Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Witness says drugs, not beating, may have caused Hudson man's death

Andre Jackson, 35 could face life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

Andre Jackson, 35 could face life in prison if convicted of second-degree murder.

NEW PORT RICHEY — Prosecutors have said Theodore Peck was beaten to death in his Hudson home by Andre "Remy" Jackson, who is on trial this week for second-degree murder. But a key witness on Thursday said Peck's cocaine use was just as plausible a reason for his death.

Dr. Daniel Buffington, a drug information specialist hired by the defense, said he came to that conclusion after reading the autopsy report of medical examiner Dr. Jon Thogmartin. The medical examiner found Peck suffered blunt force trauma, though his heart, lungs and liver were all damaged from years of substance abuse.

"Clinically we call that the perfect storm," Buffington said about how the drug could have killed Peck.

According to testimony, Peck owed Jackson $1,000 in drug money, and Jackson beat Peck with his fists the morning of May 24, 2011. Peck, 53, died that day at Regional Medical Center Bayonet Point. Jackson, 35, could face life in prison if convicted.

Thogmartin, the medical examiner who conducted the autopsy, said Peck was in terrible health.

"He was a mess," Thogmartin said. "He had a heart that was humongous. He had really bad coronary atherosclerosis. He probably had prolonged hypertension. His lungs were just awful: Bullous emphysema. His liver was cirrhotic, probably from hepatitis C."

Thogmartin said Peck was also a chronic IV drug user.

"Most all his head trauma was on the outside of the head," Thogmartin said. "His brain was all right, and his skull was all right. (He had a) purple face. Contused ears. Busted lips. Bruises around the eyes."

Peck's spleen was so large, Thogmartin said, that it was especially vulnerable to injury. Part of it was mashed, he said. There was also cocaine and a Valium-like drug found in his system.

Still, he challenged Buffington's theory that cocaine use caused Peck's death.

"It could reasonably help, and it could reasonably hurt," Thogmartin said. "But it's not going to probably help, or probably hurt, and that's why I didn't put it as a cause of death."

The assertion, Thogmartin said, that a man using cocaine every day for years would suddenly die from cocaine on the same day he received a beating, is highly unlikely. He said there's a clear difference between theory and practice, and to base opinions on theory is not how forensic pathology works.

In his cross-examination, defense attorney Hans Grieble asked about Peck's health in relation to the trauma sustained, and specifically his head.

"The head injury alone would not be necessarily fatal," Thogmartin said. "All I can say is the beating to the head did not damage the brain or cause bleeding."

Assistant state attorney Chris Sprowls asked about death without the beating.

"Based on all the evidence," he asked, "would Theodore Peck have died had he not received blunt force trauma?"

Thogmartin said no.

The trial is expected to conclude today.

Witness says drugs, not beating, may have caused Hudson man's death 05/16/13 [Last modified: Thursday, May 16, 2013 10:06pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Maria: Clearwater Coast Guard plane aids rescue near Puerto Rico


    Eight minutes. That's how long it took the Petty Officer 3rd Class Darryn Manley of the Coast Guard said it took him to spot the boat that capsized off a Puerto Rican island on Thursday.

  2. Mom of girl who died looking for candy seeks to keep husband away

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Eight days after her 4-year-old daughter died in the care of paternal grandparents, pregnant Lizette Hernandez sat in a Hillsborough County courthouse Friday, attempting to seek full-time custody of her 19-month-old son.

    Lizette Hernandez, 22, completes paperwork Friday for a motion for protection from domestic violence against her husband, Shane Zoller. Their daughter, Yanelly, 4, died in a reported gun accident at the home of Zoller's parents Sept. 14. She alleges that her husband hit her and caused her to fall on a grave marker at their daughter's funeral Thursday in a tussle over their remaining 1-year-old son. [JONATHAN CAPRIEL  |  Times]
  3. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus


    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.

  4. Ed Sheeran coming to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Let it never be said Ed Sheeran hasn't given the people of Tampa what they want.

  5. Editorial: Once more, homeowners are let down by state housing agency


    Once upon a time, the federal government created a program called the Hardest Hit Fund. Its goal was admirable, and its mission important. The fund was designed to aid Americans in danger of losing their houses after the Great Recession had wreaked havoc on the economy. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington erred in …

    The Hardest Hit Fund was designed to aid Americans in danger of losing their houses after the Great Recession. Unfortunately, the folks in Washington trusted Florida to get that money into the hands of people who needed it most.