Jurors deliberate case of man accused of killing lover’s husband

Shawn Pritchett wanted Larry Thomas’ life, prosecutors said.

"He wants his wife. He wants his kids. He wants his money. And the only way he gets all that is if Larry Thomas is out of the picture. Dead. Gone," prosecutor Sonia Jimenez told jurors Thursday during closing arguments in Pritchett’s murder trial.

The jury began deliberating the case Thursday afternoon and is expected to resume deliberations today.

Pritchett, 40, faces one count each of murder with use of a deadly weapon, first-degree kidnapping with use of a deadly weapon and robbery with use of a deadly weapon in the murder of his lover’s husband. If convicted, he could face life in prison.

Thomas’ wife, Stephanie, 48, in August pleaded guilty to second-degree murder. She is in the Clark County Detention Center awaiting sentencing.

Authorities relied mostly on circumstantial evidence in their case against Pritchett.

Prosecutors said Larry Thomas planned to leave his wife on April 13, 2006, because of the ongoing affair and that his wife was using his money to support Pritchett’s failing business ventures.

Then Larry Thomas went missing. A few days later Stephanie Thomas’ brother reported the disappearance to Henderson police. A month later hikers found Thomas’ body south of the California-Nevada border near Mountain Pass.

During the weeklong trial, investigators testified that they mapped cell phone records that showed Pritchett at the Thomas home in Henderson on the night they believe Thomas was murdered, followed by calls made by Pritchett as he drove west to Interstate 15, then south on the freeway toward California, and eventually near the place where the body was found.

Prosecutors contend Pritchett, with the help of an accomplice who was not charged for lack of evidence, attacked Thomas at his home with a baseball bat. Pritchett then drove Thomas in his pickup to Mountain Pass, where he ran over him and killed him.

According to testimony, Thomas had a depressed skull fracture, broken ribs and a bent spine.

After Thomas disappeared Pritchett moved in with Stephanie Thomas and her children, Jimenez said. He lived with them for about two years while Henderson homicide detectives investigated the case.

During that time, Stephanie Thomas’ sister, Jennifer McCue, told investigators that Pritchett was responsible for Larry Thomas’ death. Thanks to McCue, police learned about another significant piece of evidence — a steering column from Larry Thomas’ pickup that had gone missing along with him in 2006.

Authorities said Pritchett sold parts from the truck to friends. Investigators linked those parts to Larry Thomas’ pickup via bar codes.

Pritchett also sold a ring and other jewelry belonging to Larry Thomas to a pawn shop.

Defense attorney James Oronoz said prosecutors didn’t present evidence that Pritchett actually killed Larry Thomas.

"(The state) showed he was an accessory after the fact," Oronoz said.

Because of many unanswered questions, "This case presented a lot of ‘he said, she said’ testimony," Oronoz said.

The trial featured disturbing autopsy photos of Thomas’ severely decomposed body. The jury also heard testimony from a bartender who received a call from Pritchett asking her to say he was at a bar the night investigators say Thomas is believed to have been killed, as well as testimony from a friend of Pritchett’s who said the defendant tried to recruit him to help with the slaying.

Contact reporter Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-1039.

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