By Michele Chadwick and Brinda Kalita
RIVERSIDE, CA- Larry Thomas’ trial for murder and driving under the influence proceeded Thursday in Riverside County Superior Court with a host of witnesses, from on-scene observers to law enforcement, medical personnel and a relative of the accused who refused to answer questions.
A truck driver, who had seen the defendant get into a car accident the day the alleged murder took place, shared that he had seen two cars, a Tahoe and another SUV, erratically chasing each other on the freeway. Then, the SUV lost control while trying to change lanes, causing the two cars to crash.
He also told Judge Timothy Hollenhorst there was a lot of debris, road gravel, dirt, and sand on the roads and that oil was leaking from the SUV.
Another witness, related to Thomas, had his own lawyer and refused to testify.
However, Deputy District Attorney Melanie Deutsch granted him “use immunity,” meaning that they will only use his testimony to determine a verdict for Thomas and not hold it against the witness.
Judge Hollenhorst then ordered the questioning of the reluctant witness to start.
The witness said he and his family saw that the Tahoe, driven by the accused, had gotten into a crash, and pulled over. However, an unknown person had arrived at the scene to help the accused, Thomas, out of the car.
The witness took Thomas to the hospital and had to stop the car at one point to tend to injuries on his left hand.
“His hand was all vein and bones…it was terrifying,” the witness said.
DDA Deutsch then asked the witness if Thomas had some alcohol prior to the crash. The witness wasn’t sure.
The third witness to be called was an emergency room nurse at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, and she revealed Thomas was very loud and uncooperative with the hospital staff.
“Mr. Thomas was naked, had all of his cardiac leads off and was attempting to hang off of the surgical light like a monkey bar,” the nurse said. She also added that his behavior was most likely due to the fact that the defendant was under the influence when he checked into the emergency room.
The nurse said Thomas was given doses of morphine, Ativan, anticef antibiotics, and narcotic drugs to help alleviate his pain. She also added that these drugs can have an effect on an individual’s behavior to a certain extent.
Defense counsel then said Thomas, now in jail, “has not been allowed to shower, he has not been given regular meals,” noting he wants his client to be moved.
Judge Hollenhorst ruled that Thomas will be moved to a cell closer to the superior court, and ruled the accused be allowed to eat, shower and shave with assistance on a daily basis.
The program director of MADD Southern California, testified Thomas previously attended MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) courses in 2018. She also testified that the attendees of the MADD program learn during courses about the Watson advisement.
The Watson advisement describes knowing that driving under the influence is dangerous and could result in 2nd degree murder charges should an individual die as a result of driving under the influence.
Officer Matt Chapman testified to his involvement and observations at the scene of the traffic collision on June 20, 2019, and that “the cause of the collision was he (Thomas) was driving under the influence of alcohol.”
Jennifer Howards, a deputy coroner with Riverside County Sheriff department, testified she inspected the vehicles on the night of June 20, 2019, and did not “observe any alcohol containers in either vehicle.”
However, Howard testified that during her on-scene inspection both vehicles were upside down and she was not present when they were uprighted.
The last witness to testify today was California Highway Patrol Officer and Multidisciplinary Accident Investigator Ryan Smith.
Smith testified that the airbag control module recorded that the Tahoe “was increasing speed then at three seconds prior to the collision the vehicle speed was at 93 mph…from three seconds to one second prior to the event the vehicle decreased in speed from 93 mph to 86 mph.”
Additionally, in this particular case, “the brake was never applied enough in order to illuminate the brake lights,” Smith added.
The case will be ongoing this week.