Huntington man stabbed in back as he was dying, pathologist says

Jay Hines
Jay Hines
Katrina Carswell
Katrina Carswell
Terri Collier
Terri Collier
Dr. Tommy Brown
Dr. Tommy Brown

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

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) – Dr. Tommy Brown walked the jury through gruesome pictures of 47-year-old Gary Defratus' lifeless body.

He's a forensic pathologist that performed the autopsy on Defratus after he was brutally murdered in his Huntington home more than a year ago.

"There was a lot of trauma to the body including cutting and stabbing to the head and face," said Brown.

He testified Defratus' right coratid and jugular arteries were cut through and through.

Investigators believe Thomas Fielder is responsible for those fatal wounds.

Sheriff's deputies drop Fielder off at a side door of the courthouse every day as he stands trial for something his aunt says she doesn't think he did.

"It's very hard to hear," Terri Collier said. "If he did do it, he was seriously provoked, but no, I just don't see him doing it."

"He's just not that kind of person," she said. "He doesn't have it in his nature."

Many of the cuts, one as long as six inches, apparently indicates Defratus was attacked from behind.

Brown says he was also stabbed in the back several times and he looked "fairly stationary because they were clustered in a uniform manner...I think that some of these might have occurred when he was dying."

The defense pointed out a toxicology report that shows Defratus had methamphetamine, vicodin, and several other prescribed and illegal drugs in his system.

Fielder's attorney went on to paint a picture of two grown men fighting.

But Brown says there were defensive wounds on Defratus' body.

"I want them to know that he's not a cold-blooded killer," Collier said. "He's not a cold-blooded killer and he is a good person and the truth will come out. It will come out."

Editor's note: Holley Nees provides a full account of Tuesday's testimony. Below are her notes from the trial.

Tuesday morning's testimony featured a forensic pathologist saying a murder victim was stabbed in the back several times as he was dying.

Thomas Hugh Fielder, Jr., 40, is accused of brutally stabbing a Gary Defratus, of Huntington, until he bled to death, now he's facing an Angelina County Jury.

The defendant sat next to his attorney, watching as a friend of his tells jurors Fielder told him not to talk to the police in the days after the violent incident.

Fielder was arrested in December 2009 in Quitman, Texas in Wood County for the murder of Gary Lynn Defratus, 47, in his Huntington home.

Angelina County Assistant District Attorney Katrina Carswell has told jurors the case will come down to the intent of the murder.

Testimony continued Tuesday morning with Jay Hines, a friend of both the defendant and the victim, discussing his conversation with Fielder after the murder.

"He said last time he seen Gary was Thursday," Hines said.

He pointed out that wasn't the truth and he said Fielder was telling him what he was going to tell the police.

"Did he tell you what you should say to the police?" asked Carswell.

"He just told me not to talk to them," Hines responded.

Hines talked about how he had played guitar with the victim on several occasions.

Hines' testimony was interrupted to bring in Dr. Tommy Brown, a forensic pathologist who performed an autopsy on Defratus.

"There was a lot of trauma to the body including cutting and stabbing ... to the head and face," Brown testified.

Brown said he believed there were 24 cutting and stab wounds all together on Defratus' body.

He explained to the jurors stab wounds are usually deeper than cuts.

Fielder looked away as Brown walked the jurors through gruesome photos of Defratus' body.

He identified cutting wounds on Defratus' chest, neck, and blood clots on his right hand.

"Usually, this scenario is he was attacked from the back," explained Brown.

He said there were defensive wounds found on his body.

Brown then went on to discuss the most significant wounds on Defratus' body. He said there was a six-inch cutting wound from the forehead to the back of the head. The wound went into the skull bone, but did not cut into the brain.

"He also had cutting wounds that started at the corner of his mouth," said Brown.

He said the murder weapon "severed the right coratid artery and the right jugular artery."

The wound on his head was front to back, which was indicative of someone standing behind the victim.

