Thomas convicted on voluntary manslaughter counts
BY STACI WILSON
It took a Susquehanna County jury just two hours to find a man accused of gunning down two men outside his Great Bend Twp. residence in February 2012 not guilty on the most serious charges leveled against him but the jury did convict Lloyd Thomas, 47, on two first degree felony counts of voluntary manslaughter.
For the voluntary manslaughter convictions, the jury had to find that Thomas killed Joshua Rogers and Gilberto Alvarez because he believed he was in danger but that his belief was unreasonable.
Thomas shot Rogers and Alvarez when the men approached the Pine Ayre Drive residence through the woods after their car was hit by a bullet as it was traveling on Dubois Street, near the Thomas property. Rogers had told his live-in girlfriend, Lena Clark, that he and Alvarez were going to find the person who shot the vehicle just prior to the shooting.
Thomas took the stand as the only witness for the defense Thursday morning. He detailed his actions during the morning hours of Feb. 11, 2012 – admitting he had been firing guns from the deck of the home in an attempt to keep squirrels from further damaging the bird feeders.
Thomas told the jury he was in his home when he saw Rogers and Alvarez approach the side of the residence from a wooded area, then separate with Rogers heading to the back of the house and Alvarez going toward the front.
He said he peered out a door and could see and hear Rogers on the lower deck of the home. He said he then saw Rogers emerge from the lower deck area into the backyard. He told the jury he then saw Rogers point a shotgun at him. “I fired twice,” Thomas said, adding he didn’t see if he had hit Rogers.
He also told the jury that he was very scared.
Thomas said he then went to check the family’s gun shop that was located on the premises. He said he exited the door of the shop as Alvarez walked out of the garage. It was in the front of the home where Thomas told the jury that he thought Alvarez was reaching for a hand gun.
“I shot him,” Thomas said.
He told the jury the entire incident happened in less than one minute.
Pennsylvania State Police Cpl. Patrick Zirpoli was called to the stand for a second time by District Attorney Jason Legg. Zirpoli said that he and Cpl. Michael Joyce returned to the scene after a defense expert provided a theory different from the prosecution’s as to how the killings happened that day.
Zirpoli told the jury he stood on the upper deck area– in the spot where Thomas had told the jury he was when he fired at Rogers – and Joyce went to the lower deck. Zirpoli said that Joyce was 6’3” tall, the same height as Rogers.
Zirpoli said from his vantage point he could not see the trooper below wielding a 36-inch umbrella even when Joyce held it straight up in the air. The umbrella was just a little longer than the shotgun Rogers was carrying.
“Standing there, you can’t see the gun,” Zirpoli said.
Thomas’ testimony on the order of the shootings was opposite to what Shooting Reconstruction Expert Ronald Scott determined. Scott determined that Alvarez was shot before Rogers.
Immediately following the verdict, Thomas’ bail was revoked and he was taken into custody. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 27.
Thomas’ attorney George Lepley indicated the defense planned to appeal the conviction. In addition to the voluntary manslaughter counts, Thomas was also found guilty on a count of possession of a small amount of marijuana and a count of possession of drug paraphernalia.