The Norman Transcript

February 26, 2014

Judge deems man fit for trial, rules probable cause in murder case

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

CHICKASHA — A friend of murder victim Sara Maisano recalled being struck repeatedly by Steven Thompson before he hit Maisano at a home in Amber.

Katie Garner was the first of three witnesses to take the stand during a preliminary hearing in Thompson’s first-degree murder trial Tuesday in Grady County District Court.

Garner retold the events she could remember on June 26 leading up to the murder of her friend, Sara Maisano, 23, of Norman.

Thompson, 27, is facing a first-degree murder charge for Maisano’s death. He also is facing an assault and battery with a dangerous weapon charge after allegedly severely beating Garner.

At the end of all testimony Tuesday, Grady County Special Judge Timothy Brauer said there was enough evidence to establish probable cause and deemed Thompson fit for trial. Brauer set a formal arraignment for 1:30 p.m. March 13.

Garner and Thompson were engaged at the time the events unfolded in their Amber home. Defense attorney Mitch Solomon questioned Garner about Thompson being upset with her relationship with Maisano, but Garner said she couldn’t remember.

Thompson’s cousin, James Luke, also took the stand Tuesday, recalling phone conversations he had with Thompson the morning after the June 26 incident. Luke said Thompson told him he found out Garner was cheating on him and shot her girlfriend.

The women worked at Norman Regional Hospital together for about six months, during which time they became friends, Garner said. Maisano was planning on staying with Garner that night because they had the same work shift the next day and Maisano had been having problems at home.

When the women got to the Amber residence, Thompson was acting “odd,” Garner said.

Thompson came out to the car, banging on Garner’s driver’s side window, got a bottle of liquor out of the car that Garner had picked up for him and went back into the house. Seconds later, he came out of the house with a shotgun before Garner told him to go back into the house, which he did.

Garner testified that his behavior didn’t scare her because she often saw him carry guns outside, but she was confused about his behavior.

The defense attorney also questioned Garner about her and Thompson’s alcohol and prescription drug abuse. He asked many questions about her texts to Thompson throughout the day, asking her if she remembered Thompson telling her not to come home that night, but Garner said she couldn’t remember.

When Garner and Maisano went into the home, Thompson was apologetic and since the girls had been swimming, they went to change out of their bathing suits. Afterward, Thompson called Garner into their bedroom. Garner said he was upset because she got home so late.

The argument escalated, with Thompson getting physical and breaking Garner’s necklace in the process, Garner testified. After that, she remembered Maisano making a comment along the lines of “What kind of man are you to put your hands on a woman,” Garner said.

The next thing she remembered was her and Maisano on their knees while Thompson repeatedly struck her in the face with his shotgun. Garner suffered a skull fracture, multiple fractures to the face, a broken jaw, lacerations and traumatic brain injury during the assault.

“Steven brought the shotgun up over his head and brought it down on my face. I would fall down and get back up, fall down and get back up,” Garner said.

At some point, Garner said she remembered Maisano putting her arm over her while Thompson was striking her in the face with the shotgun and Maisano telling Thompson, “OK, she’s had enough.”

“He grabbed her by her hair and struck her in the face with his hand,” Garner said. “I said, ‘No, don’t touch her.’”

That is the only time Garner can recall Thompson striking Maisano before she lost consciousness.

At some point during the assault, Thompson had turned away and Garner said she remembered nodding toward Maisano and looking at the spare bedroom, signaling that at the next opportunity, they would try to get to the bedroom and get away from Thompson.

She remembers making an attempt to get to the spare bedroom but said she must have lost consciousness before getting there. The next morning, she woke up covered in blood with a bloody pillow lying underneath her head on the spare bedroom floor.

“I figured out I was able to crawl. It was hard to see, I was bleeding out of my eyes,” Garner said. “I saw Sara’s legs hanging off the bed, so I grabbed her leg to shake her.”

There was no response. Garner crawled out of the bedroom, locking the bedroom door behind her to try and protect Maisano if Thompson was still in the house, she said.

She found Thompson sitting on the couch with his head down.

“How do you feel about me killing your homegirl?” Garner said Thompson asked her.

When she asked what he was talking about, he repeated the question. The whole time, Thompson’s voice was very flat and emotionless, Garner said.

Afterward, she remembers Thompson pacing back and forth, talking on the phone and then hearing Thompson’s father’s truck pull up as Thompson said, “Go, go, go” and left the residence.

Thompson’s father, Phil Thompson, also testified Tuesday. The only time he said he talked to his son June 27 was whenever Thompson called him while he was at the grocery store. However, he said he had been over to their house to mow their lawn, as well as after his son called him that morning.

While he was mowing, he moved a white phone out of his way, near the passenger side of Garner’s vehicle, which he picked up and placed on the front porch railing.

After he finished mowing, he knocked on their door, but no one answered and he couldn’t hear anyone inside, so he left. When his son called him and said something went wrong, he hung up and headed back home, he said.

When he got back to Amber, he went back over to his son’s house, knocked on the door again and again, but no one answered, he testified.

Luke said Thompson sounded emotional over the phone the morning after the incident. Thompson told Luke he was about to kill himself.

“He told me he wanted me to let my children and all the family know he loved them and he’s sorry,” Luke said. “(The phone call) ended with us both saying we loved each other.”

Luke then called him back about five minutes later and Thompson asked if he had called the sheriff’s office. Luke said no but encouraged Thompson to call them and let them know what was going on.

“I said, ‘Do it. Please call the police. I’ll help you out. I love you,’” Luke said.

Luke told Thompson he didn’t know what he was doing and that he shouldn’t hurt himself. Shortly after, Luke called law enforcement, but after being put on hold, he decided to go to the sheriff’s office himself.

Neither Phil Thompson nor James Luke were questioned by the defense.

Grady County District Attorney Jason Hicks is leading prosecution in the case.

Jessica Bruha

366-3540

jbruha@normantranscript.com

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