Jury finds woman guilty in beating

Becky Campbell • Jul 18, 2012 at 10:27 PM

Christina Thomas had a look of disbelief Wednesday afternoon when she heard a jury foreman say “guilty” on robbery and kidnapping charges, which positions her to spend at least 15 years in prison.

Thomas, 32, was convicted of especially aggravated robbery and especially aggravated kidnapping after the jury deliberated about four hours. The panel listened to testimony Monday and Tuesday in the case that goes back to April 9, 2005.

Thomas and her ex-husband, James Steven Thomas, were both charged in the incident that left their then-landlord, Donald Teague, seriously injured. Prosecutors contended Teague, who just turned 83, suffered brain bleeding that didn’t manifest itself until January 2007, when he began having speech and coordination problems.

A neurological surgeon discovered Teague had suffered a large brain bleed. Defense attorney Matt Bolton did his best to chip away at the state’s theory that the injury was caused by the attack two years before, but it appeared jurors believed the state’s position.

Teague said he was happy the case is finally resolved.

“Seven years, three months and nine days,” he said, referring to how long it took to get the case finished. “I asked God to let me live long enough” to see the case through. “I come near dying” that day, he said.

After jurors announced the verdict, Judge Robert Cupp told them he wasn’t the reason it took so long to get the case finalized. The case was originally in Judge Lynn Brown’s court. Between the two judges, the case was reset around 48 times.

Assistant District Attorney General Janet Vest Hardin also was glad to conclude the case.

“These jurors worked very hard. It was a difficult case and they came to a just conclusion. I am pleased Mr. Teague had his day in court,” she said.

In addition to the medical testimony, Bolton also had to deal with testimony from Christina Thomas’ 15-year-old daughter. She told jurors that she remembered that day and saw Teague go into the family’s mobile home. She said Steve Thomas told her and her younger sisters to stay in the car no matter what.

After Teague went inside, the girl, who was 7 years old at the time, said she saw her mother and stepfather exit the mobile home with blood on them.

Steve Thomas testified that he told his wife to ask Teague to come out to the Fall Branch mobile home they rented because he wanted to verbally confront the man. Thomas said he was angry at Teague because his wife said the man had propositioned her. Teague, in his testimony, denied that claim.

Teague believes he was beaten with an object, although prosecutors could not show the jury a specific item that could have been used. Hardin did show the jury a claw hammer and a child’s souvenir baseball bat that Washington County sheriff’s deputies collected from the scene.

After the attack, the Thomases dropped off their three children with a friend and borrowed a truck from another friend. That woman, Jennifer Cate, testified the Thomases were supposed to test drive the truck for about 45 minutes, but didn’t return for several hours.

When they did finally show up, Cate had already called police because she saw an 11 p.m. news report about the assault and that officers were looking for the couple.

Steve Thomas drove up while officers were there and ended up leading them on a chase. He eventually lost them and the couple left Tennessee and ended up in Colorado. They were arrested there several weeks later.

The two were set to plead guilty to reduced charges — aggravated robbery and aggravated kidnapping — in November 2010. Steve Thomas did plead guilty and received a 10-year, one-day prison sentence. Christina Thomas hesitated when Cupp asked if she was satisfied with her attorney — Jim Beeler at the time — and said she wanted to fight the charges.

At that point Cupp wouldn’t take the plea and set her case for trial. With the jury conviction on the original charges, Christina Thomas faces at least five years more than her ex-husband — who said he was the one who actually assaulted Teague.

Christina Thomas was taken into custody after the verdict. Even before Cupp ordered her held on the conviction, he had found her in contempt of court because she was 20 minutes late returning from lunch.

“One fifteen means one fifteen,” Cupp said, visibly angry with Thomas and Bolton.

Thomas will be sentenced Aug. 30.

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