Woman says murder suspect is innocent
February 21, 2002
A longtime acquaintance of the man who was beaten to death in El Jebel last year told a judge yesterday she believes police have the wrong suspect in custody.
Rebecca Matchette said in a court hearing that the suspect, Russell K. Thompson, “doesn’t have it in his heart” to commit murder.
Matchette said she knew the homicide victim, Timothy “Chico” Destromp, for years because her sister lived with him. She said Destromp made enemies because of the way he treated her sister.
“He used to beat her repeatedly,” Matchette told Eagle District Judge Richard Hart. “Many people saw this.
“There could have been a number of people who wished to have him killed.”
Arrest records show Destromp was cited in February 1997 for domestic violence and again in March 2000 for third-degree assault for attacks on his girlfriend, Debbie Bloss. The second arrest came when he allegedly beat her with his hands and her own work boots because the leftover Thanksgiving turkey was too dry.
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Thompson hopes to create reasonable doubt among a jury by noting that many people saw how Destromp treated Bloss and wanted to stop it. Thompson’s investigation has centered on Destromp’s neighbors in a ramshackle A-frame house in El Jebel.
Thompson claimed during the hearing before Judge Hart yesterday that the sheriff’s office and district attorney “don’t want to know the truth” about what happened on the night Destromp was killed. Thompson confessed on the night of the death but he has recanted.
“The sheriff’s office chose to be lazy and unprofessional,” he said. “There’s a killer out there, your Honor, and he’s running around free.”
Thompson is serving as his own attorney after firing his public defender for allegedly not pursuing his case aggressively enough. The case is scheduled for trial next month, although Thompson is seeking more time to prepare his defense.
Like Thompson, Matchette told the judge that she didn’t believe the investigation was thorough enough. She urged the judge to reduce Thompson’s bail (see related story) so he could better pursue his defense.
After the hearing, Matchette renewed an appeal she made in a recent letter to the editor asking for an attorney to step forward and take Thompson’s case. Thompson and his family cannot afford an attorney.
The court has appointed a legal adviser as well as a forensics expert and investigator at the public’s cost.