LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - By Holley Nees - email
LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Testimony continued in Thomas Fielder's murder trial Wednesday morning with former Texas Ranger Sgt. Pete Maskunas using photos and diagrams to explain blood patterns found under Defratus' mother's carport, where his body was discovered.
Thomas Hugh Fielder, Jr., 40, is accused of brutally stabbing Gary Lynn Defratus, 47, of Huntington, until he bled to death. Now he's facing an Angelina County Jury.
The defendant sat next to his attorney, watching as Maskunas explained in detail blood patterns that indicated the victim could have been stabbed as he was going down under the carport.
"I believe he was down low ... on the ground," said Maskunas.
Maskunas investigated the case and was present when Fielder was arrested for the murder in December 2009 in Quitman.
Angelina County Assistant District Attorney Katrina Carswell has told jurors the case will come down to the intent of the slaying.
Maskunas investigated the case. In his opinion, the attack started in Defratus' living room where initial wounds were made to his wrist, head and face area.
Carswell asked the former ranger where he believes Defratus' coratid and jugular arteries were severe.
"I believe the evidence shows that the lethal wound occurred in the house, in the kitchen area," said Maskunas. "There was a significant amount of struggle that occurred maybe immediately prior to the toolbox being knocked off."
Maskunas went on to explain that normally a cut to the neck like Defratus suffered would leave significant splatters of blood each time the heart beats, unless the victim was holding his neck wound as he believes Defratus was after he received the fatal wound.
"We know that there is an open wound to an artery based on the evidence we have in the house," said Maskunas.
He said there is no evidence of anyone else's blood, other than Defratus' in the living room.
"I believe that there is evidence that shows that there were a number of stab wounds after the arterial was cut," he testified.
Maskunas said if the majority of attacking occurred from behind, he would expect there to be very little blood on the attacker.
He said there was swipe blood patterns in the hallway of Defratus' house believed to be left by the assailant.
"We know the blood came from Gary Defratus, but I don't believe that Gary Defratus left those patterns," he said.
Maskunas said it was interesting to note there was a guitar pick located among a blood spatter, but there was no blood on the pick, indicating the pick was left there after the attack.
Carswell began asking Maskunas about his experience on crime scenes and with the claim of self-defense.
"The claim of self defense is by itself not something that we see very often," he said. Maskunas said when they do see the claim the wounds are usually on the front area of the victim.
He said the wounds in this case do not indicate to him a person that was attacking in self-defense.
"Other than the head and throat there are not a lot of injuries to the front area at all," Maskunas testified.
He said Defratus' wounds lead him to believe that "the person causing those wounds was actually doing the attacking rather than being attacked."
Maskunas went on to explain how he and Angelina County Sheriff's Detective Mike Jones interviewed Fielder for about three hours after he was taken into custody.
Fielder leaned his head on his left hand as he listens to a taped interview between him and authorities just hours after he was taken into custody.
The video shows a cuffed Fielder being walked into an interview room. The video shows Maskunas take the suspect to a seat in a white room and begin talking to him at 9:37 p.m. on December 23, 2009.
Fielder told the ranger he knows Defratus and they used to work together at Lufkin Industries.
Jurors listened as Fielder's voice boomed over the speakers.
Fielder said he went to Huntington to get a little extra cash and he took his baby boy down to see everyone.
Fielder began talking about the night he visited Defratus. He also told the ranger about his drug use that night. He said he snorted a little methamphetamine and he stayed until 8:30 or 9 that night.
"He [Defratus] is always asking for a girlfriend," Fielder said.
Maskunas began asking Fielder about his girlfriend or wife and what she was saying the night they visited Defratus.
"She just didn't feel comfortable, but she's like that a lot around people," Fielder said.
He said when he and Defratus went for a ride in the car his wife didn't even want to get out with his friend, Jay Hines.
Maskunas began pointing to Fielder's arm and asking him how he got all the bruises and scratches.
