Robbery Gone Wrong: Suspects’ planned theft of $1,000 ends in death

WKU student Dominique Wortham’s attorney Alan Simpson, left, talks to his client during a preliminary hearing at the Warren County Justice Center on Wednesday Sept. 18, 2013.  Wortham, along with Adriana Mason, 19, of Paducah have been charged with the murder of WKU freshman Larry Thomas.

Bradenton, Fla., freshman Dominique Wortham and Paducah resident Adriana Mason’s plot to steal $1,000 from Larry Thomas the night he was killed escalated from armed robbery to murder, investigators said at a preliminary hearing Wednesday morning for Wortham and Mason.

“It started as a shooting investigation and quickly became a murder investigation,” Bowling Green Police Department detective Matt Davis said to presiding Judge Sam Potter during the hearing. Family members for both Wortham and Mason were in attendance.

Davis met an injured Thomas, his large intestines exposed, right before Thomas was airlifted to Vanderbilt Medical Center for emergency care where he later died.

Just before being put into the helicopter, Thomas told Davis that an “older black male” had shot him.

Davis later investigated the crime scene. He found no sign of forced entry. Davis said blood spatter was found on the bed spread and pillows of Thomas’s bed, as well as a small amount of blood on the wall.

After talking with neighbors at the Greenhaven Apartments, Davis learned Thomas’s cell phone had been stolen and that a neighbor who looked after a bleeding Thomas called 911.

Alyssa Rite and her boyfriend, both neighbors of Thomas, told the Herald last week that a neighbor who lived next door tried to keep him conscious until the police arrived.

“He was already really gray though,” Rite said of Thomas by the time the police arrived.

Phone records pulled by police revealed Mason had contacted Thomas 12 times on Sept. 2. Mason was at first uncooperative when police attempted to interview her.

After Davis, assisted by the Paducah Police Department, arrived at Mason’s home with the physical phone records, Mason confessed in front of her family and gave the detective her testimony.

Mason said in her testimony to Davis that Wortham and Thomas had prior drug dealings. Wortham had given Thomas $1,000 worth of marijuana to be paid back to Wortham after it was sold. Wortham had not received payment for the drugs, Mason told Davis.

Together, Wortham and Mason plotted a robbery to steal Thomas’s money. Mason spent part of the day with Thomas, all the while texting Wortham.

“During the entire time she is with Mr. Thomas, she is texting Mr. Wortham … telling him when it is clear to come in on Mr. Thomas,” Davis said.

Mason told Davis the plan was for Mason to convince Thomas to take a shower, telling him that she would join him. With Thomas in the shower, Mason unlocked the door to the apartment to let Wortham in.

Wortham couldn’t find the money in time.

Thomas came out of the shower first and sat nude on his bed.

Mason said Wortham then entered the room and first pointed the gun at her before pointing it at Thomas. A fight between the two men quickly broke out.

“She described it as a very physical altercation,” Davis said. “…During the course of this fight, Ms. Mason said she was so close to the subjects she could see their fingers over the trigger going back and forth.”

After a struggle, and with Mason outside of the apartment, the fight ended with a single gunshot, followed by an “Ah!” from Thomas, Davis said.

Davis said the gunshot entered Thomas’s stomach at a downward angle.

Alan Simpson, Wortham’s attorney, asked Davis if the investigators knew who ultimately pulled the trigger. Davis said it is unknown at this time who fired the weapon.

Mason then told the detective that Wortham then turned the gun on her, threatening her and telling her if she spoke about the incident he would come after her.

“Ms. Mason told us that she did not have any choice, that she was forced to do this,” Davis said of her involvement.

Thomas went outside of his apartment and said, “I’ve been shot,” causing neighbors to run out toward him, Rite said last week.

Wortham and Mason left the apartment with $400, a platinum-gold watch and gold teeth.

The two checked into a local motel when Mason later told detectives in a separate one-on-one interview she had sex with Wortham, who pawned the teeth at a gold store in Bowling Green for $50 but kept the watch.

Later, cooperating with police, Mason made a phone call to Wortham while police listened in.

Wortham confirmed in his phone call to Mason that he was in Bowling Green in his Barnes-Campbell Hall room. BGPD, with the assistance of the WKU Police Department, arrested Wortham, who was wearing the stolen platinum gold watch at the time of the arrest.

Wortham, whose lawyer said he originally came to WKU with hopes of walking onto the WKU football team, then confessed to police about his role in Thomas’ death.

After the hearing, Dwight Burton, Mason’s attorney, said Mason’s current murder charge is unfortunate and that she is charged with murder because during the course of a felony, if a murder occurs, everyone involved is held liable for the act.

“My client didn’t really have anything to do with the shooting,” Burton said.

Simpson said after the hearing that it was obvious that this was never intended to be a homicide.

“It’s a very unfortunate series of circumstances that escalated in a matter of seconds,” Simpson said.

The two will go before a grand jury at a later date.