I am a Killer (2018) s01e05 Episode Script

Kenneth Foster

It was a whirlwind relationship.
We were at bars five, six nights a week.
We had a lot of fun.
We used to go out and play darts and shoot pool every night.
I never meant for her to get hurt.
I loved her.
My name's Charles Thompson.
I've been on death row for 18 years, 19 years altogether on this case.
I was convicted of capital murder, double murder statute.
And it was girlfriend and, uh and another man.
And I walked up, I fired one shot.
And as I got closer, I fired one more shot.
She was shot through the cheek and it stopped in her jaw.
I drove him around behind a desk and I stabbed him approximately 25 times.
I couldn't believe it.
I just thought I can't believe I just killed somebody.
I don't feel bad about it.
I started stabbing him, stabbing the guy on the couch.
How's that? Can you hear me good? Okay? Now I can hear better.
I first met Dennise on my birthday.
There was a little chemistry right away.
We sat around and drank some beers and got to talking.
You know, we we just hit it off.
I had spent the night with her that night.
In a matter of two weeks later, I moved in with her.
She was always smiling, always laughing, just carefree.
She had been divorced, and she was 38 years old and having all the fun she "missed out on.
" That's what she used to say.
The lady could shoot pool, she could shoot darts and she was the life of the party.
Here I was, 27 years old, you know, and, you know, I thought she hung the moon.
I I was in love with her.
We had a couple spats.
There was one time, St.
Patrick's Day, she hit me and I hit her.
And I regretted it.
Man, I regretted it.
But, uh, I was drunk and she hit me, and I just lost my temper and slapped her a couple times.
She had a black eye and, uh, I think her lip was bruised.
Yeah, it was part of my case records, too.
It's nothing I was proud of.
It was the first time I'd ever hit a woman in my life.
We were very much in love and back together when this happened.
And the prosecution tried to portray me as a disgruntled ex-boyfriend.
That that was not the case.
My first inclination that she was seeing Darren was when she told me the weekend before this case happened that she went and slept with the bartender at Kelly's.
I had met him several times, but I never had a clue that he was seeing my girl.
And I should have snapped when we were in the bar.
He was giving us free rounds of drinks.
And that didn't it didn't occur to me, you know, why.
I just thought, "Wow, this guy's being really cool to us," you know? Apparently, she'd been in there for lunch several times and was already seeing him.
The night this happened, we went out to the bar, the usual Wednesday night spot, which was to play darts and, uh, steak and potato night for five bucks.
My friend testified at my trial about us closing the bar as we always did on Wednesday night and then coming home, and, uh, Darren calling at 2:33 o'clock in the morning 'cause he wanted to be with her again.
We ended up getting into a fight.
The sheriff came and told us both to leave.
I came back at 6:00 in the morning to get my stuff, to go to work, and, uh, the gentleman was there in bed with her.
So we got into a verbal altercation, and one thing led to another.
And, uh, from from what I can recollect is he grabbed a French knife out of the kitchen block and he began threatening me with it.
The pistol came out.
I believe I had gotten the pistol outta her closet.
This gentleman threatened me with the knife, told me I need to leave.
And I I drew down on him and I told him, "Hey, you know, you need to put the knife down.
" So we had pretty much a stand-off at that point.
Now what happened next is, it's it's kind of a blur to me.
I was still hung over and still a little drunk.
But from what I remember, he came at me.
If you look at the testimony of the medical examiner, the first shot was some over six to eight feet away.
He was coming at me.
The second shot was three feet or less.
It's just a big blur after that.
We're tumbling around and we're fighting over the pistol.
It happened so fast.
I I remember us fighting and the gun going off, and she got hit.
She was shot through the cheek and it stopped in her jaw.
She got in the middle of us fighting and got shot in the mouth.
And then I checked her and I thought she was dead.
I picked up the phone and called 911.
It didn't go through.
I ran, I left.
I freaked out.
After the crime happened, I went to a friend's house and got bandaged up, and I passed out from shock.
I got up in the morning a few hours later and it was on the TV.
