Thompson sent to prison for nine years for manslaughter
November 21, 2002
Russell Thompson’s insistence that he didn’t beat a friend to death in El Jebel in February 2001 cost him extra time in the state penitentiary.
Thompson was sentenced Wednesday to nine years in the Colorado Department of Corrections. He was convicted Sept. 23 of reckless manslaughter in the beating death of Timothy “Chico” Destromp.
Eagle County District Judge Richard Hart told Thompson he wouldn’t consider a lighter sentence “largely because of your unwillingness to take responsibility for what was credibly proven.”
Thompson, 39, repeated his claims during the sentencing hearing that he didn’t beat Destromp and that “personally I do not accept the verdict of the jury.”
He claimed that justice was not being served with his conviction.
“I wonder if Chico’s looking at me ? I’m sure that he is … He’s passing judgment on a lot of people in this case. I’m sure he’s angry with Ms. Parks,” said Thompson, referring to Deputy District Attorney Brenda Parks.
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Thompson renewed his claims that Parks was more interested in a conviction than the truth. He filed a motion for a retrial based on claims that Parks didn’t properly disclose who she would call as witnesses in the trial. That hindered his defense, he said.
Hart rejected the request for a retrial although he said he may reverse himself upon full review of court transcripts.
@ATD Sub heds:Prosecutor sought 12 years
@ATD body copy: Thompson faced an automatic sentence of two to six years in prison for his conviction of manslaughter, unless the judge found aggravated or extraordinary circumstances which warranted a lighter or stiffer penalty.
Parks argued that the “brutality” of Destromp’s beating warranted extra time in prison. She noted that the pathologist’s report concluded Destromp was hit up to 40 times in the face and autopsy photographs showed “where every bone in Timothy’s face were crushed. The skin was pretty much turning to mush because of those blows,” said Parks.
Parks said Thompson’s refusal to take responsibility for the crime, even after conviction by a 12-person jury, is “probably the most horrific thing.” She also made a reference to his ability to raise doubts in the minds of some people and his smooth demeanor when representing himself in the trial.
“He is probably one of the best con artists I’ve ever seen,” said Parks. “Mr. Thompson is masterful and talented at manipulating.”
She noted that he was convicted of aggravated robbery in 1982 and that he had three drunk driving cases filed against him, the latest in Summit County just a few days before Destromp’s death.
She read several letters from family and friends of Destromp, including one from Francis Barkyoumb, a first cousin of Destromp who regarded him as a little brother while growing up in Connecticut.
“Had Mr. Thompson shown any remorse for his actions, I would have left well enough alone,” Barkyoumb wrote. But he said he felt Thompson was already getting off easy for the conviction of manslaughter instead of second-degree murder.
@ATD Sub heds:Family appeals for leniency
@ATD body copy: Thompson had several family members and friends from the Jehovah’s Witnesses church appeal for leniency for him. Many broke into tears while providing character references.
Becky Matchette, the sister of Destromp’s common-law wife, said she was a minister who has prayed with Thompson and learned about his character. He is guilty of nothing, she claimed.
“This man will appeal this, as you know,” Matchette said. “With proper legal counsel, he will win.”
Thompson’s mother, Patricia Helmbolt, and his sister, Diana Young, claimed that cops and prosecutors hadn’t done their jobs.
“There has been no justice or closure for Chico in this matter,” said Helmbolt.
“Russell is the only one in the courtroom today who will continue to seek justice for Chico and himself,” said Young.
@ATD Sub heds:Probation officer recommendation
@ATD body copy: The presentencing report by the probation office recommended three to six years of prison for Thompson. It noted that he would receive mandatory parole after three years.
The report didn’t conclude that Thompson was shirking responsibility for the crime but that he simply couldn’t remember what happened and didn’t believe he would kill his friend.
The report also showed that Thompson’s conviction for robbery occurred when he was 19 years old. He drove a getaway car but didn’t otherwise participate in the crime. He served less than a year in prison for the crime.
The report stated that many of Thompson’s crimes stem from alcohol, which it said he realizes.
Judge Hart said Thompson’s past problems with alcohol plus his failed opportunities to solve those problems played a role in the nine-year sentence. Thompson gets credit for 430 days that he has served in Eagle County Jail. It wasn’t clear when he would be eligible for parole.
Parks said she was satisfied with the sentence even though she sought 12 years. She also failed to win conviction at trial of second-degree murder, which would have carried an automatic sentence of eight to 24 years, double under aggravated circumstances.
[Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org]