Deputy recalls confession: Defendant admitted to stabbing victim
Swift News Service
AUBURN – Timothy Brooks admitted he stabbed Robert Ash outside Syd’s Bagelry in Tahoe City, according to the testimony of a Placer County sheriff’s deputy during Brooks’ murder trial Tuesday.
Deputy John Lasagna testified he met Brooks in the middle of North Lake Boulevard on the morning of Aug. 17, 2005, after being called to a possible stabbing outside the bagel shop. Brooks and Lasagna walked toward one another when they met in the road, Lasagna stated.
“He said, ‘I’m the guy you are looking for,'” Lasagna said of statements Brooks made to him. “I said, ‘Are you the guy who stabbed him?'” He said, ‘Yeah, I ruined my life.'”
Lasagna said he then arrested Brooks and brought him over to a bench in Heritage Park, where the stabbing had taken place. Susanne Brooks, Brooks’ wife, approached the men at the bench and was “fairly hysterical,” according to Lasagna.
“She said, “You don’t understand.’ She described that they were almost run off the road (by Ash). ‘He almost killed us,’ she said. She said they just wanted to get the guy’s name and license,” Lasagna testified. “She said Timothy spat in (Ash’s) face and Ash threw a punch at Brooks.”
Lasagna said Timothy Brooks “didn’t say much.” He said Brooks looked shocked and that Susanne Brooks did most of the talking.
“The only comments Tim made was ‘I knew it was wrong, but he punched me and I was very dazed. I took the knife out and did it,'” Lasagna said.
Other witnesses called by the prosecution Tuesday included Lisa Fritsch – a motorist in Tahoe City the day of the stabbing who testified she had to brake to avoid hitting Ash when he fell into the road – and Erica Lash, her mother and father, Terry and Lowell Lash, and their friend, Marianne O’Connor.
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, relayed to Erica Lash that the police report stated her back was turned to the street, although she testified she could see what was happening.
O’Connor also testified she heard Susanne Brooks scream obscenities and saw her kick Ash’s bumper with her shoe six times. She said she saw Ash walk into the bagel shop and come stumbling outside with an 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 Tuesday 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 she 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 re-enacted the fight that Lash saw. She indicated that Ash and Brooks were 20 to 25 feet away from her.
Lowell Lash also recalled seeing Ash put his hands up in a defensive posture and that he saw Brooks throw “at least two punches, possibly three” at Ash. Lowell Lash’s testimony differed from testimony given by Richard and Jeanine Rutherford Monday. The Rutherfords indicated they saw Timothy and Susanne Brooks run up the street and meet Ash on the sidewalk, whereas Lash said he saw the three of them together in the park and walk to the sidewalk together. However, Lash admittedly noted that he didn’t pay close attention because he thought it was just “a fist fight.”
During Tuesday’s testimony, the 12-member jury remained stone-faced and attentive. Some took notes while others just watched the action.
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 testimony. Timothy Brooks gave his wife a tight hug at the conclusion of Tuesday’s proceedings.
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, as did Mimi Ash.
Cross examination of Lasagna will continue today. Cattran said he will call a Washoe Medical Center pathologist and a county evidence examiner to the witness stand, which will complete his case. The defense is then expected to call its first witness.
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