And my friend was watching it, and she told me, "Hey, you know, I think that's you on TV.
" And I started watching it, and I seen her.
I said, "Oh, my God, she's alive.
" And I started crying.
They had her coming out with the bandage on her face, sitting up on the on the stretcher before they put her in the ambulance.
And, uh, you know, I called my dad and I told him, "Hey," you know He right away, he told me, "The police have been looking for you.
They got you 'armed and dangerous.
'" And I said, "Okay.
" He said, "Tell me where you're at, son.
You know, go turn yourself in.
" So I did.
They told her, you know, she was gonna be all right.
This was routine surgery to them.
They waited six hours to take her in.
It wasn't life-threatening.
When they took her into pre-surgery, they repositioned her on her side, and they checked with the fiber optic scope to make sure everything was in the right place.
Everybody left the operating room to go scrub for this surgery, and she lost air.
They ran in there, and did an emergency trachea, hit her with the paddles and brought her back to life.
But it was too late.
She was already brain dead.
She sat in a hospital room for four days with a DNR Do Not Resuscitate order.
They took me down to court seven days after this happened.
I said, "I don't have court.
" They said, "Yeah, you do.
Come on.
" So I went down to court and they told me, "Look, we're dropping the manslaughter and the aggravated assault charges.
" And I looked at the bailiff and asked him, "What does this mean?" And they said, "We're introducing capital murder charges.
" And I looked at the bailiff and he says, "It means the death penalty now, boy.
" I'm like, "Death penalty? What are you talking about?" He said, "Yeah, you're charged under double murder statute.
" I said, "I didn't kill her.
The hospital did.
" I had already talked to my family on the phone and heard that there was complications, that the hospital had suffocated her.
I was devastated.
The family sued the hospital for wrongful death.
I understand it was a very grueling time for them.
Yeah, it was pretty sad.
I loved the lady.
You know, I still think about her every day and why I'm here.
And I wish that she would have lived to testify about this 'cause she would have told them what happened.
Doctors hate lawyers and they hate to testify, especially if they think they've got a dog in the hunt.
I mean, they got a jillion dollars worth of insurance.
It ain't gonna cost them a dime.
They can stand there and admit they killed her, and it wouldn't have cost them a penny.
And and nobody in the medical community would care.
My name is Ellis McCullough, and I was Charles Victor Thompson's original defense attorney.
The first trial, I thought, hinged entirely on the interpretation of the medical evidence.
That Hayslip, uh, the cause of her death, uh, was by her treatment at the hospital.
The state's insistence that the standard was, "What if the victim had had no medical care whatsoever?" Which I consider to be ludicrous.
Because there's almost no injury that can cause death if left totally unattended.
I think the standard ought to be whatever the situation is.
She didn't die at the scene.
She didn't bleed to death at the scene.
They got her there.
It was a nasty wound.
I won't take anything away from that.
But they had everything there to save her life and knew how to do it.
It just didn't work out.
In my opinion, with ordinary medical care, she would have survived.
You know, people make mistakes.
People do stupid stuff.
I think he just fit of rage and jealousy.
And "If I can't have her, nobody's gonna have her" type of thing.
Uh, my name's Michael Donaghy, and I am Dennise's brother.
That picture of her leaning over, you know, sitting up on a gurney and leaning forward so she wouldn't choke to death on her own blood, it was just horrific.
That's etched in my mind forever.
I talked to a doctor down there and he said, you know, "She's hurt bad, but it's, you know, we're gonna take her back in a little bit, we're gonna clean up the wound.
" And so, I went to the rest of the family and told them everything's gonna be okay.
She's gonna survive.
She's probably gonna have a speech impediment and she's gonna have scarring on her face.
About eight, ten hours later, it went from everything being okay to, you know, she's pretty much brain dead.
And that hit me like a ton of bricks, 'cause, you know, I felt responsible for telling everybody it was okay.
I don't know what happened.
But, you know, something happened and One thing I will say is that doctors cover doctors.
They'll they'll cover each other.
Doctors are not magicians.
They're not all perfect.
They're human beings.
