Murder trial day four: Brooks takes the stand
Sun News Service
AUBURN ” A calm and soft-spoken Timothy Brooks took the stand Thursday to explain what happened on the morning of Aug. 17, 2005, when he fatally stabbed Robert Ash in Tahoe City.
Brooks, who was dressed conservatively in his usual attire of a blue sweater and slacks, told the 12-member jury that he and his wife, Susie, were in their Toyota 4Runner on their way to a closing business sale in Tahoe City when a man cut them off in his black sports car. He said his wife wanted to buy a pair of shorts and that he wanted to go into Tahoe City quickly so he could get back to Truckee to set up an interview at the Bank of America for a job as a bank teller.
“It was a nice day ” sunny and cool. As I was driving along, a car almost side swiped me,” said Brooks, who noted that there was a cement truck in front of him. “He almost hit me and I swerved.”
Brooks said he closed in on the driver who had swerved in front of him to miss oncoming traffic and then gave the driver “the finger” and honked at him. He said the driver, who turned out to be Ash, passed the cement truck and then “smirked” at Brooks through his rear view mirror.
“When we approached Squaw Valley, my wife suggested we look for the car,” said Brooks, who mumbled throughout his testimony. “My wife wanted to get identification on the car.”
When they could not locate Ash’s car in Squaw Valley, they headed to Tahoe City to the Tahoe City Marketplace, Brooks said. As he and his wife tried to locate the store, they noticed Ash’s car parked outside Syd’s Bagelry.
“My wife said, ‘That’s the car, that’s the car. Stop. Find a parking space,'” Brooks said. “I saw a parking lot and decided to park there.”
Brooks testified that he parked his vehicle in the Big Tree Center and grabbed his sheathed fishing knife from the car.
“I had an idea that if no one was around maybe I would slash one of the tires of [Ash’s] car,” Brooks said. “I put the fishing knife in my pocket.”
He said as he and his wife were crossing the street to Syd’s, his wife saw Ash and went running to him. Brooks testified that he told her to stop but that she kept running.
“I was thinking I didn’t want confrontation and I didn’t want my wife running over to a stranger,” he said.
When Brooks arrived, he said he heard his wife tell Ash, “You cut us off, you could have killed us.” He said Ash then said, “Are you the ones who honked on 89,” to which Susie Brooks replied, “You could have killed someone.” Brooks then noted that Ash said, “So.”
“I pointed at the car and said, ‘You could have killed someone, asshole,'” Brooks testified. “Something changed in him. He looked like he wanted to fight. He puffed himself up and puffed up shoulders and he said, ‘What are you going to do about it?'”
Brooks then said he “lost control of the situation” and became scared and nervous. He said he tried to spit at Ash, but his mouth was dry.
“I saw his face change,” Brooks said. “He hit me in the side of the head. I didn’t see it. I felt it. Everything went black.”
Brooks said he stumbled into his wife and described his vision as if someone took “a video camera and shook it.” He said he panicked and didn’t know where he was standing.
“I pulled the knife out to protect myself,” Brooks stated. “I saw the man standing. He said, ‘Oh, you have a knife. Come on, come on.’ He came at me and swung. I had the knife and his hand came at my face. He went to kick and at that point I felt the knife hit him. He turned around and ran towards the street. I saw him fall.”
Ash then stood up and pulled his T-shirt up to expose his wound to Brooks and stated “You stabbed me, you bastard,” according to Brooks’ testimony.
Brooks said he was in shock and panic and told his wife that they needed to leave. They ran to their car and started to back out, but a man, who was an off-duty Tuolumne County Sheriff’s deputy, told them to stop.
“I decided to cooperate. I got out of the car. I looked at Susie and told her I stabbed the man. She was in total disbelief.”
Brooks said that after he was arrested he asked Detective Jeff Davis if he could write Ash an apology letter, but that he didn’t know if the letter was ever delivered to Ash or his family. He said that he regretted the incident and “it was terrible for his family and mine.”
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Cattran’s cross examination of the defendant focused on Brooks’ videotaped testimony to Davis on the day of the stabbing. Cattran said Brooks had said his wife had told him not to take the knife, but Defense Attorney Marcus Topel objected, saying that he thought the statement was “She told me not to tell.”
Cattran had Brooks admit that he was angry before the stabbing and also revealed part of Brooks’ statement to Davis.
“I was scared. I guess partially because it was self defense, but partially because I was stupid, too,” Cattran read aloud from Brooks’ videotaped confession. “I could have run away and called the police, too.” Later, Cattran read: “Part of me thinks it is self defense, but I want to take responsibility for what I’ve done. … I know I’m going to jail, but maybe someday I can start my life again.”
Brooks also admitted he did not tell Davis that Ash said “Oh, you have a knife. Come on, come on.”
As Brooks’ stepped off the stand, he nodded at the jury, which looked somber after the morning’s testimony. Many of the jury members surveyed both the Brooks and Ash family.
Mimi Ash had been crying and shaking her head during the testimony. Robert Ash’s sister, Peggy Ash, was also weeping during Brooks’ testimony.
George Brooks, the defendant’s father, stood in the back corner and surveyed the jury and the rest of the courtroom while taking notes, just as he has throughout the first week of trial.
After the jury was excused, Brooks hugged Topel and then gave his wife a tight hug. Brooks’ mother kissed him on the cheek. The Ash family promptly left the courtroom with tears in their eyes.
The trial will resume April 3 at 8:30 a.m. in Department 1 when the defense will call its next witness.
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