Saturday, June 23, 2018
News Roundup

Trial opens in 2011 beating death in Hudson

NEW PORT RICHEY — The beating was loud and there was screaming, so Steve Olson went to take a look.

He walked across the house at 7110 Stevens Drive, just off Old Dixie Highway in Hudson, to his roommate's room. He made it to the doorway and saw Andre Jackson pummeling Theodore Peck — punching him in the face and body. Peck, 53, was on the bed in the fetal position. Jackson looked back, according to court documents, and warned Olson.

"You better get the f--- out," Jackson said, according to a deposition.

Olson did. He went back to his room with his wife and waited. When Jackson left, Olson said, he threatened to kill the couple. They wrote down a license plate number as Jackson, 35, drove off. Then they called 911.

That was May 24, 2011, and Jackson was eventually charged with second-degree murder. He turned himself in to authorities on May 29. The Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner's Office said Peck died from blunt force trauma, according to an arrest warrant. Jackson weighed about 80 pounds more than Peck, who was tall but thin. It appears the only weapon Jackson used, authorities said, was his fists. Jackson's arrest warrant said he and Peck argued that morning about money.

Jury selection in his trial began Monday. Jackson could face life in prison if convicted.

Olson is now deceased and his testimony, relayed through Pasco Sheriff's Deputy Thomas Smith in depositions, will not be heard by jurors.

According to court records, a woman named Adriane Lewka also witnessed the beating from outside the home. She will be a key witness for the state. Olson's wife may also take the stand.

That day in 2011, Deputy Smith was one of the first law enforcement officers to arrive.

Emergency workers tried to resuscitate Peck in an ambulance, but they could not. The Olsons gave Smith the piece of paper with the license plate number on it, and Steve Olson recounted the events to the officer.

Associates said Peck was kind and generous. He also had several brushes with the law and two stays in prison. The week before his death, Peck was charged with possession of oxycodone and drug paraphernalia, according to court records.

Jackson had previous arrests on charges of larceny, child abuse and a traffic violation, but he'd never been sentenced to prison in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Corrections.

Detective Jason Hatcher investigated the crime scene and said in a deposition that it was cluttered with drug paraphernalia and an unloaded shotgun was on the floor.

When Jackson's lawyer Hans Grieble questioned medical examiner Dr. Jon Thogmartin during a deposition recently, he asked about Peck's health. Thogmartin said Peck had issues, especially with his liver.

"Isn't it possible that the stress of the event could have caused a heart attack afterward?" Grieble asked.

"He did not have a heart attack per se," Thogmartin said, "but I think that his heart, his lungs, his liver definitely made him less able to survive this beating."

Thogmartin went on to say that Peck's body came back positive for a number of drugs, and that there was evidence he was an IV drug user.

Assistant State Attorney Mike Halkitis asked Thogmartin if the drugs contributed to his death.

"No. No. No.," Thogmartin said. "Certainly not to the degree that anything else did, that's for sure."

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