By Sarah Naron
CROCKETT – The second of two trials in the Frank Thomas homicide began Tuesday, Oct. 16 with jury selection in the case of the State of Texas vs. Brandon Hill.
Along with 75-year-old Leonard Intelisano – who was sentenced to 61 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice in late July – 34-year-old Hill is accused of murdering Frank Thomas, who died just two weeks after a shooting which occurred on Jan. 13, 2016 on CR 4505 in Crockett.
The State of Texas is being represented by Houston County District Attorney Donna Gordon Kaspar, while Palestine-based attorney Stanley Sokolowski is providing representation to Hill.
Prosecution witnesses began testifying Wednesday, Oct. 17 in the 349th District Court of Anderson and Houston Counties with Judge Pam Foster Fletcher presiding. Witness testimony continued through Friday, Oct. 19.
In her opening statement Wednesday morning, Kaspar described the 2016 shooting as “a crime of opportunity.
“I don’t think the evidence is going to show you that they planned it out,” she said. “It presented itself, and for whatever reason, they wanted to take that opportunity.”
Kaspar’s reason for this belief, she explained, is the single bullet hole which was left in the windshield of Thomas’s truck.
“It appears that the trajectory of the bullet coming through that windshield would easily have come through the windshield and hit Frank Thomas in the face,” she said. “He was, in fact, struck with a .22 caliber bullet just beside his left eye.”
The bullet then traveled through Thomas’s brain, lodging in the back side, Kaspar divulged.
“That’s before he got out of the truck,” she continued. “I believe the physical evidence on the road – because he began to bleed – will show you which direction he traveled and what he did after he was shot.”
After exiting the truck, Kaspar went on, Thomas was wounded by a shotgun.
“The officers and the medical examiner will both tell you that he received a shotgun shot to the upper left torso,” Kaspar said. “Dr. Phatak, who was the medical examiner, will tell you when he did the autopsy on Frank Thomas, he did not know whether the shotgun blast was front-to-back or back-to-front.”
Kaspar also expressed the belief that Dr. Phatak would also inform the court “that we provided him some pictures that were taken shortly after the shooting. The reason he could not tell during the autopsy was the healing of the wounds made it incapable for him to determine front-to-back or back-to-front. But he did take those pictures and look at them, and he will explain why he believes the shotgun blast came back-to-front.”
After lying on the roadside for a period of time, Kaspar said, Thomas reentered his truck and drove down CR 4505 until he reached U.S. Hwy. 287.
“He just rolled through the stop sign – right into traffic – in an attempt to get some help,” Kaspar explained. “He got out of his truck and collapsed onto the pavement.”
Passersby assisted Thomas, and law enforcement was dispatched to the scene and began questioning Thomas in an attempt to determine what happened.
“You’ll find out that why he was lying on the road there, he said, ‘Leonardo Intelisano shot me, and there was somebody with him. I know his name, but I cannot remember it; (he was a) younger man. One of them had a shotgun; one of them had a pistol.’”
Thomas was then transported to a hospital to receive treatment, Kaspar said. In addition to the .22 caliber bullet fragments found in his brain, a .22 caliber bullet was lodged in his back.
“The M.E. will tell you the trajectory of that was at an angle into the back,” Kaspar said. “It merely went under the skin, crossed through some fatty tissue, and lodged on the left side of his body.”
The evidence collected following the incident, Kaspar said, was expected to indicate “that either he had to be laying down on the ground when shot in the back or that he had to be bent over – maybe in the process of falling – and got shot in the back.”
No opening statement was made by Sokolowski on Wednesday.
Among those testifying Wednesday was Houston County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) Lt. Justin Killough, who was one of the first officials on the scene.
When asked whether he initially thought Thomas would die as a result of the incident, Lt. Killough provided an affirmative answer based on experience and the way in which Thomas was speaking.
Lt. Killough proceeded to ask Thomas who shot him and divulged that his response was, “Len shot me.” According to Lt. Killough, Len was later identified by Thomas as Intelisano.
Also taking the stand Wednesday was Houston County Game Warden Eddie Lehr, who learned of the shooting over his radio while on patrol. After obtaining a description of Intelisano’s vehicle – a white dually pickup with ‘Not for Hire’ embellishing the side – Lehr began a search.
Lehr went on to testify that the truck was located on CR 4505, approximately five miles east of U.S. Hwy. 287. Intelisano was believed to be traveling to his home and was described by Lehr as being cooperative with the investigation.
After making contact with Intelisano, Lehr secured a rifle from the passenger side of the truck. A pistol was later recovered from the console of the vehicle. Intelisano was detained by Lehr and later arrested by an official with the sheriff’s office.
Upon learning that Hill was also sought by department officials, Lehr obtained directions to his residence – located on a private road a short distance off CR 4505 – and drove to the location. Lehr explained that he arrived near dark and found the front door of the house standing open. With assistance from HCSO Sgt. Lorenzo Simpson, Lehr determined that no one was present in the home.
According to Lt. Killough, Hill appeared voluntarily at the sheriff’s office that evening for an interview. In a video of the interview, Hill claimed confusion as to what was going on and denied being present at the shooting.
Following the interview, Hill was placed under arrest by HCSO officials.
Hill entered a plea of not guilty at the beginning of the trial Wednesday morning.
The trial is set to continue next week.
Sarah Naron may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.