Carswell then put an image on the screen of Defratus' badly cut neck. Brown testified the wound was again front to back.

"It's five inches in length from the left side of the neck to the far right side," said Brown.

Once again, he said the wound was front to back and said usually that means the person making the cut is standing behind the victim.

"A person in front with a knife, it's most difficult to get that kind of cut," said Brown.

The pathologist said it's possible to do it in front, but "I don't see that that's a possibility here."

He said Defratus' carotid and jugular were cut through and through.

"With every beat of the heart, that artery is spurting blood out of the body," said Carswell.

Brown said when Defratus was brought in, he had some blood on his hands.

"Once he realized he was in dire straits then he probably was trying to stop the blood flow from the artery," said Brown.

He went on to say a struggle is indicated by the knife wound on Defratus' mouth and head because that's when he was probably "trying to get away from the assailant."

Moving on, Carswell questioned Brown about a cluster of knife wounds on Defratus' back.

"He looks fairly stationary because they were clustered in a uniform manner," said Brown. "I think that some of these might have occurred when he was dying ... or fixing to pass over."

He said he thinks Defratus bled out and his airway had also been cut.

Brown said he didn't think Defratus would be able to respond after 15 seconds because he would have passed out.

Brown said the wounds on Defratus' back cut into his lungs, entered his chest cavity and penetrated his liver.

He said the cause of death was a cutting wound to the neck.

"Probably like a butcher knife or a hunting knife or something of that nature," said Brown.

He also performed a toxicology report and discovered Defratus had methamphetamine and several other drugs in his system including hydrocodone or Vicodin. He said he couldn't answer what kind of effect both the illegal and prescribed drugs would have on Defratus' blood flow at the time of the incident.

Defense attorney Jerry Whiteker began questioning Brown about the mix of drugs Defratus had in his system.

Brown said he doesn't know how much he would be affected by the drugs because his test was not from the victim's blood stream.

"Were they indicative of rage ... loss of control ... fear," asked Whiteker of the wounds on Defratus' body.

The defense painted a picture of two grown men fighting.

"This could've easily been he was dead and the deceased alive," said Whiteker.

"Perhaps," answered Brown.

Hines was brought back to the stand Tuesday morning to continue his testimony. He discussed the times he and Defratus played guitar together.

Hines said the night of the murder, "He [Defratus] was acting peculiar."

He said Defratus was probably on drugs when he saw him the night of the incident.

"At what point and time did you tell Thomas Fielder Gary Defratus was a registered sex offender?"

Hines said Fielder was the one that told him Defratus was a sex offender.

"Did you go over to Ms. Parker's trailer, Gary's mother," asked Whiteker.

Hines said he knocked on Parker's door, but no one answered. Whiteker asked why he didn't try harder to get an answer if he was really worried about Defratus.

"I just thought the guys got into a fight, I really wasn't concerned," Hines said.

Later, Hines testified Defratus had asked Fielder's wife to pop his back which would involved her pressing the front of her body to his back.

Hines told Carswell he never left Fielder's wife and Defratus alone. He also said he never saw Defratus and Fielder's wife get close enough to even touch.

Hines said in a phone conversation the same night of the incident, Fielder told him Defratus touched his child.

Hines said as weird as Defratus' behavior may have been that night, he didn't recall the victim ever saying or doing anything that would've sent someone in such a rage.

Carswell asked Hines what it would take to upset Defratus.

"I've never seen Gary riled up, so I really wouldn't know," Hines said.

"You did say he made you feel uncomfortable," said Whiteker.

"Yes," said Hines.

Tuesday's testimony continued when the state called Mark Wild, a latent fingerprint examiner at the Texas Department of Public of Safety lab, to the stand.

He said he wasn't able to identify any prints on the apparent blood on the surface of the tiles he was sent to inspect from Defratus' home.

Law enforcement asked Wild to examine the tiles for print comparisons to Fielder's hands, feet and fingerprint samples.

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