They've had more training, generally speaking, than the man or the woman in the street.
But they're still human beings.
I'm Paul Radelat.
I am a pathologist by profession.
The thrust of the defense was that this was not a lethal wound, and she died because this unfortunate event took place in the hospital.
It was my role to substantiate that idea as best I could within the bounds of integrity.
The bullet penetrated what was essentially the upper airway and created bleeding right on top of the entrance to the windpipe.
That was a primary concern of the physicians, and that's the way they acted.
I don't think the doctors covered up.
Maybe I'm being naive in that regard.
I think they were trying to do their best.
It's easy to make a mistake.
And I don't know if they made one or not, but this is a very difficult situation.
I'm not sure any "blame," as I understand the word, should be apportioned to the medical personnel.
They intended no evil.
The shooter, I think we can safely say, intended evil.
Yeah, it was pretty sad.
You know, I loved the lady.
You know, I still think about her every day and why I'm here.
I wish that she would have lived to testify about this.
She would've told them what happened.
She sat in a hospital room with nothing but an IV for fluids for four days, with a DNR Do Not Resuscitate order.
I didn't kill her.
The hospital did.
I had already talked to my family on the phone and heard that they had suffocated her, that there was complications, that she had been in a coma.
Ahem.
Where do I begin with that one? Well, she's not in the hospital if you don't shoot her.
Um I mean, it's an easy excuse to make.
It's an easy one to blame, blame the hospital.
So, I would I would, in his situation, as well.
However, ultimately though, the truth is, is that you held a gun to somebody's face and you pulled the trigger.
And the reason why we know it was held close because there are powder burns on her cheek.
My name is Wade Hayslip.
Dennise was my mom.
My mom was a, uh, very kindhearted individual.
Uh, she taught me everything I needed to know about compassion.
I would hope that Chuck comprehends.
I hope that he understands the weight of of, uh, the domino effect that he's started, the impact that this has caused.
I feel it every day.
From what I remember, Darren came at me.
Yeah.
I shot once, twice, and then we fought.
And then, I the rest of it, it's just a blur to me.
It's "just a blur"? He shot once, twice.
He fired five times.
And when he was on the ground face down, put a bullet into the back of his head.
Okay.
Um, how is that a blur? That's pretty clear.
It's pretty vivid.
And intentional.
I believe I'd gotten the pistol out of her closet.
You know, I-I remember us fighting and the gun going off, and she got hit.
I can't I don't remember exactly how it all happened.
It's He didn't go into detail about how the door got broken into, which the door frame was smashed.
Uh, and also the encounter happened, uh, in the living room and in the kitchen.
So I don't know how he would have got into the closet to do that.
I feel like this is like a five-year-old when you caught them doing something wrong, but they continually maintain that they didn't do it, uh, even though you literally just saw them do it.
I feel like that, it's The rest of the world knows.
But for whatever reason, you're gonna stick to this lie.
The night that the murder took place, we had all been here at Bimbo's Dennise, Chuck and I, playing darts and doing steak night.
Normal night.
My name is Missy Cook, and we're at Bimbo's in Houston, Texas.
It's your local watering hole.
Basically an icon dive bar that's been here for decades.
Dennise was so freaking incredible.
She was one of these people that you met, and the minute you met her and you started talking to her, five minutes into the conversation, you felt like you've known her forever.
She was your sister, she was your aunt, she was your best friend, she was your childhood playmate.
She just had this personability that you you just felt right at home.
Dennise and Chuck seemed like a very odd couple to me.
One, because of his age.
He was younger.
I can't really say I remember the first time that I met him.
Because, you know, in the bar business, you got 50 people in your face.
If I had to speculate about me and my age and the timeframe, I thought, "Damn, he's cute.
" But I think, also, that the other side of that was I realized very quickly, "There's something's not right with that one.
Keep an eye on him.
" I did have her come in to the bar one time with a black eye late at night and talk to me and was like, "Look, this is what he did.
" And the bar was dark.
I was like, "What are you talking about?" She's like, "Look, I've got a lot of makeup on, but" I was like, "Holy shit, what are you doing? What are you doing with this guy? Get away from him.
