Repo man murder trial | Victim's associate testifies defendant intended to kill him, too

A repo man who watched his associate die from a fatal gunshot refuted the defense's claim that his actions during a car chase caused Justin Moore's gun to discharge.

Moore followed in a work-assigned van after Willie Thackston and Brandon Thomas repossessed his Ford Mustang from the driveway of his Fairburn home in November 2009. Thomas, of Kennesaw, was killed by a shot to the chest that, according to defense attorney Teddy Ray Price, was fired inadvertently after Thackston steered his tow truck into Moore's vehicle.

Thackston testified Tuesday that Thomas was hit after the collision, though in cross-examination he acknowledged telling police the events might have coincided.  Moore, 30, faces multiple charges, including felony murder and aggravated assault.

In his opening statement, Price told jurors the side mirror of the tow truck clipped his client's sawed-off shotgun, causing it to discharge. Moore "did not purposely fire that gun," Price said.

But Thackston testified the shooting was no accident.

"The guts of [Thomas'] arm blew on me," he said. After Moore drove off, Thackston checked on his associate, still in his first week on the job. "Brandon's eyes had rolled back in his head," he said. "I knew he was gone."

Moore, still armed, returned and ordered him to "put the car down," Thackston testified. "I thought he had every intention ... to finish what he started," he said.

Because of that, Thackston said he told Moore to get into the Mustang as he lowered it. As soon as the wheels hit the pavement, Thackston ran. He said he watched from a distance as Moore got out of the car and approached the tow truck, gun cocked.

"If I hadn't run, he would've killed me," said Thackston, 37.

Moore eventually drove off. A high-speed chase ensued before the car was eventually abandoned, facts acknowledged by the defense.

"He is guilty of fleeing and eluding," Price said. "He is also guilty of involuntary manslaughter. If he meant to shoot them, he would've shot them right in his yard."

Moore did fire four shots after Thomas and Thackston loaded the Mustang onto the truck. Prosecutor Clint Rucker said Thomas notified the defendant before they took the car in an attempt to get his keys, which would expedite the process.

But the defense claimed the repo men arrived at Moore's house "like thieves in the night," arguing that, after his client gave chase, the truck's driver should have unloaded the car.

"Had [Thackston] just dropped that Mustang, this chase wouldn't have happened," Price said.

Meanwhile, jurors learned the entire incident was captured on a neighbor's security camera. However, the footage was accidentally taped over by the neighbor after Fulton police detectives had reviewed it, Rucker said.

"Even from the mouth of Mr. Moore, the evidence will be more than enough [to convict]," he said.