Lufkin man claims self-defense in murder trial

Deandre Thomas mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Deandre Thomas mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Deandre Thomas in court Monday.
Deandre Thomas in court Monday.
Larry Landers with his wife in this dated photo.
Larry Landers with his wife in this dated photo.

By Jena Johnson - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The prosecution believes Deandre Thomas murdered his father-in-law. The defense claims self-defense.

"Larry was very disabled for years," said Vinessa Green, the sister of the victim, Vinessa Green. "It was worse. So for him to be a threat to him, it's just like that baby being a threat to me."

The prosecution wants to know how stabbing someone nine time with this three-inch blade constitutes self-defense.

"I feel like he didn't even have to stab him at all and especially to do it a person nine times, that's a grudge," Green said. "That's hate."

Thomas' brother Diallo Thomas says in reality it was quite the opposite. He says Landers disliked his brother. An eye witness testified Landers put out his cigarette on the back of Thomas' neck and then pulled a knife.

"I believe that Mr. Landers really came there looking for an altercation and my brother just did what he thought was necessary to defend himself," Diallo Thomas said.

He says watching his brother defend himself is painful.

"I just worry about his mental state," Diallo Thomas said. "Also the mental state of the victim's as well. You know, it's not just about my brother. A man lost his life."

A life Green says was violently taken now leaves a hole in her family.

"I miss my brother," Green said. "I just want to see justice done."

Editor's note: Jena Johnson gave updates to the trial at on Monday. Below are her updates.

A Lufkin man's attorney, in opening arguments Monday, claims his client stabbed his father-in-law to death in self-defense.

Deandre Thomas is on trial for the March 2008 death of Larry Landers. According to previous reports, Thomas stabbed Landers multiple times at the Cabbage Patch Club in Lufkin.

"Mr. Thomas acted the way he did because he was afraid for his life," said John Tunnel, Thomas' defense attorney. "Therefore ladies and gentleman he acted in self-defense."

The prosecution sees it much differently. They argue Thomas was nearly 25 years younger than Landers and in better shape than his victim he claims attacked him.

The prosecution also points out Thomas stabbed Landers nine times.

In the early morning hours of March 15, 2008, Angelina Co. Sheriff's deputies rushed to the scene of a stabbing at Cabbage Patch Club in north Lufkin.

"I saw the crowd gathered around the gentleman," testified Angelina Co. Sheriff's Deputy Donna Strickland.

The state called Sgt. Bart Riley to the stand mid-morning. Prosecuting attorney Tony Latino asked Riley to describe photographs snapped at the crime scene.

"That's the grassy area where the weapon was found," Riley testified.

The alleged murder weapon was discovered some 150 feet away in a field near the crime scene.

Latino showed the jury the alleged murder weapon, a knife with approximately a three-inch blade.

Riley testified Thomas had left the club after the stabbing. Within 24 hours, Riley said Thomas turned himself in.

The state called an eye witness to the stand. Tony Evans, 22, testified he watched the fight break out just after 2 a.m. in March 2008.

Evans said there was an argument, but he's not sure what it was about. When Evans was asked to point out Thomas in the courtroom, he seemed confused and was unable to do so.

Moving on, Latino asked him to describe what he saw.

"Deandre was on top of him [Larry Landers]," Evans testified. "At first it was a scuffle. They were scuffling back and fourth, but it was Larry's knife because he had it in the beginning of the fight."

Evans said he tried to pick-up Landers. "There was blood on my hands," he testified. "I was in shock."

Tunnel asked Evans if Landers seemed disabled during the fight.

"He always had a cane, but I was like dang!" Evans testified.

Evans agreed with Tunnel that Landers was holding his own in the fight.

Evans admitted he was high on PCP and alcohol that night, but said it did not effect his recollection of the fight.

James Price was present the night of the alleged murder. On the witness stand, he described a loud commotion that seemed to be coming from the club's paring lot. He said two women were fighting and a rather large crowd was beginning to watch.

While on his to way to join the crowd, he testified he saw Landers put out his cigarette on the back of Thomas' neck.

"Thomas was asking him why he burned him," said Price. "Then Landers reached in his pocket and pulled out a knife."

Price described Thomas yelling for help. "He said, 'somebody get him, somebody get him. He's got a knife.'"

By this point a crowd close to 250 people were watching as Thomas and Landers struggled for the knife, Price told the jury.

But nobody came to either one of their aids. "They just stood back and watched," said Price.

After the fight was over, Price recalled what Thomas said before leaving the scene. "He looked down and said man and threw the knife," he testified.

"I made a comment to myself wow, he's gone," said Price.

Price said his wife, who is a registered nurse, tried to revive Landers, but it was too late.

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