Three years ago this week, Ash Rowell, a 35-year-old father of three, opened the door of his Montrose home to his killer.
The well-liked face of craft beer distributor Duff Beer, Rowell took a bullet, and then staggered into his family room and collapsed. His wife, Lesli, was in the family's Portsmouth Street home at the time, as were the couple's young children and a few friends who were there for a sleepover. Neighbors would later tell police they saw someone run into a dark-blue car, which quickly disappeared.
The police are still looking for the killer or killers — and they need the public's help.
Houston Police Detective Sergeant Brian Harris believes someone other than Rowell's killer has been holding on to vital information. Maybe, three years ago, people felt the case would be quickly solved, or they were scared to say something. Or they didn't want to say anything that might be perceived as negative about Rowell, a good-natured guy who dressed as Santa and delivered toys to critically ill kids at Texas Children's Hospital every Christmas.
"We need those people to come forward who know about that stuff," Harris told the Houston Press.
Rowell answered the door on a chilly night around 7:30 p.m. shirtless and in sweatpants, with a house full of children, suggesting to police that he knew whoever had come knocking.
"Ash was such a kind and loving person, so it's hard for me to think of anyone who really had a grudge on him," Lesli told the Press.
There was, however, the matter of Lesli's two brothers, who Rowell once claimed had threatened his life.
Rowell accused Bryan and Rick Lam in a deposition as part of a bitter lawsuit that Bryan, a former business partner of Rowell's, filed after he was fired. Rowell and his mother, Charlotte, had accused Bryan of embezzlement.
Rowell went so far as to allege that Bryan was threatening him during the deposition, saying Bryan was recording him on his phone and "motioning that he was going to cut my neck. I've been threatened before, and I feel that he might be taking a video to send to someone else."
Rowell also accused Rick of texting two ominous messages to Lesli, upset with how he felt Bryan was being treated: "I'm going to get your husband and his mom; they can't hide from me," and, "If your husband doesn't handle this in a way that makes me happy, I'll take care of him my way."
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Rick later pleaded guilty to federal charges of credit card fraud.
Charlotte told the Press that she's not aware of Rowell being involved in anything illegal, claiming that the only "dangerous people around Ash were Rick and Bryan."
Duff Beer was sold shortly before Rowell's murder. While neither Charlotte nor Rowell ever disclosed how much they made from the sale, sources in the industry pegged the amount at around $8 million.
Anyone with information is urged to call Crime Stoppers' anonymous tip line at 713-222-TIPS, or can reach Sgt. Harris at 713-308-3600.