He's a loose cannon.
He drinks too much, he's doing cocaine.
Get away from this guy.
" And she's like, "I know.
I need to, I need to, I need to.
" I was uneasy because I knew Dennise was trying to set boundaries with Chuck.
Who knew this was gonna happen? We're outside of the crime scene, actually.
Dennise lived in this subdivision behind us.
My name is Jim Kelly.
I owned, uh, a restaurant where Darren was working as a bartender for me that night.
My understanding was that Dennise was through with Chuck.
As a matter of fact, I know she was through with Chuck because she told me herself that she was done.
Oh, she had dumped Chuck because he was remember I remember her saying, "He was just a creep.
" And then she met Darren.
And they were the exact opposite.
If you could put this guy here and this guy here, you got an achiever and you got a loser.
Darren was very outgoing, he was very friendly.
He had a great smile, and you know, and he was going places.
They'd only been together just a few short weeks when this happened.
That night, Darren was working as my bartender, and he called me up and asked me you know, he said that Chuck had threatened Dennise and wanted to go over to the place and see, you know, protect her if if he showed up.
And I said, "Okay, go ahead.
" Uh, which, you know, to this day, I I regret that decision.
Darren went over, and they had a physical confrontation.
Darren whooped him, from what I understand.
And then he, uh he said, "Chuck, you know, this is stupid 'cause she's not gonna date you, she's dating me.
And, uh, will you drink a beer with me?" This is what he told me on the phone.
Chuck agreed.
And they talked things out.
After the confrontation with Chuck, Darren called me and he felt really good about what had happened.
He felt like, you know, Chuck and him had had an agreement, and he felt like that, you know, that it was over and that Chuck was gonna go his way and Dennise and Darren were gonna go his way.
And obviously, that didn't happen.
You know, my understanding is that Chuck left and he came back, uh, knocked down the door.
And, uh, Darren answered the door and he, uh, just shot him in the chest.
Then walked around, and shot him in the back of the head.
And then proceeded to chase, uh, Dennise around the apartment and, uh, caught her and blew the whole front of her face off.
When I got here, Dennise was still here.
They were they were actually life-flighting her out of here.
Um, Darren, uh, was just inside the door.
Um, I could I could see him laying on the ground.
And the sheriff said, you know, "He's dead.
He's gone.
" And I I just turned away.
You know, in retrospect, now knowing what happened, what type of a person does it take to shake someone's hand, go away, and then come back hours later and just murder two people? How what type of a person can do that? This is where he's kicking in the door, right? Yeah, he splintered the door here.
I remember this being shown, uh, during the original trial.
My name is Harrell Rodgers, and I was a juror in the trial of Charles Thompson for the capital murder of two people.
We didn't see a lot of these pictures of the damage done to Dennise.
And really, I don't remember this being, uh, a large part of the deliberations of the jury.
The jurors, I think, had pretty well accepted the fact that if he had not shot her in the face like this, uh, she would not have died.
And so, he was guilty of taking her life.
Our primary issue was whether this guy was a continuing threat to society.
And there were other things that came up in the course of the trial that convinced us that this guy was really a very dangerous person.
One of the most striking things in the trial was the testimony of Diane Zernia.
It happened so fast.
I remember us fighting and the gun going off, and she got hit.
She got in the middle of us fighting and got shot in the mouth.
And then I checked her and I thought she was dead.
I ran, I left.
I freaked out.
Uh, these are not the facts that Diane Zernia presented at trial.
The testimony was that in telling Diane how Dennise Hayslip got shot, he said that he said to Dennise, "I can shoot you, too, bitch," and put a pistol up to her jaw and pulled the trigger.
Diane was the most frightened person I've ever seen uh, on on a stand, uh, or anywhere else.
I mean, she was a very thin lady to begin with and she was just pale.
Her eyes were as big as a silver dollar and she was scared to death.
She was frightened of this guy.
Okay, today's date is, uh, July 7th, 1998.
The time is 5:45 p.
m.
