Trial set for man accused of homicide
An Eagle County judge ruled Wednesday there was enough evidence to charge Russell Kyle Thompson with second-degree murder for the slaying of an El Jebel man last month.
Judge Terri Diem’s decision came after prosecutors made their case that Timothy “Chico” Destromp suffered a “savage, brutal beating” at the hands of Thompson after a night of partying and arguing Saturday, Feb. 10.
When the argument erupted into a fight, said Chief Deputy District Attorney John Clune, Destromp was no match for Thompson, who told investigators he had been a semi-pro boxer for 12 years in Colorado Springs.
“This wasn’t a fight. This wasn’t a fight at all,” Clune said while trying to convince Diem that the second-degree murder charge should be taken to trial. “This was a massacre.”
Thompson’s lawyer, public defender Elizabeth Espinosa, didn’t deny that her client beat Destromp to death in his tiny apartment on Valley Road in El Jebel. But she claimed that Destromp provoked the fight by taunting Thompson, taking swings and trying to kick him.
She said Thompson didn’t realize he was landing enough punches to kill Destromp.
Thompson’s perception was that “he was just giving him a beating, not killing him,” said Espinosa. “He only meant to hurt him.”
The fight broke out sometime around 10 p.m. that Saturday night. According to testimony in court, Thompson, 37, took a bus to El Jebel that afternoon, met up with Destromp, 44, and walked to the liquor store with him for a bottle of vodka.
The two men returned to Destromp’s apartment and drank into the night. They started arguing when Destromp accused Thompson of messing around with his girlfriend. Thompson denied it, and cooler heads prevailed.
The fight flared again later in the night, and Thompson admitted to investigators that he hit Destromp with two kidney punches. Destromp doubled over and puked but allegedly resumed the fight when he recovered.
Detective Scott Hunter of the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office said Thompson’s story varied on what happened next in two different confessions – one when he was sober and one when he was intoxicated.
At first, Thompson said he hit Destromp with eight punches to his face and body. When he was sober, he claimed he hit Destromp with between 30 and 40 punches.
Whatever the exact number, the punches had devastating effects. Dr. Rob Kurtzman, a Grand Junction pathologist, testified that every bone between Destromp’s forehead and mouth was broken. His nose and upper jaw were fractured. The collapse of the facial structure and the resulting blood asphyxiated Destromp.
After the beating, Thompson ran to a neighboring home and asked the occupants to dial 911 for him. A tape of that telephone call to the police dispatcher started with a relatively calm Thompson getting increasingly distraught while describing what happened.
Thompson started by reporting that “this man” had beaten his wife and that he was concerned for the woman’s safety. He claimed the woman had fled the apartment in her van after the beating.
Then Thompson told the dispatcher that he had taken retributive action against the man who was beating the woman.
“I beat him really, really, really bad,” said Thompson. “There’s a chance that I killed him.”
He repeated that claim several times, then told the dispatcher, “Ma’am, I’m really bummed.”
In a final explanation to the police dispatcher, he explained, “I said leave her alone. He wouldn’t leave her alone.
“I think I killed him. I’m freakin’ out.”
Thompson hung his head and shook it while the tape was played in court Wednesday. He was sitting at the defendant’s table flanked by lawyers from the public defender’s office.
Thompson waited at the home until a deputy arrived and took him into custody. He’s been in Eagle County Jail since.
He allegedly granted one request for an interview with investigators Sunday morning, a few hours after the slaying. He gave another the next day.
Detective Hunter said Thompson was “real cooperative” and appeared to be intoxicated the night of the killing. A test confirmed Thompson had a blood alcohol level of 0.275.
Deputies concluded that Destromp’s girlfriend wasn’t in the apartment at the time of the killing. She was en route to Florida.
Although it didn’t come up in court Wednesday, sources familiar with the case said the girlfriend may have confided to Thompson about her disgust from getting beat up by Destromp.
Destromp’s alcohol level at the time of his death was about 0.416, according to the pathologist. That level would have killed most people, but Destromp showed signs of chronic alcoholism and had a higher tolerance to liquor, Kurtzman said.
Under questioning from Espinosa, Kurtzman acknowledged that the level of alcohol in Destromp probably dulled his reaction to pain. Espinosa pressed the point that Thompson didn’t realize he was putting Destromp’s life in jeopardy during the beating. He didn’t “knowingly” cause the death of Destromp – which would be required for a second-degree murder charge.
Espinosa asked the judge to reduce the charge to criminally negligent homicide, which would essentially mean Thompson should have known his actions could have resulted in Destromp’s death, but it “didn’t click” in his mind for some reason.
Clune countered that when someone throws 30 to 40 punches in a fight, more than half to the victim’s head, it cannot be “reasonably” argued that Thompson was unaware of the possible outcome.
Diem cited Thompson’s statements on the 911 call and in the two interviews with investigators to support her assertion that the second-degree murder charge was warranted.
In her most damning statement, the judge said Thompson’s remorse after the beating “was fairly self-serving at that point.” She also said she believed Thompson’s story that he witnessed Destromp beating his girlfriend Feb. 10 was concocted as an excuse for Thompson’s actions.
She forwarded the case to district court for trial. Thompson was ordered to appear again March 28, when he may be required to enter a plea.
Diem did agree to lower Thompson’s bond from $150,000 to $75,000. Espinosa said Thompson has family throughout Colorado who will support him. He plans to live with relatives in Colorado Springs and resume working if he makes bond, Espinosa said.
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