Witnesses testify about deadly Tahoe City fight
Sun News Service
AUBURN ” Three witnesses testified for the prosecution this morning in the murder trial of Timothy Brooks, who is accused in the stabbing death of Robert Ash last August in Tahoe City.
Erica Lash, her mother Terry Lash and their friend Marianne O’Connor testified about what they saw on Aug. 17, 2005, outside Syd’s Bagelry in Tahoe City. Erica Lash, a cook, said she was sitting in a chair near a picnic bench when she heard Brooks’ wife, Susanne Brooks, yell obscenities and kick Ash’s black Aston Martin convertible that was parked near the curb.
She said Ash was “holding his side hunched over” and that she picked up Ash’s reading glasses that were in the street.
Defense attorney Thomas Leupp, who is assisting attorney Marcus Topel, reminded Erica Lash that the police report said her back was turned to the street, although she testified she could see what was happening.
O’Connor also testified that she heard Susanne Brooks scream obscenities and kicked Ash’s car bumper with her shoe six times. She said she saw Ash walk into Syd’s and come stumbling out with a Syd’s employee behind him carrying towels.
“The girl screamed, ‘We need to get him on the ground. He’s been stabbed,'” O’Connor said.
O’Connor testified that she assisted in helping Ash to the ground.
Terry Lash, who owns a coffee shop with her husband in Santa Barbara, was given the most attention this morning by the defense attorney. She testified that she saw Brooks punch Ash forcefully with his right hand into Ash’s abdomen on the right hand side, which turned out to be a stabbing.
“I looked up and heard voices raised,” Terry Lash said. “His [Ash’s] hands were in a defensive position. I saw the defendant take a swift blow to Ash’s right side. I thought he had been punched, but it was with a strong force.”
She then noted that Ash landed in the street between two cars and said to her husband, “This man has been stabbed.” She saw Brooks say something to his wife and they fled.
Terry Lash then said Ash walked in front of her and she asked him, “Have you been stabbed?” When he replied, “Yes,” Lash asked “Why?”
“He started to go down to the ground,” Terry Lash said. “I did not assist, but I was right there. He appeared extremely hurt. Another gentleman asked if he had been stabbed and I said, ‘Call 9-1-1.'”
Leupp’s cross examination was heated at times when he tried to discredit Terry Lash’s testimony that Ash’s hands were in a “defensive position,” by stating that she did not give deputies that description at the time of the incident or write it in a written statement she wrote days after the incident.
“You knew it was important to be thorough, right?” Leupp asked Lash. “No one was pressuring you or forcing you [to write a statement]. You didn’t say a single word about Mr. Ash having his hands up.”
“That was not the focus,” Terry Lash responded.
“You didn’t think someone’s hands in a defensive posture was important,” Leupp questioned.
“The important part was the attack,” Lash responded.
Leupp indicated later that because Lash did not see what happened before the final blow to Ash’s abdomen that she did not know where Ash’s hands were and that he could have had them up to punch Brooks.
Superior Court Judge Robert McElhany had Lash illustrate where she remembered Ash’s hands were.
Deputy District Attorney Christopher Cattran reenacted the fight that Lash saw. She indicated Ash and Brooks were 20 to 25 feet away from her.
During Tuesday morning’s testimony, the 12-member jury remained stone-faced and attentive. Some took notes while others just watched the proceedings.
Brooks, 26, dressed in a light blue-collared shirt and dark blue sweater, looked toward his family seated behind him during parts of the testimony. Susanne Brooks remained still while George Brooks, the defendant’s father, took copious notes throughout the testimonies.
Ash’s wife, Mimi Ash, was flanked by her mother, Ash’s mother, sister and niece. Robert Ash’s sister, Peggy, cried during parts of the testimony.
This afternoon, Terry Lash will continue her testimony and her husband will be called to the witness stand.
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