Paul Andersen: 2.75 + 3.00 = ruined lives
When Russell Thompson confessed to the murder of his “friend” Timothy “Chico” Destromp, he had a blood-alcohol content of 2.75 ? more than twice the amount for legal intoxication. That was an hour after the beating death for which he was charged last week with manslaughter.
Debra Bloss showed up at court in Eagle County during Thompson’s trial with a blood-alcohol content of 3.00 ? three times the amount for legal intoxication. She was an emotional wreck whose self-medication poured out of a bottle.
Adding up those blood-alcohol readings is as sobering as the crime. High blood-alcohol levels and a penchant for violence turned an El Jebel A-frame into a slaughterhouse last February where blood-stained walls revealed the struggling of a victim who drowned in his own blood.
I knew that A-frame before it was demolished this summer. I drove past it regularly taking my son home from school. I often wondered who lived in that dump. On the night of the murder that shack became an adjunct of hell inhabited by demons drunk on vodka and bloodlust.
Two weeks ago, I looked into the eyes of the defendant, Russell Thompson. Summoned for jury duty on his trial for second-degree murder, I was interviewed in chambers by Thompson, the judge and the prosecuting attorney because of my association with The Aspen Times.
Thompson asked if I could weigh the evidence without bias. His face twitched nervously as he spoke and he apologized for “being new to this.” Thompson was scrambling for his life and the strain showed.
I was excused from jury duty, but I had seen enough to feel a visceral repulsion for everyone tainted by a violent act that resulted in the breaking of every facial bone in the victim’s face. How can one not feel loathing for a brutal beating in which the victim drowned in his own blood?
The cast of characters was mortifying. Thompson was a trained boxer who confessed on videotape to killing his friend by beating him to death with his bare fists. At times, Thompson described the killing as if it had been a bravura performance of his pugilistic skills.
Timothy “Chico” Destromp was an abusive drunk who was “OK with beer,” but became “savage” when smashed on vodka, according to his wife, Debra Bloss. He smashed her enough times to develop a reputation as a wife beater.
Bloss was drunk when she showed up at court. Too frightened and intimidated to impugn other murder suspects ? her dubious rescuers ? she drank as a means of excusing herself from painful testimony. She blew a 3.00 at 8:30 in the morning.
When Bloss was sober enough to meet in the judge’s chambers later that day, prosecutor Brenda Parks callously suggested that if every man who had sexual relations with Bloss were brought into court with a possible motive for her protection, the courtroom would be full.
John Rubel, a neighbor of the embattled couple, testified to having an affair with Bloss while she lived with Destromp. Another neighbor, Jason Gray, had warned Destromp to stop beating Bloss. Destromp then sucker punched Gray, who “deflected” his assailant’s attack, according to Gray’s testimony.
The blood-alcohol numbers add up to a dismal picture of substance abuse, violence, casual sex, and bloody vengeance. As Thompson stated during his taped confession, he and Destromp were “two drunk animals fighting each other … I hit, I hit, I hit hard, again and again. I hit. I hit him hard.”
Destromp, Thompson and Bloss lived in a world where drunkenness and violence were habitual, a world where abuse to oneself and to others described relationships on the edge of barbarism.
How is it that ordinary people become savages able to commit a “frighteningly heinous series of events,” as the judge described the macabre murder? The haunting answer lives in the nightmarish vision of a man who was punched to death in El Jebel one cold February night.
[Paul Andersen feels remorse for the ruined lives. His column appears every Monday.]
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I find myself feeling overly tired these days, which I don’t think it’s simply a consequence of nearing the beginning of my seventh decade of existence on this planet.