Plans are underway for a memorial performance by local musicians on Friday, December 16, to honor virtuoso guitarist Johnny Asia, who died on November 19 at his home in Phoenicia. His wife, Solane Verraine, remains in custody at the Ulster County jail, accused by the sheriff’s department of poisoning her husband with alcohol and prescription drugs.
The Ulster County District Attorney’s office is proceeding with investigation into the circumstances of Asia’s death, and D.A. Holley Carnright said the case will go to the grand jury. The prosecution has six months to prepare the case, but Carnight suspects the process will not take that long.
Her lawyer, Kevin Harp of Kingston, stated, “It is our position, based on our investigation thus far and the facts, that Ms. Verraine did not commit any crime in regard to the death of her husband. We are hopeful as the case is further investigated by the District Attorney’s Office, it will become apparent that a murder charge was not appropriate, and they will decide this case is not a criminal matter which should be presented to a grand jury.”
Verraine’s friends, who have described her as “loving” and believe her incapable of murder, have been organizing a rotation of visits to support the defendant in jail during the limited visiting hours available.
Johnny Asia was the stage name of the man identified by police as John W. Owings, Jr. His Facebook page gives his age as 65. Friends reported that Asia had suffered for years from chronic illness and back pain and had taken a turn for the worse in recent weeks. In Facebook posts, friends expressed shock and dismay over the musician’s untimely death.
Saxophonist Gus Mancini said a memorial for Asia will be held Friday, December 16, at 8 p.m. at Harmony at the Wok n’ Roll, 52 Mill Hill Road in Woodstock. The event will feature musicians, poets, and videos of Asia performing with Phoebe Legere and avant guitarist Dom Minasi. The line-up so far includes Dennis Yerry, Joe Finn, Richard Carr, Studio Stu, John Holt, Davida, Vincenza Dante, David Laks, Pablo Shine, Mancini’s SOnic SOul band with Peter Head, Michael Colletti, Ruperto Ifil, Pamela Twining, and J.J. Blickstein.