"I work on vehicles and moving stuff around," said Fielder.
Maskunas leaned in and lowered his voice.
"Why don't you tell me what really happened," Maskunas asked.
"Anyone who knows me would say, I'm not, I'm not that person," Fielder insisted. "I don't know why someone would do that to Gary ... he was a good person."
Maskunas said he wanted Fielder to understand he would get prints from the scene.
The former ranger said now was the time for Fielder to tell his side of the story, "after this time, you and I won't have much chance to talk."
"I'm not going to jeopardize my life for my son, okay?" Fielder said.
Maskunas explained to the suspect he was taken into custody under a warrant for murder.
"I told you everything that happened," said Fielder.
"Is there a chance that those bruises weren't from somebody hitting on you?" asked Maskunas.
"No," Fielder replied. "They come from working, honestly."
"I want you to tell me the truth ... you've left some stuff out," said Maskunas.
Fielder insisted he and Defratus never got into a fight.
"Did you just attack him," asked Maskunas.
Fielder said he found out on the news about the murder.
"It looks like the person that killed Gary was just a completely, out-of-control, homicidal maniac," Maskunas told the suspect.
"Is there any reason why we would find your footprints in his blood?" asked Maskunas.
"No," said Fielder. "I left whenever I said I did."
"I don't think you went over there with the intentions of things getting as bad as they did, I need to know how it got to that point, I need you to explain that to me," said Jones.
Fielder said he didn't go back over to Defratus' house, but the detective said he knows that's not true.
"Okay," said Fielder. "It's not me, I wasn't there, I mean I didn't, I mean, I help everybody out, I'm not a vicious or mean person."
After more questions Fielder said, "There was no reason for me to go back, I had already seen him."
Fielder said he and his girlfriend haven't had any problems except for her lying about "stupid [stuff.]"
"We know we've solved the crime," said Maskunas.
"Okay," said Fielder.
"We just don't know why," said Maskunas.
Authorities began asking Fielder if he was going to try to defend himself in a fight what would he use to get away.
"I carry a pocket knife ... but not as a weapon," said Fielder. He said his friend got him into collecting knives.
Fielder began crying and planted his face talking about his baby boy.
"My dad was never there for me, I swore I'd never be like that for my boy," said Fielder. "Y'all are trying to take me away from my boy."
"I'm not involved in this," Fielder said. "I'm telling you right now, I had nothing to do with this."
"My boy knows who I am," said Fielder.
"You're not doing anything for your boy right now," Maskunas said.
"I wouldn't be sitting here right now if I was involved," said Fielder.
"Yes you would because we caught you," said Maskunas.
Fielder stops investigators and asks if he can call his mom. They dial the number for him and hand him the cell phone.
"Mom, pick up," Fielder said in the phone.
After he put the phone down, Maskunas continued.
"You killed a man," he said.
"No I didn't," Fielder said emphatically.
"You have people in here that are not backing your story up ... you're not showing any kind of remorse for what you've done," Maskunas told the suspect.
The ranger then began telling the suspect he should tell them the truth so one day when his son is 18 he will read the court transcripts "then he'll know his dad had a reason for what he did and he didn't just go out of control like some sort of crazy person."
The investigators then began questioning Fielder about how he knew that Defratus was killed Friday when he said he found out about the murder on the news.
"How else would you know he got killed that night," Jones asked. He said there were only a limited number of people that knew what night Defratus actually died since his body wasn't discovered until 36 hours after the incident.
Jones told him they hadn't released the information about when the death occurred.
"Y'all are saying I did it, I left Friday, so now y'all are twisting my words up on me," said Fielder.
"Today was my birthday," said Maskunas.
"Happy birthday," said Fielder.
"Well I'm just saying ... we're working," Maskunas said. He followed that by explaining they are trying to solve the case and bring closure to Defratus' family.
Maskunas tried explaining to Fielder that it would give him a better defense if he would at least tell them why he committed the crime since they already have a strong enough case to convict him.
