LaDonna and Troy French on cruise ship_chapter 5

A photo of LaDonna and Troy French taken on a cruise ship vacation they took to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary.

WENTWORTH — Jose Alvarez, who is charged with two counts of first-degree murder in the 2012 shooting deaths of Douglas “Troy” and LaDonna French, is expected to plead guilty today in Rockingham County Superior Court.

On Thursday, Rockingham County Superior Court Trial Court Coordinator Barbara Rebb confirmed the hearing. An official at the Rockingham County Clerk of Courts Office confirmed the hearing would be a plea deal.

Rockingham County Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson will preside over the hearing at 9:30 a.m.

Alvarez has been held in the Rockingham County Jail since Aug. 25, 2015, when investigators linked five drops of blood found at the crime scene to him.

He is accused of shooting to death his sister-in-law’s parents on Feb. 4, 2012.

Investigators said the couple’s daughter, Whitley French, was visiting from college and was asleep in her childhood bed at her parents’ house when a man climbed on top of her and tried to muffle her screams. The couple heard their daughter’s voice and came running, she told investigators.

Whitley French, then 19, dialed 911 and told operators her parents were shot.

An off-duty Highway Patrol trooper responded to the shooting first and found LaDonna French, 45, shot to death at the bottom of a staircase. Troy French, 48, was found next to a kitchen island that separated the kitchen from the living room.

The double homicide happened at 791 Pinewood Road in the Bethany portion of Rockingham County.

Rockingham County Sheriff Sam Page held an impromptu news conference outside the couple’s house explaining they had been killed. He withheld the couple’s names until their then-14-year-old son Hunter French could be notified.

After the first week, the sheriff gradually stopped talking about the case, only occasionally holding news conferences to announce that the gun used in the homicides belonged to Troy French and that DNA had been found at the crime scene.

Residents knew the deputies were searching for a man in a hooded sweatshirt, but little else.

Court records indicate five drops of blood were found on the staircase above LaDonna French’s body.

The discovery that the blood drops connected Jose Alvarez to the crime scene was made more than three years later, and he was arrested.

Three months earlier, Whitley French Alvarez married Jose Alvarez’s brother John Alvarez.

She was dating John Alvarez at the time of her parents’ deaths.

The couple now lives in Texas.

Jose Alvarez has been in jail for 318 days.

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Contact Danielle Battaglia at (336) 373-4476, and follow @dbattagliaNR on Twitter.

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