Public records and testimony are starting to reveal details about a homicide in Maysville last week that left a father and husband dead and a decorated United States Marine facing a murder charge.
As Lagniappe reported, Trent Thornton was arrested and charged with the murder of Patrick Edwards on Wednesday, Feb. 5 — roughly 24 hours after a traffic involving the two men turned deadly.
According to prosecutors, Thornton struck Edwards’ car on Michigan Ave. around 10 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 4. At 10:02 p.m., dispatchers at the Mobile County 911 Center received a call from Edwards’ fiance, Exiomara Goins, notifying police they’d been hit by another car that was fleeing.
“Someone just hit and run me, and I’m chasing behind them right now. They just hit my car and kept… I’m on Michigan Avenue right now!,” Goins says, according to a transcript of the call. “…We are on Maryvale Drive South. They are running from us. He on a dead end.”
That was the last thing Goins said to 911 dispatcher before she was transferred to the Mobile Police Department, which retains records on a separate system and doesn’t release them during investigations.
Court filings indicate Edwards and Goins followed Thornton’s car for some time — around 1.7 miles — until he turned onto Central Drive, which is a dead end street. That is ultimately where police say Edwards was shot to death after he “exited his vehicle to confront [Thornton].”
According to prosecutors, Thornton fired three to four rounds through his driver side window at Edwards as he was “attempting to communicate” with him. After being shot, Edwards tried to drive a way wrecked his vehicle, which is where responding officers found him. Thornton fled the scene.
The exact timeline of the confrontation between Thornton and Edwards is a little unclear, but Thornton appears to have been actively posting on social media just minutes before the accident.
Between 9 p.m. and 9:57 p.m., Thornton appears to have made around nine Facebook posts about President Donald Trump’s Feb. 9 State of the Union speech and specifically about U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D – New York boycotting the event.
9:01 p.m.: It’s starting now…I haven’t seen AOC…I want her in the worst kinda way….
9:01 p.m.: Where’s AOC
9:02 p.m.: I’m going to die if I don’t see her
9:03 p.m.: I want to run away and live in the woods with her
9:08 p.m.: The lack of AOC in this thing is preposterous
9:09 p.m.: Where is she
9:10 p.m.: I’m going to die if I don’t see her
9:10 p.m.: Heaven is a seat at the place before she got elected
9:57 p.m.: Nancy Looks Mad [crying laughing emojis]
The last post was less than five minutes before Goins called 911 to report a hit and run driver.
The following morning, after Edwards death had already been confirmed by police and reported in the local media, Thornton took to Facebook again to continue his posts about Ocasio-Cortez.
At 8:25 a.m. he changed his cover photo to a picture of OCasio-Cortez and his profile picture to a cartoon wolf ogling her. He does not appear to have notified police about the shooting at any point before they confronted him later that day during what investigators described as “a standoff.”
MPD Homicide Detective Glenn Barton, officers spotted the car Thornton was driving at his grandmother’s home and attempted to make contact. Not getting a response and concerned Thornton was armed, police escalated their tactics.
“We continued to call his name from the front door for around 45 minutes without any response,” Barton said. “It was a situation we would call a standoff or a barricade situation because we gave commands with no response. We then deployed the SWAT unit as well as a canine unit to respond.”
Barton said he was eventually able to reach Thornton’s mother, who convinced him to surrender. He also noted that, after police obtained a warrant to search the house, they found a .28 caliber handgun and “military style” rifle, a sniper rifle and over 500 rounds of ammunition.
However, Thornton’s defense attorneys objected to Barton characterizing that situation as a “stand off” because Mobile Police Department detectives had not obtained a warrant for Thornton’s arrest or to enter the property at the time they confronted him. He said Thornton had no obligation to respond to police.
“The doormat I have going into my house says: ‘Come back with a warrant,’” Chase Dearman said during a bond hearing on Friday. “I don’t care how many police knock on my door, if they don’t have a warrant I ain’t going anywhere and I don’t care if my mama calls. At least [Thornton] complied.”
Because Thornton does not appear to have any criminal history, he would be constitutionally entitled to a pre-trial bond for all three of the charges he faces: murder, discharging a firearm into an unoccupied vehicle and leaving the scene of an accident with injuries.
State prosecutors had asked that Cheriogotis impose a $205,000 bond, which would have been outside of the schedule established by the state. Dearman, on the other hand, argued for less and asked Cheriogotis to consider Thornton’s military service and his family’s connections to the community.
“This young man right here is the definition of why we’re in this court and why we’re free,” Dearman said. “He did two tours of duty as an infantry Marine in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2011, and he was honorably discharged. He received a service medal and valor medal.”
Ultimately, Cheriogotis set Thornton’s bond at a combined $175,000 for all three charges and ordered him to have no contact with the Edwards family or possess any firearms while he’s out on bond.
Dearman declined to discuss his defense strategy, though he did briefly mention Alabama’s “stand your ground” law in court. Other signs also indicate Thornton may claim self-defense including his decision to plead not guilty.
His verbal plea seemed to upset more than a dozen of the family members and friends who attended the hearing to support Edwards and Goins. Cheriogotis has set a preliminary hearing in the case for March 3.
However, if Thornton claims protection under the stand your ground law, he would be entitled to an immunity hearing before his case goes to trial. In some cases that “appear to self-defense,” prosecutors opt not to arrest the potential suspect until the facts can be presented to a grand jury.
Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich to Lagniappe that happens “more than the public knows” and said that in cases like Thorntons, where a potential self-defense case leads to immediate charges, it is typically because there is some kind of effect or into fact that “negates a self-defense claim.”
However, Rich said she could not speak to Thornton’s case directly because it is still pending.
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