Homicide defendant misses hearing
EAGLE ” A man who will be tried for a second time next month on allegations that he beat a friend to death in El Jebel three and a half years ago nearly landed in jail Friday when he failed to appear at a pretrial hearing.
Russell K. Thompson was supposed to appear before Judge Richard Hart of the Eagle County District at 9 a.m. Hart opened the hearing by announcing that he had received “numerous telephone calls from Mr. Thompson regarding dilemmas about transportation.”
Thompson left a cell phone number and asked the judge to call him. Hart reached Thompson during the hearing, put him on speaker phone and asked him to explain his absence.
That started the latest strange chapter in a very bizarre homicide case.
Thompson said he and his sister had received permission to borrow a vehicle from a friend. But they discovered at 5 a.m., when it was time to leave Colorado Springs for Eagle, that the friend decided against letting them take it.
“Some people are picky about their vehicles,” Thompson opined.
He said they tried to rent a car unsuccessfully and finally found another friend to lend them a vehicle. His sister had to drive because Thompson’s license has been revoked.
“We have done more since 5 a.m. than most people will do all day,” Thompson told the judge at about 10 a.m., referring to the effort he and his sister made to secure a car.
Deputy District Attorney Arly Miner wasn’t impressed with the effort. She asked the judge to issue a bench warrant for Thompson’s arrest for missing the hearing. She claimed he had no legitimate excuse for being absent.
“We would be remiss not to put him into custody,” Miner said. She is the fourth prosecutor to handle the Thompson case due to high turnover in the office.
Thompson countered that he had a “pretty good track record” for appearing and that he wasn’t trying to avoid prosecution. He claimed it was “disrespectful” for the prosecutor to suggest it was anything but an accident that he wasn’t at the hearing in person.
Thompson is representing himself in the case, so no attorney could appear on his behalf.
“If I had more time, judge, I would take a Greyhound bus,” Thompson said. He pleaded with the judge not to issue an arrest warrant.
The judge ordered that Thompson must forfeit his existing bond and he issued a warrant for his arrest. He told Thompson that he would cancel that warrant if Thompson appeared at Eagle County Jail before 5 p.m. Friday.
Thompson easily beat the deadline. He showed up at 3:21 p.m., then was able to return home.
Thompson is scheduled to go on trial next month on the charge of manslaughter for the beating death of Timothy “Chico” Destromp. The two men were co-workers in the construction industry. They were drinking beer and vodka in Destromp’s El Jebel apartment on a February night when police believe an argument broke out.
Thompson ran to an adjacent house that night, covered in blood, and called 911. He confessed to beating Destromp to death with his fists. He confessed on videotape twice more in less than 24 hours.
Thompson later recanted. He claimed he passed out in Destromp’s apartment and, during his blackout, the man got into a fight with a neighbor.
Thompson was tried on a charge of second-degree murder. He was found guilty of a lesser charge of manslaughter by a jury, but the conviction was overturned by Hart on a motion by Thompson. He claimed that the prosecutor at the time didn’t properly disclose all evidence she would enter during the trial. Thompson said that harmed his ability to prepare his defense.
The District Attorney’s Office was able to retry Thompson on the manslaughter charge.