On Tuesday, Anthony Milan Ross was booked on suspicion of murdering his children and his ex-wife as well as 19 counts of aggravated assault on an officer

By Christine Pelisek
December 28, 2017 03:21 PM
Advertisement

On Christmas Eve, Anthony Milan Ross posted a video to Facebook of himself and his 11-year-old son, Nigel, wishing everyone a merry Christmas and singing “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.”

“I’m smiling and hanging out with Nigel on Christmas Eve and we are about to embarrass ourselves,” Ross said, laughing. “We are going to sing.”

What seemed like a festive evening turned to horror the following day, when police found the bodies of Nigel and his 10-month-old sister, Anora, inside Ross’ Phoenix apartment.

Their 38-year-old mother, Iris Ross, was discovered lying outside. All three had been fatally shot.

After a four-hour standoff, police arrested Anthony, a 45-year-old vegan chef, motivational speaker and entrepreneur who promoted a plant-based lifestyle using his middle name and claimed to have lost 300 lbs. after cutting out meat and dairy.

On Tuesday, he was booked on suspicion of murdering his children and his ex-wife as well as 19 counts of aggravated assault on an officer and one count of discharging a firearm within city limits.

He is being held without bail at the Maricopa County Jail. He has not yet entered a plea or retained an attorney who could comment on his behalf. What prompted him to allegedly kill his family remains unclear.

Iris’ sister Mary Wogas said Anthony, who appeared in the 2016 documentary Eating You Alive, which also featured appearances from Samuel L. Jackson and James Cameron, had allegedly been acting erratically and threatening Iris, a director and health care administrator, after she filed for divorce in June.

“The man was off his rocker,” Wogas told local TV station KNXV. “One minute he was yelling at her, calling her a ‘whore,’ and the next minute wanting to tell her he loved her and wanted them to be a family unit. He would also claim that he was working with a voodoo priest in New Orleans to put a hex on her. Just very, very dark, very dark intentions.”

Iris Ross (center) with children Nigel and Anora
Gofundme

On Christmas afternoon, Wogas said she received two disturbing text messages from Anthony.

“I received a text yesterday about 2:52 p.m.,” she said. “Two messages, first one saying, ‘I just killed Iris and the kids.’ The second message was ‘with a gun.’ I knew that man was very unstable. I knew he had a very, very dark side. I didn’t know it was this dark.”

Iris’ friend and roommate Lushanya Echeverria told the Arizona Republic that, in recent weeks, Anthony had been harassing his ex-wife and arrived to pick up his children from their home with a handgun.

However, despite their issues, Echeverria said Iris “believed everybody was honest and good, even her ex-husband. That ultimately, he would do right for the children and he would have a healthy parenting relationship with her so that the kids could grow up healthy.”

• Want to keep up with the latest crime coverage? Click here to get breaking crime news, ongoing trial coverage and details of intriguing unsolved cases in the True Crime Newsletter.

Anthony Milan Ross
AP/REX/Shutterstock

‘She Was An Angel Helping People’: Victim’s Friend

Echeverria described Iris as “bubbly, energetic and kind.”

“She was present,” she tells PEOPLE. “She listened and she was fun. She was hospitable and caring. My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time — and without even meeting my mom, she went out and bought herbal remedies and said, ‘Please mail them to your mom, they will help her.’ ”

Echeverria says she met Iris a year ago at a Native American spirituality group.

“She immediately felt like kin,” she says. “I felt like I already knew her. She was pregnant with Anora. It was just really easy to talk to her and she just seemed receptive and open and would be a good friend.”

Echeverria says she later moved in with Iris and her two children.

“She was an angel helping people heal from the inside and out,” she says. “You don’t meet people like that every day.”

Police were called to Anthony’s apartment at 3:45 p.m. on Monday after reports of shots fired. Once there, officers found Iris fatally shot lying on the front patio.

• For more compelling true crime coverage, follow our Crime magazine on Flipboard.

Witnesses told officers that they saw Anthony shoot his ex-wife as she attempted to run away from him, according to allegations in a probable cause statement obtained by PEOPLE. After that, he returned to his apartment and they heard two to three more shots.

A short time later, Anthony went back outside and two witnesses saw him rifling through his ex-wife’s pants pockets. When they asked Anthony if Iris was okay, he allegedly pointed a gun at them and then went back inside.

A police tactical squad began negotiating with Anthony but he allegedly refused to cooperate with authorities, according to the statement.

After the four-hour standoff, police forced entry into his house “because there was a chance the children may still have been alive and they didn’t want to wait any longer,” Phoenix police Sgt. Alan Pfohl tells PEOPLE.

“There was a small exchange of gunfire and one of the officers sustained a minor injury from shrapnel,” he says.

After a brief gunfight, Anthony was taken into custody.

Police found the bodies of his children in different rooms inside the house.