Sentencing Scheduled for Monday, July 23
By Will Johnson
CROCKETT – After deliberating for just over an hour and 20 minutes, a Houston County jury returned to the 349th District Courtroom with a verdict in the trial of the State of Texas vs. Leonard Louis Intelisano.
Intelisano, 75, along with alleged accomplice Brandon Hill, stood accused of murdering Houston County resident Frank Thomas on Jan. 13, 2016.
When the seven man and five woman jury returned to the courtroom, the jury forewoman handed the verdict to the court bailiff who in turn handed the verdict packet to presiding Judge Pam Foster Fletcher.
“We, the jury, find the defendant Leonard Louis Intelisano guilty of the felony offense of murder as alleged in the indictment,” the judge said to a packed courtroom. “The lesser included charge (of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon) is not marked.”
The trial began on Monday, July 9 with jury selection. The prosecution – led by Houston County District Attorney Donna Gordon Kaspar – presented its case during the first week of testimony. Once the state rested, Intelisano’s attorney – Bill Pemberton of Crockett – presented their side of the case which concluded shortly before noon on Thursday, July 19.
After the lunch recess, closing arguments in the trial were presented by both Kaspar and Pemberton. Kaspar spoke first, followed by Pemberton.
Once Fletcher had provided the jury with instructions, the DA began her closing argument just before 3 p.m.
Kaspar thanked the jury for their service and apologized for the technical difficulties with AV equipment during the course of the trial.
“I know you were attentive and watched everything that was presented. I think if you did that, then I think you will see this case can be summed up in one word. This was an ambush. It probably wasn’t one that was planned out, but the opportunity arose. Leonard Intelisano and Brandon Hill seized that opportunity,” she said.
The DA told the jury the evidence showed Intelisano blocked the path of Frank Thomas’ truck “… and put the first shot through the windshield – right into Frank Thomas’ face. I believe when Frank Thomas got out of that truck, he was looking for that baseball bat – he was looking for anything – and they shot him in the back.”
The defense had argued the deceased was shot in self-defense because he had attempted to attack Intelisano and Hill with a baseball bat.
Kaspar said after Thomas had been shot by Intelisano with a shotgun, he collapsed in a ditch and theorized Intelisano and Hill left him for dead.
She continued and said Thomas did not die in the ditch but was able to make it back to his truck at drive back to the intersection of County Road 4505 and US Highway 287, where he was helped by motorists.
He lived for 16 days, Kaspar added “… and during those 16 days, because of the gunshot to his head, the gunshot to his torso and the gunshot to his back, he developed blood clots which broke away from the veins in his legs, moved to his heart and killed him.”
The DA said this was the prosecution’s theory and was backed up by the evidence presented.
Once the DA concluded the initial part of her closing argument, the defense began their final argument.
Pemberton said this was a case of firsts and possibilities adding it was the first time the medical examiner performing the autopsy on Thomas had ever changed his opinion. He went on to say much of the testimony provided by witnesses for the state was based on possibilities and not facts.
The defense attorney pointed out while the state’s case was based on forensic evidence, much of said evidence was tainted to a degree.
“The evidence in this case stayed in the sheriff’s office for six months before it was ever sent to the DPS lab. The DNA evidence was not submitted to the DPS lab until 15 months after the incident. The (previously mentioned) baseball bat was not tested for blood, DNA or fingerprints. The Iver Johnson .22 was not checked for fingerprints or DNA,” Pemberton said.
As he continued, the defense attorney told the jury “… the prosecution wants you to convict Leonard Intelisano in assumptions.”
He rattled off a list of assumptions he said the prosecution was hoping the jury would believe before adding, “Ladies and gentlemen, in the state of Texas, we don’t convict people of murder or anything else, based on assumptions.”
Kaspar again took the speaker’s dais in the courtroom and began to slowly pick apart the defense attorney’s arguments in her rebuttal.
As she concluded, Kaspar said, “Frank Thomas was a good man. He loved his family and he loved his wife. He never did anything to deserve to die. Ladies and gentlemen, find Mr. Intelisano guilty as charged.”
Some 80 minutes later, the jury returned with a guilty verdict.
After the guilt phase of the trial, the DA said, “The jury analyzed the evidence and came to what I believe to be a just verdict.”
As to what sentence the prosecution would recommend Kaspar said she wasn’t going to “… pin them down to any particular number (of years). They (the jury) have a wide range. I don’t have a particular number I’m going to ask for.”
The penalty phase of the trial is set to begin at 9 a.m. on Monday, July 23 in the 349th District Courtroom.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at [email protected].