Deputy: Suspect made ‘chilling’ confessions
September 19, 2002
Russell Thompson’s confessions to the fatal beating of his friend in an El Jebel apartment last year were so graphic that a veteran cop told a jury yesterday he found them “chilling.”
Pitkin County Deputy Sheriff Brian Lemke said he had been in law enforcement for 11 1/2 years at the time he assisted in the response to Timothy “Chico” Destromp’s house on a report of a possible fatal beating. Despite his veteran status, he said he was shaken by Thompson’s description of his beating of Destromp.
“He said, ‘I hit him and hit him and hit him.’ Then he paused and said, ‘I hit him hard,'” Lemke testified. It wasn’t just the words but the manner in which Thompson said it that the deputy found chilling.
Lemke said he sensed that he would want to remember that comment verbatim, so he went to his patrol car and wrote it down.
The 12-person jury, and one alternate, listened to three police officers talk Wednesday about Thompson’s confessions and then watched about one hour of a videotaped confession taken three hours after Destromp’s beating.
The jury saw snippets of the video in Deputy District Attorney Brenda Parks’ opening statement Tuesday. On Wednesday, they saw a visibly intoxicated Thompson tell investigators time and again that he was sorry for beating Destromp to death.
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On the tape, Thompson alternated from remorseful and crying to composed to goofy. Throughout his various moods in the interview, a common thread was his disbelief that he beat his friend to death.
“I got into it with my friend,” he said on the tape. “I hit him a couple of times. I didn’t know he would die.”
At another point, Thompson said, “I just hit him ? it was wham, wham, wham.”
Thompson expressed his love for boxing ? “a great sport” ? and talked about various punches and their effects. He referred to hitting Destromp with uppercuts and kidney punches and bragged about how he dodged and weaved to avoid the other man’s attempts to kick him.
“I combo-ed him big-time,” Thompson said. “I hit him really, really hard.”
One consistent theme in Thompson’s taped confession was his claim that he had to take action against Destromp because they got in a fight over Destromp’s physical abuse of his girlfriend, Debra Bloss.
Thompson told authorities that he beat Destromp after witnessing the man beat up Bloss that same night. However, the investigation showed Bloss fled Destromp days earlier and was in Texas at the time of his death.
Taken differently, Thompson’s confession could be interpreted to mean he had witnessed Destromp beat Bloss at other times and decided to retaliate for it.
“Everybody knew that Chico beat his wife,” Thompson said. “I was just unfortunate enough to be there.”
Thompson and Destromp worked together on a construction crew.
At another point in the confession, he explained that he cannot tolerate men beating up women. “I wanted him to feel what it’s like to be smacked by a man,” Thompson said. “You’re not allowed to smack your woman. That’s the rule.”
Thompson said he had stopped at Destromp’s apartment on a Saturday afternoon while riding a bus downvalley to his home in Glenwood Springs. The two drank vodka and beer before arguing about Bloss.
Thompson is trying to discount his confessions. While cross-examining witnesses Wednesday, he established that there were numerous inconsistencies in his stories to police.
He has recanted the confessions and claims a thorough investigation would point to other suspects. Thompson will get a chance to present his case starting today or Friday.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]