"A mother doesn't deserve to be the one to find her son laying out there," said Jones.
Maskunas explained that Fielder's wife told them that she thought it all happened because Defratus made a pass at her and Fielder got mad.
"Tell me I'm not going to be locked away for the rest of my life," said Fielder.
Maskunas said the only thing he can promise is that if Fielder is honest with them, he will try to let his wife keep taking care of their son and try not to get CPS to take him away since investigators have proof of Fielder and his wife's drug use. The ranger said if Fielder would cooperate, he would try to make sure his wife and child came to visit him in prison.
Maskunas left the room to get Fielder's wife.
Wednesday afternoon, testimony continued with Joey Scott taking the stand to testify about how Fielder had called him several times from jail.
"He had asked me to say that I had seen him the night in question," said Scott.
The witness said he had seen Fielder that night, but it wasn't at the time that Fielder wanted him to say.
He said Fielder asked him to lie about four or five times. He said he was told to get with Fielder's wife.
Whiteker pointed out that Fielder never threatened Scott.
"He asked me to make a statement," said Scott.
However, Scott said he never actually made a statement.
Prosecutors continued playing the taped interview between Fielder and investigators after Scott left the stand.
"He [Defratus] was a little different, not…he was just different," said Fielder. "We left and nothing out of the ordinary."
He said Defratus was talking about what he was going to do to his new car.
Fielder explained how his wife is easily frightened because of things that had happened to her in the past.
He said Defratus and their friend Jay Hines were playing guitar that night.
Fielder said he left and he started getting text messages from Hines' phone. He said when he got back to Defratus' home, "the whole atmosphere was different."
Fielder said his wife was really "freaked out" and Hines was too. He said his wife told him Defratus had asked her to pop his back and Hines was there. He said his wife objected, but Defratus insisted she do it and told her how to wrap her arms around him and pop his back.
Fielder said when Hines went to the bathroom, Defratus made his wife feel more uncomfortable by saying inappropriate things. Defratus told investigators Hines also told him Defratus' behavior was strange.
He said Defratus had never acted that way before. Later that night, Fielder said he went back to Defratus' house and was just going to yell at him and "find out what the real deal was."
Fielder said he confronted Defratus after they did drugs and said Defratus started getting "wigged out."
Fielder explained when he was getting up to leave, Defratus jumped up as if he was coming at him.
"All I did is I pushed him away where his force would carry him on past me," said Fielder. "He got up and he pulled a knife out and that's when he was really in a rage…I was able to get him down and get the knife away from him."
He said Defratus didn't care.
"I didn't ever want to hurt anybody," said Fielder.
The suspect told the ranger Defratus had a blue flashlight.
"I swung with a knife," Fielder admitted.
"How many times," asked the investigator.
"Until the time he quit," replied Fielder.
He then began counting the bruises on his arm.
"He was starting to kind of…I was trying to mainly fend off the mag light," said Fielder.
He said he knows he cut Defratus in the chest and maybe one time in his side.
"That's whenever he took off and I was scared," said Fielder. "I didn't chase him. I didn't go over there. I was leaving."
He said he lost his keys somewhere and he was trying to get out of there because he was scared.
The defendant said he was working on getting his car to start whenever Hines showed up and he told Hines not to go in the house.
"I was scared to death," said Fielder. "I didn't stab him in his face like they said."
He said he threw his clothes out somewhere along Highway 69.
Maskunas began explaining all the wounds found on Fielder's body.
"He was hitting me with a mag light and I was swinging with a knife," said Fielder.
Maskunas continued questioning Fielder about how Defratus received several stab wounds on his back even after he was dead.
"I don't remember everything that happened," said Fielder.
He said it's possible for him to have inflicted the stab wounds on Defratus after he was already dead under his mother's carport.
"At that point and time, I was changed," said Fielder. "It's possible, I could have."
The trial is set to continue Thursday morning. Check back to KTRE.com for more courtroom testimony.