The Norman Transcript

June 11, 2014

Jury finds Eddie Thompson guilty of first-degree murder, kidnapping, first-degree burglary

By Jessica Bruha
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The only emotion shown by defendant Eddie Thompson during his jury trial seemed to be during a closing statement Tuesday by Assistant District Attorney Susan Caswell.

He was emotionless throughout the trial, emotionless when the guilty verdicts were read and emotionless when he learned the jury requested he receive life in prison without parole for the first-degree murder of Arthur Strozewski.

The jury also requested Thompson, 35, serve life sentences for two counts of kidnapping and one count of first-degree burglary after learning he had five prior felony convictions.

Thompson was charged conjointly with Sebastian Shepherd and Loretta Hawks. A jury trial is scheduled to begin today for Hawks at the Cleveland County Courthouse.

Early Tuesday morning, the jury heard ADA Christy Miller give the initial closing statement, followed by defense attorney Kevin Finlay’s closing statement. The final closing statement was given by Caswell, which seemed to make the most impact, reaching not only the jury but Thompson, as well.

Caswell began by reminding the jury that during the selection process for jurors, she talked to them about evidence.

“You have more evidence in this case than exists in most cases that are tried in the country,” she said.

She and Miller talked to the jurors about how it would be nice to have eyewitnesses, DNA, fingerprints, video and maybe a confession. Nearly all of those pieces of evidence were provided throughout the trial, she said as her voice gradually became louder.

“I submit to you, you have almost all those things in this case that tells you that Eddie Thompson is a murderer,” Caswell yelled, pointing aggressively at Thompson as his eyes quickly shifted downward and he bent his head, as if to avoid everyone’s gaze.

Out of all of the evidence shown — photos of a blood-soaked bedroom, Thompson’s blood-soaked clothes, the bloody knife found hidden in the victim’s home, photos of grotesque stab wounds on Strozewski’s body after the crime — through all of that Thompson had remained complacent.

After the jury returned the verdict and were asked to decide on his punishment, they learned Thompson had previously been convicted of second-degree burglary, escape from a penitentiary, possession of a firearm and auto burglary. The convictions dated back to the mid-’90s with the most recent conviction occurring in December 2008 when he escaped the penitentiary.

“He was already a five-time convicted felon on the day that he broke into Art Strozewski’s home,” Miller said. “He cannot behave outside of the walls of a prison. He can’t do it. He’s out of prison, he commits another crime. He gets convicted, he commits another crime.”

Further statements by Caswell reminded the jury that Thompson went to Strozewski’s home prepared that night.

“He came prepared with his duct tape and his zip ties and a knife,” Caswell said. “He entered that home and he slaughtered Art Strozewski.”

Testimony and evidence presented throughout the trial showed Strozewski suffered in between 38 and 41 stab wounds, which damaged vital organs. He also suffered three fractures during the incident.

When police arrived to Strozewski’s home at 9305 Winston Way, they saw a blood-soaked Thompson come down the stairs and run out the back door of the home. Search teams later found him in the area, still wearing blood-soaked clothing.

Police also found Strozewski and his son duct taped in the upstairs bedrooms. Both his teenage son and daughter were home during the incident but remained physically unharmed, aside from when the son was forcefully duct-taped.

Testimony from the children placed Shepherd in the home during the homicide, but neither of the men knew where Strozewski lived. However, Hawks had been briefly living with Strozewski, and a white vehicle, matching the description of her vehicle, was recorded on a neighbor’s security camera just after 3 a.m. driving past Strosewski’s home.

Detectives testified the homicide occurred sometime after 3 a.m. and the daughter made a 911 call around 3:30 a.m., as well as a phone call to her mother, telling her mother that her brother had been tied up and her father was hurt.

Testimony from the children never indicated that Hawks was in the home when the homicide occurred. However, during Thompson’s trial, prosecutors reminded the jury that the law states that if you’re involved with one crime, such as burglary, and other crimes are committed during that crime, everyone involved is still responsible.

For example, if someone drives another individual to a bank to rob the bank but stays in the vehicle and never enters the bank, that person still will be charged with robbery.

Thompson’s trial took place in District Judge Thad Balkman’s courtroom. Hawks’ trial begins there today, as well, as prosecutors and defense attorneys begin to select a new jury.

Jessica Bruha

366-3540

jbruha@normantranscript.com

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