Judge upholds murder charge in road-rage case
January 11, 2006
Timothy Brooks will be charged with murder in the stabbing death of Robert Ash, a Placer County Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
Brooks, 25, is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 27 in Auburn for allegedly stabbing to death the 47-year-old Newcastle developer outside Syd’s Bagelry in Tahoe City on Aug. 17.
Judge Richard Couzens said in a seven-page opinion filed with the court Friday that there was “sufficient evidence in the record to justify” the charge of murder. However, Couzens denied the district attorney’s request to charge Brooks with possessing a dirk or a dagger, based on insufficient evidence.
Placer County Sheriff’s deputies testified that an off-duty Tuolumne County sheriff’s deputy stopped Brooks as he was trying to leave the scene of the altercation and that Brooks admitted that he had stabbed Ash.
“In his brief statement to the police, the defendant indicated simply that he and the victim had been arguing, the victim hit him in the face, he became dazed, he pulled out a knife and stabbed the victim,” Couzens stated in his opinion. “The defendant claimed no fear for his safety necessitating the use of deadly force. Viewed in this manner, the evidence suggests the defendant was the aggressor throughout the entire incident, culminating in the unwarranted stabbing of the victim.”
Placer County Deputy District Attorney Chris Cattran said he will seek to increase Brooks’ bail amount set by another judge. A bail increase hearing will be scheduled soon, Cattran said.
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Brooks, who was living in Truckee at the time of the August incident, is currently free on $250,000 bail. His attorney, Marcus Topel, said at an earlier hearing that Brooks would live with his parents in the Bay Area if allowed to post bail.
At an October hearing in Tahoe City, a county judge lowered the charge to voluntary manslaughter. Cattran refiled the murder charge, but Couzens said at a December hearing in Auburn that he needed time to read the transcript from the previous hearing.
The defense and prosecution disagree over who started the fight following an incident between Ash and Brooks on Highway 89 near Squaw Valley. Ash, who was driving a recently purchased Aston Martin sports car, passed Brooks and cut him off, according to the defense.
According to Topel, Brooks and his wife, who were in a Toyota 4-Runner, drove into Squaw Valley searching for Ash to learn his name. They continued to drive to Tahoe City, where Susanne Brooks spotted Ash’s car about 30 minutes after the original incident.
Susanne Brooks ran over to Ash, who was eating a bagel and drinking coffee outside the bagelry, according to reports. Topel has argued that Timothy Brooks followed and he and Ash got into an argument, then Ash started a fistfight and Brooks pulled out his knife in self defense.
Ash, who grew up in Incline Village, had been working on projects in Truckee the previous year and was spending a lot of time in town before his death.
Topel has described Brooks as a University of California, Berkeley, graduate who was planning to attend graduate school in Monterey and had recently married his German wife.