No-show jurors delay Safco shooting suspect’s murder trial

Published 5:55 pm Wednesday, May 3, 2023

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Circuit Court Judge Matthew Glassman ordered a three-month delay to the start of a Carrollton man’s murder trial after seven prospective jurors didn’t show up to court on April 26.

Preston Kyle Thomas, now 25, allegedly shot and killed 26-year-old Rakim Breeden of Como, North Carolina, on Sept. 23, 2021, while the two were employed at the Safco Distribution Center near Windsor.

Thomas, who is charged with first-degree murder, was set to stand trial April 26-28. Glassman rescheduled the trial for July 24-25.

Isle of Wight County’s Circuit Court had sent summonses to 31 prospective jurors, though only 24 showed for what would have been the start of the three-day trial. According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Georgette Phillips, two of the 24 who showed would likely have been “struck for cause,” which occurs when the judge deems a prospective juror unable to weigh evidence impartially due to a conflict, such as knowing one of the attorneys arguing the case. The prosecution and defense then each get five “peremptory strikes,” which allow the two attorneys to collectively eliminate another 10 jurors for their own reasons. The peremptory strike process would have reduced the pool to 12, though 13 are needed – 12 jurors, plus one alternate.

Under state law, the no-shows can be fined $50 to $200 for their failure to appear without sufficient excuse.

Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office investigators say a damaged cellphone precipitated the shooting.

Breeden allegedly knocked Thomas’s cellphone off a ledge, prompting an argument between the two. Thomas then allegedly retrieved a gun from his car and shot Breeden multiple times during a second argument while the two were outside on break. Breeden died en route to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

The day of the shooting had been Breeden’s first day on the job, according to his mother, Mary. At a February 2022 press conference, she partnered with the Sheriff’s Office to announce a $5,000 reward for Thomas’ capture. He eventually turned himself in on April 14, 2022, after eluding law enforcement for nearly seven months.

Sheriff’s deputies and a Virginia State Police tactical team had attempted to apprehend Thomas the day of the crime at his last known address in the Eagle Harbor apartment complex, where they spotted a car allegedly belonging to Thomas that had been seen leaving the crime scene – but they didn’t find Thomas himself.

Sheriff’s Office Capt. Tommy Potter stated at last year’s press conference that Thomas was alleged to have fled to the Hampton-Newport News area during his time as a fugitive.

Thomas was initially charged with second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The charge was later upgraded to first-degree murder, which Virginia law defines as “by poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, or by any willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing,” or murder in the commission of another crime.

Thomas, who is represented by Hampton attorney Tim Clancy, pleaded not guilty at his September arraignment.