Fresno man guilty of trying to gun down brother

The Fresno BeeJuly 3, 2014 

A Fresno man faces life behind bars after being convicted of attempting to kill his older brother in March -- despite the sibling's unwillingness to point the finger.

A Fresno County Superior Court jury Wednesday afternoon deliberated less than three hours before finding Michael Shay Thomas guilty of attempted murder in the shooting of his brother, Steven Thomas, who was wounded in both legs and in the lower back on March 24.

Michael Thomas, 45, also was found guilty of assault with firearm and being a felon in possession of a firearm. His criminal past includes convictions for robbery, illegal drugs and killing a woman in 1992, court records say.

He faces a minimum of 60 years to life in prison at his sentencing hearing on Aug. 1, prosecutor Dennis Lewis said.

Thursday, Lewis praised the jury for "patiently listening to the evidence" and credited the Fresno Police Department for gathering it.

That's because on the witness stand Steven Thomas repeatedly declined to say who shot him outside his apartment on Saginaw Way near Clark Street just west of Highway 41, Lewis said.

But after he was shot, Steven Thomas told police that his brother Michael had shot him. The detectives tape-recorded his statements, Lewis said.

According to his recorded statements, Steven Thomas said he was shot after he confronted his brother about disrespecting their mother, Ida Newton. Steven Thomas told police he didn't like his younger brother cursing their mother and yelling at her.

In the trial, Thomas testified he was shot during the early evening hours of March 24 while taking out the trash. He said he had his back to the gunman.

Lewis told the jury that Michael Thomas used a 45-caliber handgun to shoot his brother. The gun was never found.

In December 1992, police said Michael Thomas shot and killed Ometha Webb, 23, inside a home on the 2300 block of South Eunice Avenue in southwest Fresno. He was initially charged with murder, but he later pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to 16 years in prison, court records say.

Earlier that year, he shot his brother, Steven, in the foot in a dispute over a woman, Lewis said. Michael Thomas was never charged with that shooting because his older brother declined to cooperate with police, Lewis said.

The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6434, plopez@fresnobee.com or @beecourts on Twitter.

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