I'm gonna be walking across to make contact with a Charles Thompson, reference to a solicitation for capital murder.
Charles Thompson? Hey, dude.
- You're Thompson? - Yeah.
Okay.
I've been waiting about 10 minutes.
How long does it take to get y'all here? - Sometimes it takes a while.
- Okay.
Uh, well, I tell you, I'm not too crazy about having to come to jail.
You know? I don't think that's cool Entrapment, I believe, is, uh, the technical term, an individual was sent undercover into his jail cell and was able to, um, secure information from Chuck.
I was reading the paper today.
In order for a grand jury to give an indictment, they usually pull their witnesses in for testimony.
There's a witness in this case I need you to take care of.
Okay, when you when you say "take care of," uh I thought I thought this guy, Max, was gonna kill her? He's fucking me around, so he didn't do it.
I've already given this Max guy some money and he fucked me over.
How much have you given? A hundred and twenty-five.
Like a down payment.
Is this that girl you said you wanted to kill? - Yeah.
- All right, uh I need you to get rid of her.
She's the state's witness.
- She's the only witness they've got.
- Okay.
How hard would it be for me to find this chick to go ahead and knock her off? Not hard.
Here's her address right here.
You got a pen? No.
I can remember it.
Okay, let's do this, then.
So, Thompson tells him, "I need you to kill the witnesses, the the people to whom I have confessed.
" You're sitting in a jury and what do you hear? Drunken jerk comes into a house, kills one guy, shoots another one who subsequently dies, admits to it and then tries to get the witnesses killed.
Do you care about anything else? - Hell, yeah.
- What are we talking about? - How much? - Name your price.
All right.
Well, if you've got the address, okay, I'll kill her for 1500.
Okay, I've gotta I've gotta memorize this now.
Diane Zernia? Z-E-R-N Diane Zernia.
Diane, Diane, Diane Zernia.
So, where's this located at? Which is that? neighborhood.
It's off .
Okay, I know it.
Here, it's a Victorian-style house and the mailbox is black-and-white spotted, painted like a cow.
She's about 48, 50 years old.
She's a mother.
She's got a 14-year-old daughter.
Okay.
And when you get out now, it's 1500 bucks.
- Not a problem.
- All right? I'm gonna come after you if you don't pay me.
I'll I'll pay you, man.
I give you my word.
Okay, the bitch is dead.
Only thing a man's got in this world is his word.
Yeah, that's it.
So stand on it, all right? - No problem, buddy.
- All right.
Later.
I'm outta here.
This was, uh, a real turning point for me.
We thought a lot about the fact that if somebody had been successful in carrying out this murder for him, he would have had no remorse whatsoever that we could see.
He would have been elated to get rid of her.
This is the first time I started thinking about, "Wait a minute.
Maybe life in jail is not the right decision for this guy.
" That this was a guy capable of doing enormous evil.
I don't know how you ever murder somebody just in the moment.
I don't care how angry.
I don't know.
Some people have that in them, though.
My name is Kristen Merttens.
I was the foreman on the jury for Charles Victor Thompson's retrial.
We were not deciding guilt or innocence, we were deciding his punishment whether or not to give him life or sentence him again to the death penalty.
The defense did target pretty heavily that she had died six days later in the hospital.
To me, that was irrelevant.
Um, he had shot her in the face.
And he did murder somebody first.
I think Darren was lost in the case.
I don't think that his death was brought up as much as Dennise's was.
And I feel bad for his family.
I wholeheartedly believe that he went there to kill Darren and he went there to kill Dennise.
Darren was more of a hands-off, "I just want to take him out of the picture.
" And I think he made it very personal when he killed Dennise.
I think for somebody like Chuck, he's narcissistic, he really enjoys the attention.
I think if he were to have a life sentence, it would be a gift to him because of his personality and because of his makeup.
I distinctly remember after the verdict was read and we were back in the deliberation room, the judge comes in and speaks with us, the prosecution does, et cetera.
And I remember asking the question, "Is there any possible way, you know, he's gonna be able to get out? You know, my name's public, et cetera.
" There's always a concern.
