Suspect held for court
CHRIS PARKER/TIMES NEWS Jim Thorpe Patrolman Michelangelo S. Bokeko guides Thomas Henry Smith of Walnutport into the offices of District Judge Edward Lewis of Jim Thorpe for a preliminary hearing Wednesday. Smith is accused of shooting his girlfriend's estranged husband in the legs.
A Jim Thorpe man who police say was shot in the legs by his estranged wife's boyfriend on March 1 testified from his wheelchair Wednesday that there was so much blood pouring from the wound in his thigh that "In my head, it was a question of whether I was going to make it or not."
After listening to Jace J. Gill's testimony and that of the arresting officer, District Judge Edward Lewis of Jim Thorpe sent aggravated assault and related charges against Thomas Henry Smith, 52, of 4507 Three Mile Lane, Walnutport, to Carbon County Court.
Lewis reduced Smith's bail from $500,000 to $100,000 straight cash. Smith's attorney, Stephen Vlossak, asked for the amount to be lowered, saying that Smith was not a flight risk. Assistant District Attorney James Lavelle was amenable to the reduction. Smith has no prior arrests, has family in the area and three children to support, Vlossak said.
Lewis agreed that Smith was not a flight risk; however, he said he also had to "worry about the citizens of the area," thefore keeping the bail substantial. Lewis also said Smith may have to wear an ankle tracking bracelet if he posts bail.
Smith, clad in drab prison blues and handcuffed and shackled, did not testify during the preliminary hearing, and Vlossak called no witnesses.
Gill testified, at one point pulling up his pants legs to show the wounds in his legs. He was shot once in the front of the lower right leg, shattering the bone. He said he had to have emergency surgery to insert a rod in the leg, and that he would not be able to put weight on the leg for about two months. The bullets to his left leg hit the calf, damaging the tendons that allow him to move his toes, and in the upper thigh, which he said doctors told him had "just missed my femoral artery."
Gill has been hospitalized since March 1, and was moved to a rehabilitation facility on Saturday.
Speaking quietly and calmly, Gill said he is a Boy Scout leader and was in Allentown on March 1 for a Scout meeting when he realized he had forgotten papers he needed. He drove back to his home at 11 Lehigh Gorge Drive in the Leisureland section of Jim Thorpe to retrieve them. As he approached his home, he saw a black pickup truck in the driveway. Gill said he called his daughter, who lives nearby, to apprise her of the situation, and that he planned to park his vehicle in her driveway and walk down to his house to see what was going on. As he stood on the road looking down at his house, he saw his estranged wife, Judith A. Gill, on the porch with a man who was drilling into the front door lock.
Under cross-examination by Vlossak, Gill said that he "had a suspicion" the truck belonged to Smith.
Gill said he called his daughter and asked her to call 911, then walked onto the porch past his wife and confronted Smith.
He said he was "looking at him for two seconds, asking myself, what am I going to do to stop him from breaking into my house?"
Then, Gill testified, he punched Smith in the face.
Smith went down, and Gill testified that Judith Gill was "on my back" grabbing his hair and pulling his head back. Suddenly, he said, "I had a feeling there was something wrong with my leg."
He said he does not remember hearing a shot or seeing blood, but his leg was not "working" properly. He said he tried to get at Smith's arms to lower them, and that he realized there was a gun, but did not know in which hand Smith held it.
"The weapon was low, but it could have been aimed higher," he said.
Gill testified Smith then shot him twice in the left leg.
"The pain was excruciating," he said. "I put my hand behind my thigh, and the blood was just pouring." He said he decided to stop fighting, and fell off the porch onto macadam. He recalled Smith saying "If you move, I'll put a bullet in your ing head."
He testified that Smith also said "You're bleeding like a stuck pig. I hope you bleed to death" and "I hope you're crippled for life."
Gill said Smith continually berated him as he lay bleeding. Judith Gill called 911, and as police approached, she began performing First Aid on his leg.
"It seemed like all (for) show," he said.
Gill was flown to Lehigh Valley Hospital, Salisbury Township.
Jim Thorpe Patrolman Michelangelo S. Bokeko testified that he received a call at the police station about a suspicious vehicle in a driveway at 11 Lehigh Gorge Drive. He received another call en route that a man had been shot.
Under cross-examination, he said he had traveled about a mile from the station when he received the second call.
Bokeko testified that he arrived to find Judith Gill applying pressure to Jace Gill's leg, and Smith standing nearby, with a bloody nose. Smith told him that he had shot Gill in self-defense after Gill attacked him.
Smith's blood-covered Colt .45 semiautomatic handgun had been re-holstered and tucked under the driver's side seat of his truck.
Smith was taken to the hospital for treatment. Under questioning by Vlossak, Bokeko said the man's hands were free of any injuries. Smith gave a written statement to a Lehighton officer, Bokeko said.
Under questioning from Lavelle, Bokeko said Smith told him he had fired only two shots.