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Man Gets 25 Years to Life for Brother’s Crossbow Death at City Heights Park

Man Gets 25 Years to Life for Brother’s Crossbow Death at City Heights Park

A file photograph of a judge's gavel. (AlexStar/iStock)

City News Service

City News Service

9/15/2023

Updated: 9/15/2023

SAN DIEGO—A Northern California man who killed his brother by shooting him with a crossbow at a City Heights park was sentenced on Sept. 14 to 25 years to life in state prison.
Adam Thomas, now 22, was convicted by a San Diego jury of first-degree murder for the Aug. 9, 2021, killing of his 22-year-old brother Trenton Thomas. The defendant was 20 years old at the time of his brother’s death.
Deputy District Attorney Christina Eastman told jurors Mr. Thomas took his brother to Central Avenue Mini Park on the night of Aug. 9, blindfolded him, and shot him in the head.
The prosecutor described the killing as a premeditated “execution” in which Mr. Thomas fled the scene immediately after shooting his brother and dumped the crossbow in a canyon a few blocks away.
Mr. Thomas’ defense attorney, Marc Carlos, told the jury his client had no motive to murder his brother and argued the killing was a “horrible accident.”
Mr. Carlos told jurors Mr. Thomas bought the crossbow as a birthday gift for his brother and was planning to give it to him in surprise fashion at the park. While bringing the crossbow over to his brother, Mr. Thomas tripped and accidentally fired the weapon, then fled in a panic, the attorney said.
Mr. Thomas was arrested a few days later in Sacramento, where he and his family lived. Trenton Thomas was living in the San Diego area at the time of his death.
At his sentencing hearing, Mr. Thomas said “I take full responsibility for the death of my brother,” while maintaining the killing was unintentional.
“I bought that crossbow, took it down there. I was stupid with the way I handled it and I left my brother,” he said.
Mr. Thomas’ parents told San Diego Superior Court Judge Carlos Armour that they believed their son did not intend any harm towards his brother.
His father, Andrew Thomas, said what happened was “a tragic, unfortunate event rather than a deliberate act.” The parents said Mr. Thomas was previously offered a plea deal for voluntary manslaughter, but turned it down because he knew he was innocent.
Judge Armour declined a defense request to reduce the conviction to second-degree murder, though the judge did strike a deadly weapon allegation that would have added one year to Mr. Thomas’ sentence.
In arguing to maintain the first-degree murder conviction, Ms. Eastman said the evidence showed the killing was deliberate.
The prosecutor said Mr. Thomas had the crossbow loaded and primed with a metal-tipped bolt before bringing it over to his brother. After shooting his brother, Mr. Thomas sped away in his car and discarded the weapon and extra bolts without calling 911 or trying to assist his brother.
He then texted his mother that he'd last seen Trenton with other people in a bid to create “a drug deal gone wrong scenario in his mom’s mind,” Ms. Eastman alleged.
At trial, Mr. Carlos said Mr. Thomas chose the park in part because it provided open space for the brothers to shoot the crossbow.
The attorney said that along with a lack of motive, there was no sophisticated planning to show that he was trying to get away with murder. Mr. Thomas bought the crossbow with his debit card and had the weapon mailed to his home address, according to Mr. Carlos.
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