Key witness shows up to court drunk
September 18, 2002
Trouble was brewing for homicide suspect Russell Thompson Tuesday when his one of his star witnesses showed up for a hearing with a blood-alcohol reading of nearly .300.
Debra Bloss, the former girlfriend of the man Thompson is accused of beating to death, appeared before a judge Tuesday morning so he could determine if her testimony was admissible in the trial.
Eagle County District Judge Richard Hart ordered a blood-alcohol test performed after other court officials suspected Bloss had been drinking. A source familiar with the result said the test showed Bloss’ alcohol level was at .294 at about 8:45 a.m. ? almost three times higher than the law requires for a drunk driving conviction.
The judge wouldn’t take Bloss’ testimony in the morning and she was ordered to take a nap in the sheriff’s office. She was awakened in time for a 1 p.m. hearing before the judge but away from the jury.
Under questioning from Thompson, who is representing himself, Bloss provided a glimpse of her life with Timothy “Chico” Destromp and his stormy relationship with some of their neighbors. Destromp was beaten to death Feb. 10, 2001, in the El Jebel apartment he shared with Bloss. Thompson is facing a charge of second-degree murder for the death.
Bloss said she met Destromp in 1993 and soon began living with him. “He was OK if he was drinking just beer,” she said. “But if he was drinking his vodka or tequila he was quite savage.”
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That savage behavior included beating her, she said. One of their neighbors, Jason Gray, realized she was being beaten and confronted Destromp about his actions, according to Bloss.
“Jason Gray came down and warned Chico if he ever beat me again like he did, he’d take care of him,” Bloss testified.
After the warning, she witnessed Destromp punching Gray in the kidney, she said. Gray proceeded to “pummel” Destromp, Bloss said.
Bloss acknowledged that she was a “drinking buddy” of Gray’s and that she had sex with him “one time.”
Bloss said she witnessed Gray warning Destromp at least one other time that he better not beat her up.
Thompson said it was critical to his defense that Bloss’ testimony be allowed in the trial. He contended it shows that someone other than him had motive, opportunity and intent to kill Destromp.
“We believe he carried out his threat,” said Thompson.
Assistant Deputy District Attorney Brenda Parks wanted Bloss’ testimony barred from the trial. She said one altercation between Gray and Destromp didn’t establish motive, opportunity or intent. In addition, she said that if everyone that Bloss had sex with had a motive to kill Destromp, “we’ll have the courtroom full” of suspects. Bloss let out a sigh of apparent disbelief or anger at that comment.
Judge Hart ruled that much of Bloss’ testimony had relevance in the case. He ruled that Bloss could testify about Destromp’s beating of her on the occasion that produced the warning from Gray. Destromp’s allegedly abusive relationship with Bloss in general couldn’t be disclosed, the judge said.
Bloss is expected to testify Thursday. Parks will likely challenge her ability to testify if Bloss shows any sign of drinking.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]