A former Centre County resident now living in South Carolina was charged on Monday in the killing of Jean Tuggy, more than five years after the 61-year-old was found dead in her Pine Grove Mills home.
The Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office charged 34-year-old Christopher G. Kowalski with one count of criminal homicide following the years-long investigation by Ferguson Township police, which was joined by the AG’s office and a grand jury in 2019.
Kowalski, who was described in court documents as a friend and former co-worker of Tuggy’s, allegedly admitted during an interview with investigators on Monday that he intentionally shot and killed her.
“Jean died more than five years ago and her family has not had closure since,” Attorney General Josh Shapiro said in a statement. “Thanks to the diligent efforts of our lawyers, investigators and fellow members of law enforcement who never gave up on this case, the arrest of Christopher Kowalski is the first step toward putting her murderer behind bars. The Tuggy family has waited too long for justice, but we hope this news helps them heal.”
Tuggy was found dead on Jan. 21, 2016 inside her Irion Street home by friends who had come to check on her. She was killed by a 9mm gunshot wound to her face and also was shot once in the hip, a medical examiner found. Police said there were no signs of forced entry to her residence.
Friends and family described Tuggy, who lived alone, as friendly and caring and could not imagine who would want to do harm to her.
During the course of the investigation, two witnesses told investigators that Tuggy had mentioned a male co-worker from Wegman’s, with whom she had a friendship and who Tuggy said had developed a romantic interest in her.
Investigators were able to identify the co-worker as Kowalski through information from a church he attended and labor and industry and address records.
An examination of Tuggy’s computer hard drive found Facebook chat logs in which Tuggy and Kowalski discussed their friendship and their experiences of loneliness, according to the complaint.
In 2019, a witness recalled a conversation with Tuggy in which Tuggy said she believed Kowalski wanted a more romantic relationship than she did, investigators wrote.
A detective conducted a firearms check in May 2019 and allegedly found that one of six 9mm handguns purchased by Kowalski, a Walther CCP, was acquired one month prior to Tuggy’s death and sold about eight months later.
The Walther was tracked to its current owners, who gave consent for investigators to take the gun. They and Kowalski have been the only two owners of the gun, according to the complaint.
The gun and bullets recovered from Tuggy’s body were sent to the state police crime lab in Harrisburg. An examination was “inconclusive” but the test bullets and bullets recovered from Tuggy had “significant similarities,” and “matched… in all class characteristics,” according to the complaint. The differences in the bullets, meanwhile, could have been caused by a cleaning of the barrel of the pistol with an abrasive tool, a state police expert said.
Kowalski was interviewed by investigators earlier on Monday and allegedly said he and Tuggy had become romantically involved.
According to the complaint, Kowalski said he went to Tuggy’s home on the day of her death to watch movies together. He initially claimed that as he was taking off his coat a gun he had in the pocket fell to the floor and discharged, with the bullet striking Tuggy in the lower left back. Kowalski allegedly said that he picked up the gun and it was jammed. When he attempted to clear it, he allegedly claimed, the gun discharged a second time and struck Tuggy in the neck.
Told his story made no sense, Kowalski admitted to intentionally shooting Tuggy, according to the complaint.
“The truth is, I killed her,” he allegedly said. “I killed her because I was depressed, down and hopeless. I was having a mid-life crisis.”
According to the complaint, Kowalski said he shot Tuggy first in the lower back and she fell over the arm of a couch. The gun jammed and he cleared it then shot her a second time in the head. He turned off her oxygen to ensure she was dead, investigators wrote.
Kowalski allegedly said he thought about killing Tuggy prior to the day of the murder. He told investigators he chose Tuggy, who as previously reported had battled cancer prior to her death, because “she was an easy target,” who would not be able to fight back.
He also allegedly told investigators he planned to take pictures of Tuggy undressed but did not because he was afraid of getting blood on his clothes.
Kowalski said he locked the front door deadbolt and exited through the basement, then disposed of the spent shell casings at a restaurant on North Atherton Street, according to the complaint.
He moved to South Carolina later in 2016 and said he would periodically search the internet for information about the status of the case, according to the complaint.
Kowalski was arrested and will be extradited to Pennsylvania. A preliminary arraignment has not yet been scheduled.
Ferguson Township Detective Caleb Clouse and OAG Special Investigator Chris Weaver led the investigation of the case, which will be prosecuted by Senior Deputy Attorney General Kelly Sekula.
Ferguson Township police formed a cold-case team of detectives in 2018 to focus solely on Tuggy’s murder and the unsolved disappearances of Jennifer Cahill-Shadle in 2014 and Cindy Song in 2001.