The judge says, "Oh, that's ridiculous.
No, he's on death row now.
" And then four days later, I find out that he escaped.
"Search goes nationwide for escaped Texas inmate.
" This little snippet right here.
I was at work and I, uh, got a call in the parking lot.
Believe it was somebody from the district attorney's office was informing me that that Charles Thompson had escaped.
Did I feel safe? You know, would I feel better with any type of, um, police escort? That type of thing.
And, uh, I said no.
I-I didn't necessarily feel threatened.
"To many death row inmates, Charles Victor Thompson who walked out the front door of the Harris County Jail and was free for four days before his re-capture in Louisiana will remain a manipulative, selfish, directionless person who shot and killed his ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend.
" You know, the one thing that stood out about this is that he goes to this great plot to escape and succeeds.
And then he gets caught 'cause he got drunk at a liquor store, or gas station, or some type of convenience store in Louisiana.
You're telling me that he hopped on a train, did all this stuff, managed to walk out of a jail, but he gets drunk and they catch him? At that moment, I go, "What an idiot.
" But, I you know, maybe that's not fair, because I wouldn't know I don't know what it's like to be on the run.
And, um, I don't know what it's like to be in jail for, at that point, ten years.
It doesn't surprise me at all that he was able to talk his way out of anything.
He was charming, and cunning, and very manipulative.
Chuck is quite the artist at manipulation.
Thank you.
Hello.
I'm doing good.
No surprises today? Well, my life's an open book.
Charles Victor Thompson walked out the front door of the Harris County Jail and was free for four days before his recapture in Louisiana.
Our primary issue was whether this guy was a continuing threat to society.
I think I kinda debunked "future threat to society.
" I was running around in the free world for four days.
I walked past little old ladies in front of of shopping centers getting out of their cars, I didn't carjack them.
I didn't rob anybody, I didn't assault anybody, I didn't hurt anybody.
But if you listen to any capital death penalty trial, they they drill it into the jury's head, "He's a future threat.
He'll kill again.
" My understanding was that Dennise was through with Chuck.
As a matter of fact, I know she was through with Chuck because she told me herself that she was done.
And that was even before she started dating Darren.
Yeah, that sounds right.
I'm sure she did tell him that.
But, you know, we broke up, got back together, broke up, got back together, and dated other people.
We had that I don't know what you call it.
Couldn't leave each other alone? We kept coming back to each other.
Who knows? She probably would have come and visited me in prison.
She was that kind of lady.
If I was intentionally going to do this, as they said, why would I call first, you know? I went to the pay phone, I called her.
I told her I have to come and get my work stuff.
She said, "I'm trying to sleep.
" I said, "Is Darren there?" She said, "No.
" I said, "I'll be there in five minutes," and I hung up.
She went back to sleep.
I went back in the bedroom and started getting clothes and stuff out of the out of the dresser, and she sat up in bed and goes, "Oh, my God.
" Then I realize there was somebody laying in bed next to her.
'Cause I was I wasn't trying to wake her up.
I was just getting my stuff.
I told her I was coming.
You know, when I seen him there, I'm like, that's when I started in on her.
"Oh, my God," you know.
Da-da-da-da-da-da-da.
We had words.
An individual was sent undercover into his jail cell and was able to, um, secure information from Chuck.
They were friends, and yet he tried to hire someone to murder her just because he did not want her to testify at trial.
It's embarrassing.
What can I say? I was a confused drug addict, you know? An alcoholic that made a bad decision and another bad decision and another bad decision.
You know, I was upset that Diane changed her statement.
I felt that she was lying.
But yeah, it's it's nothing I wanna talk about, really.
I wished it never happened.
I mean, it's it's just a bad situation all the way around.
I've never wished Diane any harm.
I don't harbor anger at all.
I do feel that what is to come with the death penalty is appropriate and just.
I mean, to carry a torch for somebody to die for 20 years? That's, you know, okay.
I mean, you know.
I don't I I couldn't hate somebody that long.
It's not in my not in my blood.
You know what they say about hate, it'll eat you up inside.