement ring, and they were planning to marry, she said. The relationship ended abruptly on May 3, 2002, "because Mr. Rowcroft went to jail," she said.

Early in the trial, a U.S. Customs agent testified that about $30,000 was found in Rowcroft's car, of which $23,000 was found in plastic bags under a carpet in the trunk, on May 3, 2002.

On Friday, McAlister testified that after driving off the state ferry at Skagway, Rowcroft stopped on a stretch of road "out in the middle of nowhere" and put the bagged money from his backpack into the trunk.

They were turned away at the Canadian Port of Entry because he had the wrong license plates on his car. The money was discovered on their way back into the United States.

Menendez accused McAlister of giving police and prosecutors what they wanted after she was arrested with Rowcroft that night.

She answered, "an innocent person shouldn't go to jail."

Menendez accused her of acting as a police informant when she visited Rowcroft in jail.

He told her "everything he had done he had done for me, for us," she testified.

Menendez asked her about leaving his client on the night of April 1 to spend the night with a former boyfriend.

"I got spooked," she said. "I was afraid of commitment."

Menendez suggested that the additional spending could have been a way to win her back after she left. He also questioned her dealings with the money.

McAlister said it was Rowcroft's money, but there can be an understanding between couples. She didn't know there was anything wrong with the cash at the time.

"I didn't know it was Kmart money," she said.

At one point on the stand she told Menendez she didn't like his derogatory tone.

"Since all this happened, I couldn't get a job for eight months," she said after Menendez asked her about living arrangements with her next boyfriend. "People told me they wouldn't hire a felon's girlfriend because my name was in the newspaper. What am I supposed to do?"

Another former Kmart loss-prevention employee, Jonathan Williams, testified that after Rowcroft was released on the theft charge, he offered Williams money to shoot him - "with a small-caliber weapon so he wouldn't be killed," Williams said.

Williams said Rowcroft also said he should get a bat from McAlister's apartment and said he wanted to "put a shadow of doubt" on his old girlfriend.

Witnesses from the Juneau Police Department testified later Friday about Rowcroft being shot at the Auke Bay-area home of his grandmother, where he had been living after his pretrial release on the theft charge.

Williams said he didn't shoot Rowcroft, but Rowcroft had offered him $2,500 to $5,000 to do so.

"You're making this up, aren't you," Menendez asked Williams, who testified about being fired from Kmart in January 2002 for stealing compact discs. Menendez questioned him about making a deal with prosecutors concerning the probation on his theft sentence.

In answer to another question from Menendez, Williams said he saw Rowcroft with what could have been $50,000 before the Kmart theft.

"He had a lot of money," Williams said. "He always had money."

Gardner said Friday he expects to be able to conclude his case Monday.

• Tony Carroll can be reached at tony.carroll@juneauempire.com.

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