A Baton Rouge man accused in the Mother’s Day 2013 shooting death of his former girlfriend, who had obtained a temporary restraining order against him just three weeks earlier, was acquitted Tuesday night by a jury that deliberated for nine hours.
Carlos J. Thomas, 38, who was charged with second-degree murder in the killing of 31-year-old Amanda Lea McCullough and faced a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted on that charge, vigorously embraced his attorneys after the “not guilty” verdict was read inside state District Judge Lou Daniel’s courtroom.
“Obviously I’m happy for my client,” said Sean Collins, one of Thomas’ attorneys.
Members of McCullough’s family cried outside the courtroom.
East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar Moore III said by telephone that his office respects the verdict of the jury, which he said worked extremely hard. He also applauded the efforts of his prosecution team and the Baton Rouge Police Department.
“Domestic violence cases are always difficult cases, especially when there is no victim to testify,” Moore said.
In his closing argument to the jury of six women and six men Tuesday morning, Collins asked jurors to acquit Thomas, arguing that his DNA was found in McCullough’s Iowa Street home because he had previously lived there. Collins also noted that another man’s DNA was discovered inside the home.
There were no witnesses to McCullough’s slaying.
Detectives who searched Thomas’ Highland Road apartment the day McCullough’s body was found noticed furniture and two televisions she had reported stolen from her home, arrest documents show.
“He took things that belonged to him,” Collins argued.
Assistant District Attorney Melanie Fields argued to the jury that Thomas “executed” McCullough — a Baton Rouge General Medical Center nurse — in her home on May 12, 2013, to prevent her from going to court three days later to seek a permanent restraining order against him.
“His world was crumbling,” the prosecutor argued.
McCullough had obtained a temporary restraining order against Thomas on April 22, 2013, after saying he had become increasingly violent and threatened to kill her two young children. She had been awarded temporary custody of the children.
McCullough was found fatally shot just three days before a scheduled hearing in East Baton Rouge Parish Family Court.
Fields said McCullough was shot in the leg, hand, face and once in the back of the head.
“Carlos Thomas executed Amanda McCullough,” Fields told the jury. “It was personal. It wasn’t random. It wasn’t a burglary. It wasn’t a crack addict.”
In her petition for a protective order, McCullough said Thomas had shoved her, stalked her and threatened her 6-year-old son and 4-year-old daughter.
“The defendant verbally threatened to set my house on fire with my son and I in the house sleeping,” McCullough said in the petition, describing an April 18, 2013, incident. Thomas had threatened to “shoot through the windows of my home, with my son and I inside,” she added.
McCullough alleged Thomas also had taken her daughter in April 2013 “and threatened her life verbally to me on the phone and via text messages. He would call and let her cry in the phone, then hang up before I could console her,” she said in court filings.
McCullough said Thomas had shoved her three different times and “threatened to blow my brains out on several different occasions in front of my children.”
“I have witnessed the defendant physically harm a complete stranger at least twice since I’ve known him,” she added.
McCullough told police investigators on May 11, 2013, that she had kicked Thomas out a couple of months before, and that he had been harassing her ever since, according to a police report.
She also told police the day before she was killed that someone had broken her side bedroom window and apparently entered her house sometime between May 6 and May 11, 2013. Nothing was missing from the residence, but McCullough found the dead bolt on the front door unlocked, suggesting someone left through that door. Police were unable to lift any fingerprints from the scene, according the report.
McCullough had been trying to sell her home, according to her family. She had been staying in LaPlace.