Part One: Expert Witness Testimony Concludes First Week
By Will Johnson
CROCKETT – The first week of Leonard Intelisano’s murder trial drew to a close on Thursday, July 12. Intelisano stands accused – along with Brandon Hill – in the murder of Frank Thomas on Jan. 13, 2016.
More than three hundred prospective jurors were summoned to the Houston County Courthouse on Monday, July 9 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.
The first day of testimony – covered in the July 12 edition of The Messenger began on Tuesday, July 10 with the prosecution’s opening statement, followed by testimony from Sgt. Mike Molnes from the Houston County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) and Steve Seehar, a convenience store owner.
Following a brief recess for lunch, HCSO Lt. Justin Killough was called to the witness stand.
The HCSO lieutenant was one of the first members of law enforcement to arrive on the scene and Kaspar asked the HCSO lieutenant if he thought Thomas might die, based on his initial observation of the wounds sustained by Thomas.
“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. He replied not at first but added when he asked again about who Len was “… as our conversation continued, he said Intelisano.”
During his conversation with Thomas, Killough testified he learned two men were involved in the shooting – Intelisano and Brandon Hill. Killough said he learned Intelisano had a shotgun while Hill had a pistol.
The HCSO lieutenant also revealed Thomas was able to describe the truck Intelisano was driving. He described it as a white Chevrolet dually with the words “Not for Hire” emblazoned on the side.
As his testimony continued, Killough informed the jury Intelisano was eventually apprehended and brought to the sheriff’s office for questioning. He also remarked when he saw the alleged shooter, his hands were bagged to preserve traces of gunshot residue (GSR).
Warrants were obtained to test Intelisano’s hands for GSR and once the testing was complete, the results indicated the presence of GSR on his hands.
Once the prosecution finished with Killough, defense attorney Bill Pemberton had a chance to cross examine him.
During the cross examination, Pemberton showed Killough a .22 caliber revolver – allegedly fired by Hill – and asked Killough if the pistol had any rust on it when it was placed into the evidence room at the HCSO.
Killough replied it did not but also indicated the revolver he was looking at had rust on it. Pemberton asked how the rust got on the gun.
Killough replied, “Oxidization,” to which the defense asked “Isn’t it true that there was a leak in the evidence room and the gun got wet?”
“There was a leak in the evidence room,” Killough said but added he did not know the date.
Pemberton persisted with the line of questioning concerning the leak and implied all the evidence in the Intelisano trial might have been possibly affected by water damage from the leak.
Another area brought up by Pemberton concerned a baseball bat found in the back of Thomas’ vehicle. He asked if the bat had been tested for DNA, fingerprints or blood. Killough replied no and then Pemberton asked, “What kind of damage could you do to a person with a baseball bat, Mr. Killough?”
“I could do a lot of damage to a person with a baseball bat,” he responded.
Following the baseball bat discussion, Pemberton continued with his cross examination and asked about the windshield on Thomas’s truck, which had a bullet hole in it. He asked Killough if he knew where the windshield might be.
The law enforcement officer replied he did not, which prompted Pemberton to state the windshield and the truck had been released to the Thomas family before indictments had been handed down as well as before firearms experts for the defense had a chance to examine it.
Once Killough’s testimony concluded, John Hale – a resident on CR 4505 where Thomas was shot – was called to the stand. He testified on the day of Jan. 13, 2016, he saw Intelisano traveling at a high rate of speed on the road, shortly after Thomas had been shot.
The day’s final witness was Houston County Game Warden Eddie Lehr, who apprehended Intelisano.
Lehr testified he was on CR 4505 when he came upon Intelisano traveling in the opposite direction.
“I got him out of the truck and he asked me what was going on. I told we were looking for somebody who just shot somebody and you’re the person we’re looking for,” Lehr said.
After Lehr’s testimony, court was recessed until the following day.
The first witness on Wednesday, July 11 was HCSO Deputy Gary Sapaugh who testified during a search of Intelisano’s vehicle – after he had been detained – he discovered an unused shotgun shell.
His testimony was relatively brief but during the cross examination, Pemberton questioned Sapaugh about what he could do using a baseball bat as a weapon.
The next witness was Texas Ranger Jeffrey Wolf who testified about blood pattern analysis and the different factors used to investigate blood evidence. He explained he was called into assist with the investigation by Texas Ranger Andres De La Garza.
Pemberton also questioned the ranger about the damage he could inflict with a baseball bat and Wolf remarked it would be significant.
Following the ranger’s testimony, Houston County resident Dawayne King was called to the witness stand.
Kaspar questioned King if he knew Intelisano, Hill and Thomas. King testified he had known Intelisano for approximately six years. He also indicated he knew both Hill and Thomas.
During questioning, the DA asked King about a time where he was asked by Hill to store some guns. King testified Hill had come to him about storing several weapons for Intelisano, including a sawed-off shotgun while Intelisano recovered from surgery.
Between two and three weeks later, Hill called King and asked about retrieving the weapons.
Following King’s testimony, the trial was recessed for lunch. 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 Thursday, July 19 edition of The Messenger.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.