First of Two Trials in Frank Thomas Homicide
By Will Johnson
CROCKETT – A murder trial began in Crockett on Monday, July 9 with jury selection in the case of the State of Texas vs. Leonard Intelisano. Intelisano and Brandon Hill stand accused of murdering Frank Thomas in January of 2016. Hill’s trial date is scheduled for later this year.
More than three hundred prospective jurors were summoned to the Houston County Courthouse on Monday for possible jury selection. Once the voir dire process concluded, the number had been whittled down to 14, with 12 being chosen as jurors and two chosen as alternates. The 14 person jury is comprised of eight men and six women.
The trial is being held in the 349th District Court with Judge Pam Foster Fletcher presiding. The State is represented by Houston County District Attorney Donna Gordon Kaspar while Intelisano is represented by Crockett-based attorney William R. (Bill) Pemberton.
Testimony in the trial began on Tuesday morning, July 10 with the DA’s opening statement. Kaspar informed the jury on Jan. 13, 2016, Frank Thomas left his home on CR 4505 to go into Crockett but never made it.
“After about three o’clock that afternoon, the sheriff’s office began to get calls to respond to the intersection of U.S. Highway 287 and County Road (CR) 4505. That is where Frank Thomas would have turned to go into town,” the DA said.
Instead of turning, Kaspar continued, he rolled through a stop sign, got out of his vehicle covered in blood and collapsed. She said Thomas’s truck was blocking traffic going in both directions on U.S. Hwy. 287 and motorists stopped to try and assist him.
Kaspar said two of the first Houston County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) deputies to arrive on the scene were Sgt. Mike Molnes and Lt. Justin Killough.
As she continued, Kaspar informed the jury Thomas sustained three distinct gunshot wounds – one to his upper torso, one to his back and one to his face. The upper torso wound was from a shotgun and produced 18 points of entry or exit, possibly from a round of buck shot which contains nine pellets, she said.
Following the DA’s opening statement, Pemberton was asked if would like to make an opening statement but said he would reserve that for later in the trial.
With the defense deferring their opening statement until later, Kaspar called her first witness – HCSO deputy Sgt. Mike Molnes.
Molnes said he was dispatched to the intersection of CR 4405 and U.S. 287 to assist with a call about a gunshot victim shortly after 3:15 p.m. on Jan. 13, 2016.
“When I arrived I saw a white male laying down on the ground, but he was conscious. He was alert but you could tell he was in pain. There was heavy blood lost,” Molnes said.
After several pictures of the vehicle driven by and the wounds sustained by Thomas were shown to the jurors, Kaspar asked if Thomas was able to communicate.
The HCSO sergeant replied he had overheard the victim telling Lt. Killough, “The man shot me first with a pistol then Leonard shot me with the shotgun,” said Molnes.
Molnes explained Thomas was unable to remember the name of the first man – later identified as Brandon Hill – who shot him but said he was a white male in his 30s.
As his testimony continued, Molnes said the windshield of the truck Thomas was driving had a hole in it which appeared to have been caused by a bullet hole. Molnes explained that he and the investigators working on the case used several different styles of rods to try and map the bullet’s caliber and trajectory.
When it came time to cross examine the witness, the defense attorney attempted to discredit Molnes’ testimony by suggesting Molnes was not qualified to testify in the matter because he was not an expert on shotgun blasts and bullet trajectory.
Pemberton also questioned where the windshield of the truck driven by Thomas was located. Molnes replied he did not know, but Pemberton persisted and said the windshield and truck had been released to the Thomas family well before an indictment was ever brought against his client.
As a result, Pemberton informed the jury defense experts never had a chance to examine a key piece of evidence. Pemberton also hammered Molnes about what could have caused the hole in the windshield and forced Molnes to concede he was unable to testify with any certainty about what caused the hole.
During the cross examination, Pemberton asked Molnes when the evidence of the crime was delivered to the Department of Public Safety labs for testing and before Molnes could answer, the defense attorney said the box of evidence held in the HCSO evidence locker was not delivered until six months after the incident. Pemberton also said the box contained a .32 caliber Iver Johnson pistol and not the .22 caliber Iver Johnson pistol believed to have been used in shooting Thomas.
Once the cross examination concluded, the state called Steve Seehar, the owner of a convenience store at the intersection of U.S. Hwy. 287 and Loop 304 in Crockett. Kaspar called Seehar to help place Intelisano at the crime scene at the time of the shooting due to the fact Seehar’s store has surveillance cameras.
After some technical difficulties with the surveillance footage, the jury was shown video which showed Intelisano’s truck turning on 287 and heading towards CR 4505.
Intelisano’s truck was described as a white Chevrolet dually with the phrase “Not For Hire” emblazoned on the side.
Following Seehar’s testimony, the court recessed for lunch. When court was reconvened, HCSO Lt. Justin Killough was called to the witness stand.
Kaspar walked Killough through his testimony and asked the HCSO lieutenant if he thought Thomas might die based on his initial impressions after observing the wounds he had sustained.
“Yes. Simply because of the fact I was looking at his torso and looking at his face, I knew through my experience and Knowledge and the way he was speaking,” he said.
Kaspar asked if Killough was able to speak with Thomas and if so what did he say.
“I asked him, ‘Who shot you?’ and he said Len shot me,” he replied.
The DA questioned if Killough knew who Len was and he replied not at first but added he asked who Len was “… and as our conversation continued he said Intelisano.”
According to both the state and defense attorneys, the trial is expected to last possibly two weeks.
For more coverage of the trial, check back online or see the Sunday, July 15 edition of The Messenger.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.