Less than two hours after Eric Thompson’s wife received a text message from Myron Briggs, Thompson’s body was riddled with 11 separate gunshot wounds and Briggs was suffering from a gunshot wound to his left leg, according to testimony and attorneys’ opening remarks in Briggs’ first-degree murder trial in Monticello.
Briggs, on trial for first-degree murder in the September 2015 shooting death of Thompson, sat in a wheelchair between his attorneys Tuesday morning as Thompson’s widow read to a Drew County jury the contents of a text message in which Briggs, 41, accused Thompson, 46, of having an affair with his wife.
Thompson’s widow, Sheila Thompson, testified that she and her husband went to Briggs’ home sometime after 11 p.m. on September 13, 2015 in an attempt to resolve the matter. When they arrived, Korey Davis and Davis’ wife were outside Briggs’ home. The two men spoke briefly with Briggs at the door before Briggs invited them inside. The women remained outside.
Shortly after Thompson and Davis went inside Briggs’ house, Sheila Thompson said she heard gunshots.
“When you heard the shots, what did you do?” 10th Judicial District Chief Deputy Prosecutor Frank Spain asked.
“I ran,” Sheila Thompson said. “It didn’t register with me that it was right there…. I really didn’t know where it came from so I ran.”
She said when she realized her husband wasn’t with her, she went back up the street. “I didn’t know if it was people outside shooting or what, but I didn’t have him so I went back to see where he was.”
When she arrived at Briggs’ house she said she opened the screen door and saw her husband lying on the floor. She said she attempted to reach inside to her husband, but Briggs told her, “‘Get back. You better get back.’”
She later testified during cross-examination by Briggs’ attorney, Greg Robinson, that she saw Davis drive past her as she was going back to Briggs’ house and didn’t see him again until sometime after police arrived.
Robinson asked Sheila Thompson why Davis went to Briggs’ house.
“I don’t know,” she said.
“Did Eric tell you Korey was going to be there?” Robinson asked.
“No,” she said.
“Did you know that Eric had guns?”
“Did Eric have guns at the house?”
“Did it occur to you that going visiting sometime after 11 o’clock at night on what, at my house, we call a school night is kind of unusual?” Robinson asked.
“It was a situation that we needed to talk about,” she said. “We needed to clear it up.”
Asked where Thompson was standing when Davis knocked on Briggs’ door, Sheila Thompson said he was at the end of the steps. She couldn’t estimate the distance, but described it as “right there,” apparently meaning a close distance.
On redirect, in an attempt to clarify the location where Thompson was standing when Davis knocked on Briggs’ door, Spain asked Sheila Thompson if Davis and Eric Thompson were close enough to touch each other if they had stretched out their arms. “No,” she replied.
“When you heard the shots you took off running? Or, did you drive away?” Spain asked.
“I drove away,” she said.
“You drove in your car?”
“How far did you go in your car before you turned around and came back?” Spain asked.
“Not a full block because I realized Eric wasn’t with me,” she said. “So, I stopped and turned around. Well, no, I got out of the car and I walked back up the street.”
“And at that point in time you saw (Davis) drive past in his vehicle?” Spain asked.
“Yes, when I was walking back up the street,” she said.
“Davis was in the house when the shooting happened?” Spain asked.
“Yes,” she said.
Asked if she expected there to be violence at Briggs’ house, she said “no.”
Davis, who testified that he was a friend of both Briggs and Thompson, said he received a call from Thompson after Thompson’s wife received a text message from Briggs. As a result of that call, Davis said he contacted Briggs and they discussed getting together to discuss the ongoing feud between Briggs and Thompson.
The feud had been going on for more than a month, but had never become violent, according to Davis.
At Briggs house, Davis said he, Thompson and Briggs spoke briefly at the door before Briggs invited them in his home.
Inside, Davis asked Briggs why he and Thompson were always getting into it and Briggs told him that Thompson was “trying to talk to my wife,” Davis testified.
“Eric was telling him he didn’t want no problems that he loved him like a brother,” Davis said. “Myron told him that if he loved him like a brother he wouldn’t be trying to talk to his wife.”
Briggs then got up, went to another room and returned with a gun. He sat down on the couch and looked down while Davis was talking, then looked up and began shooting Thompson, according to Davis.
Davis said Briggs fired his gun, seven or eight times, maybe more.
After Briggs fired the shots at Thompson, Davis said he went to Thompson and looked back at Briggs and asked, “Why did you shoot him?”
While looking at Briggs, Davis said he heard two or three gunshots and Briggs jumped on Thompson, took a gun from Thompson and sat back down on the couch. He said he didn’t know Thompson had a gun.
On cross examination by Robinson, Davis said he doesn’t know if Thompson was pointing a gun at Briggs when Briggs started shooting.
“When you went over to (Briggs’) house with your wife, Eric and his wife, did you know that Eric had two guns?” Robinson asked.
“No sir,” Davis said.
Asked if he took a gun, Davis said he didn’t.
Though he said he was standing between Briggs and Thompson when the shots were fired, Davis said he did not see bullets hit Briggs or Thompson. “It all happened so fast,” he said.
“No bullets hit you?” Robinson asked.
“No sir,” Davis said.
“Maybe no bullets hit you because you weren’t in the room when it happened?” Robinson suggested.
“I was in the room,” Davis said.
“You were there the whole time?”
“For the whole shooting?”
“Bullets hit the walls. Bullets hit everything. Bullets hit the people, except you?”
“Why do you suppose that (Briggs) didn’t shoot you?” Robinson asked.
Spain objected, saying the question called for speculation. Circuit Judge Sam Pope sustained Spain’s objection.
“At any time when you were in that room that night, did you point a gun at Myron Briggs?” Robinson asked Davis.
“I never possessed a gun and had I known Eric had a gun we wouldn’t have ever went over there,” Davis said. “I didn’t think Myron had a gun either.”
“Did you tell Eric that Myron had a gun?” Robinson asked.
“No sir,” Davis said. “I didn’t tell either one of them about a gun because it wasn’t about a gun, it was about the feuding situation.”
A Monticello police officer testified that when he arrived at Briggs’ home, Briggs was sitting on a couch with two guns at his feet. Another gun was found later beside Thompson’s body.
“Did you ask Mr. Briggs any questions?” Spain asked.
“Yes sir,” the officer said. “I said ‘wow man, what’s going on?’”
“What was his response?” Spain asked.
“He told me that he shot the man because he was (expletive deleted) his wife,” the officer said.
The two guns the officer said he saw at Briggs’ feet and another discovered later beside Thompson’s body were among 41 pieces of evidence police collected.
Dr. Charles Kokes, the state medical examiner and one of the last two witnesses to testify before the state rested its case, said Thompson’s body had 11 separate gunshot wounds. He died from a loss of blood.
When the trial resumed on Wednesday, Briggs testified that he was defending himself when he shot Thompson. He said Thompson fired the first gunshots, striking him in the leg, before he was able to get his gun from his pocket.
He said he fired at Thompson to stop Thompson from firing at him.
The jury deliberated less than two hours before finding Briggs not guilty.
Following the not guilty verdict on the murder charge, Briggs and 10th Judicial District Chief Deputy Prosecutor Frank Spain reached a plea agreement on a separate charge of felon in possession of a firearm. In the plea agreement, Briggs received a 10-year sentence in the Arkansas Department of Correction and a 10-year suspended imposition of sentence. He will be eligible for parole after serving one-sixth of the sentence. As a habitual offender, Briggs could have faced up to 40 years in prison on the firearm charge.