Murder victim's mom testifies how she found son dead

Thomas Fielder mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.
Thomas Fielder mug shot courtesy of Angelina County Jail.

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – He's accused of stabbing a Huntington man 24 times until he bled to death. Now, he's facing an Angelina County Jury.

Thomas Hugh Fielder, Jr., 40, of Hawkins, watched as prosecuting attorney Katrina Carswell told jurors in her opening statements that the case will come down to the intent of the murder.

Fielder was arrested in December 2009 in Quitman in Wood County for fatally stabbing Gary Lynn Defratus, 47, in his Huntington home.

"Remember one thing throughout this trial that actions speak louder than words," Carswell said.

The state went on to tell jurors Defratus lived in a trailer house just about 80 yards away from his mother.

Carswell told jurors about the night a week before Christmas when Fielder, Defratus and Jay Hines all got together at Defratus' home. She said the three knew each other because they used to work together at Lufkin Industries. Carswell pointed out they did some drugs that night.

Defratus apparently invited Fielder and his wife to spend the night, but when Fielder's wife discovered it was a possibility, she said no because Defratus made her feel uncomfortable.

The state claims Fielder was upset and went back to Defratus' house to confront him about making his girlfriend feel uncomfortable. Carswell said evidence will show a "terrible, brutal fight broke out in [Defratus'] home."

The prosecuting attorney said investigators discovered Defratus' blood in the living room and the kitchen.

"There's evidence of a bloody struggle in that house," Carswell said.

She went on to tell jurors Defratus went to his mother's house, "but he didn't leave before his throat was cut ... There were over 24 knife wounds inflicted on Gary Defratus's body ... through his carotid and through his jugular."

She told jurors Defratus bled to death and his mother found him 36 hours later.

Carswell said Hines later came back to the home and found Fielder upset, anxious and looking for his car keys. She said Fielder had hot-wired his car and started leaving.

The state said Fielder got angry and went to confront the victim.

Fielder was apparently attacked a second time trying to get to his mother's house.

Carswell told jurors there was nothing really physical left behind on the crime scene other than the victim's body, blood and evidence of Fielder's actions, words and conduct.

Fielder's attorney Jerry Whiteker began addressing the jurors.

He said Fielder took his wife and kids with him to Defratus' house the night of the incident and his wife felt uncomfortable around DeFratus.

The defense lawyer went on to say DeFratus attacked his client and it was "one heck of a fight in that trailer."

Whiteker said people don't always use good judgment when they are fighting for their life.

"Self-defense is a right to preserve your life," said Whiteker.

He said the essence of the case is self-defense.

"Thomas Fielder never wanted to be in this position, he defended himself and did what he felt was right," Whiteker explained.

At 10:30 a.m., the state called their first witness, Bonnie Grimes, a warrant officer for the Angelina County Sheriff's office.

Grimes is a former investigator for the sheriff's office and was responsible for photographing the crime scene. Grimes was asked to look over pictures she had taken at the crime scene.

Later, John Snead, a 25-year veteran of the Angelina County Sheriff's Office was called to testify. Snead is a property and evidence officer responsible for taking care of all evidence that comes through the sheriff's office.

Snead looked over materials collected at the crime scene such as knives, a pair of boots, and a guitar stand.

Late Monday morning, the victim's mother, Patsy Parker, was called to the stand Monday morning to testify about the day she discovered her son's body.

"It was later in the morning," Parker remembered. "I was going to the store and as I was walking to the truck, I saw him."

She said she immediately called authorities.

Parker said she hadn't seen her son in several days, but she normally didn't see him on a daily basis.

"You know I've sat and tried to figure out ... it's kind of a blur, that whole rest of the day is kind of a, it's hard to, detail, it's hard to remember," said Parker.

Carswell asked Parker about her demeanor when she was talking with investigators.

"I don't think I was real, I'm usually calm or fairly calm when something happens," Parker said.

The mother began crying as the state showed her a picture of her son. Carswell placed the picture on the corner of her table where the jurors could see.

The state called Charlie Harris to the stand. Harris is an investigator with the Angelina County Sheriff's Office. Harris said he observed the victim's body and a lot of blood cast off on a storage unit and the truck under the carport at Defratus' mother's house.

"Without disturbing anything, I noticed there was a wound to the neck, a couple wounds to the mouth," said Harris.

Carswell showed pictures to the jury of the crime scene and let Harris walk the jury through the photos. Harris said there was a lot of grass, leaves and debris in the victim's hand.

The investigator said there was a trail of blood from the carport to Defratus' home. Harris said it was unusual that they found a folding guitar stand out in Defratus' yard, but there were no guitars in the house. He said initially Defratus' door was open when authorities arrived on scene.

"There was a tool cabinet turned over in the floor," said Harris. "I couldn't find the victim's car keys, wallet, or any of that laying around."

Harris said he later found out a guitar, car keys, and the victim's cell phone had been taken from the home.

Whiteker questioned Harris on why they didn't send fingerprints from the guitar stand to the lab. Harris said they used an alternate light source and didn't see any visible fingerprints on the stand, only smudges.

"It doesn't sound like you made a big effort to find out about the guitar sound or the cell phone, is that right?" Whiteker asked.

Carswell continued questioning Harris, who described a bloody house in disarray when he walked into Defratus' home.

"Even the ceiling fan in that room had blood on it," said Harris.

The state questioned Harris about what they sent to the lab.

"We collected blood swabs from several areas," Harris said. The investigator explained he collected cigarette butts and some straws he found on the floor as well as a plastic spray bottle of some type that had smeared blood on it.

Harris sent the straws to the lab and methamphetamine was detected on one of the straws.

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