Six-year sentence in El Jebel beating |

Six-year sentence in El Jebel beating

Russell Thompson

EAGLE ” Russell Kyle Thompson was sentenced Monday to six years in a state penitentiary for the brutal beating death of a man in El Jebel more than five years ago.

Thompson, 42, pleaded guilty in January to reckless manslaughter in the death of Timothy “Chico” Destromp. However, he said during a court hearing Monday that his plea was more the result of his inability to maintain the legal fight than an admission of guilt.

During an emotional, 15-minute statement to Eagle County District Judge Richard Hart, Thompson concentrated on how the criminal charge has affected him.

“It’s adversely affected my life for five years,” Thompson said. “The fact that there’s a guilty plea at all arises from the fact that I can’t do this anymore.”

He said he doesn’t recognize himself in the mirror because he has aged so drastically in the past five years. He said his mother has suffered as only a mother can over the allegations he is facing.

Thompson also expressed sorrow over Destromp’s death and acknowledged at one point that he might have played a role in the incident. He noted he was so drunk on the night Destromp died that he blacked out.

“I was at least partially responsible for the death of my friend,” Thompson said, without clearly defining his possible responsibility. “I wish I had the answers because it haunts me,” he added.

Investigators alleged Thompson and Destromp were drinking beer and vodka in Destromp’s El Jebel apartment during the day and into the evening on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2001, when something triggered a vicious fight. Destromp was severely beaten. A coroner’s report indicted that virtually every bone in his face was broken.

“He basically asphyxiated on his own blood,” Assistant District Attorney Karen Romeo said in court Monday. “Russell Thompson is responsible for his death.”

Thompson broke down in court when he recalled cradling the bloodied Destromp during the last minutes of Destromp’s life. The men worked construction together and were drinking buddies.

“I see him reaching out to me, judge. And the fact that I couldn’t help him,” Thompson said, struggling for breath and his voice breaking.

Thompson said Destromp was trying to tell him something shortly before he died. Thompson decided to run and get help rather than stay by Destromp’s side ” a decision he regrets.

“He needed help, but he shouldn’t have died alone,” Thompson said while struggling to keep his composure. “I’m haunted by that.”

Thompson initially confessed to the beating, then recanted. He was tried for second-degree murder, but a jury convicted him of the lesser charge of reckless manslaughter. Thompson was sentenced to nine years, but the conviction was later overturned on appeal.

Six of Thompson’s friends and family members also spoke at the hearing and sought leniency from Hart. The judge responded that while others could debate Thompson’s guilt or innocence, he could only work from the guilty plea that Thompson entered Jan. 26.

Hart said that Thompson was “a pretty pathetic human being” when he first appeared before him in the case. He said he is a “much more satisfactory” person now.

“I commend you for the changes you’ve made in your life,” Hart said.

Romeo said Thompson could be eligible for parole in 12 to 18 months. It depends on his credit for time served and his actions while in the Department of Corrections.

Thompson remains out of jail on bond until June 11. He received the judge’s permission to stay out so he can attend his daughter’s high school graduation in Colorado Springs.

Vail, Colorado

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