MONTROSE — It’s a case that’s putting Pennsylvania’s Castle Doctrine to the test – a new law that gives someone the ability to use deadly force to protect themselves and their property. The trial began Monday, one that the defense, prosecution and many involved have been anxiously waiting for.
Almost two years ago two lives were taken in Susquehanna County and now it’s up to a jury whether or not Lloyd Thomas of Hallstead was justified in the killings under a new state law.
Thomas kept quiet as he arrived at the Susquehanna County Courthouse. When Thomas was asked to comment about the shootings he said, “I better not, I’m sorry.”
Thomas is charged with shooting and killing Gilberto Alvarez and Joshua Rogers and both soldiers who had served overseas.
Prosecutors began presenting their case to the jury while Thomas’ defense team plans to explain that it was all legal according to a new state law that allows the use of deadly force to protect yourself and your home.
“To my knowledge, it’s the first time that the castle doctrine would have been subject at the trial,” said defense attorney George Lepley.
Rogers’ longtime friend and roommate testified that the men were on the property only looking for whoever shot at their car earlier in the day while the two were running errands.
“They said they were going to find out who shot the car so the damages could be paid for,” said Randal Grover.
Many neighbors testified, including Victoria Moelder. She was home when it all happened.
“I don’t know why they were there. It couldn’t have been for a good reason, but they were just in the wrong place at the wrong time and in the wrong way,” said Moelder.
Jurors are also learning more about Alvarez’s and Roger’s past – a troubled one at times.
“They have criminal records, protection from abuse orders against them, I mean I think that the jury will eventually conclude that my client acted reasonably,” said Lepley.
Many in Susquehanna County are anxious to see if indeed Thomas was justified to shoot first when he allegedly felt threatened on his own property.
“For everybody in Pennsylvania, we all need to be able to have the right to defend our property if we feel threatened,” said Moelder.
The prosecution plans to wrap up its case sometime Wednesday. Defense attorneys won’t say whether or not Thomas will take the stand in his own defense later this week.