A St. Clair County prosecutor said a Port Huron man brutally killed a woman during a drug deal, while his attorney said he had no motive for the murder.
During opening statements in Robert Kimin Tonchen’s jury trial on Wednesday, St. Clair County Senior Assistant District Attorney Joshua Sparling said Tonchen killed Stephanie Thompson in the early hours of New Year’s Day after making a drug deal with her. Tonchen was going to sell the drugs Thompson was supplying and use the money to pay off a debt he owed her, the prosecutor said.
Tonchen was traveling with Thompson in his Grand Marquis in Port Huron when he killed her between 4:07 a.m. and 4:28 a.m., Sparling said.
“What we’re going to show you is that the defendant did this,” Sparling said, addressing the jury. “He took the time to do it. He knew he was going to do anything. He was going to show up and he was going to get that crack or that money one way or another.”
Tonchen then came to Thompson’s boyfriend’s house with her car keys. He made conflicting statements about what happened and where Thompson was and drove them through the Village Manor neighborhood, supposedly looking for his car, Sparling said.
Sparling said Tonchen disappeared from search and security footage showing an individual going to the Grand Marquess of Thompson twice and starting a fire inside.
Tonchen’s DNA was under Thompson’s fingernails and Tonchen had scratch marks on him, showing that Thompson fought for her life, Sparling said. His fingerprints were also on an accelerator canister recovered from the scene.
Sparlng said Tonchen killed Thompson with planning and deliberation and asked the jury to find him guilty of premeditated murder at the end of the trial. Thompson suffered multiple stab wounds, including fatal neck wounds.
“These are thoughtful choices and deliberate actions for every blow. For every bruise, every contusion, every hemorrhage he inflicted on Stephanie until he slit her throat and ended her life,” said said Sparling. “He was thinking. He was one step ahead.”
David Kelley, Tonchen’s attorney, said there was no motive for Tonchen to kill Thompson and that Thompson had made many enemies by selling illegal drugs.
“You may hear testimony that Stephanie and Robert were attacked or ambushed. It is undisputed that Stephanie Thompson was brutally attacked and killed…The question you ladies and gentlemen are going to have to ask yourselves is hearing this case, is whether you believe beyond a reasonable doubt that my client, Rob Tonchen, is the person who killed her,” Kelley said.
Tonchen is charged with open murder, tampering with evidence, fourth degree arson and habitual enhancement of the fourth offender.
Thompson was found dead in a parked vehicle with trauma evident to her body in the 2700 block of Vanness Street around 5:45 a.m. Jan. 1, Port Huron Police Department said.
If convicted, Tonchen faces a maximum sentence of life in prison, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years due to improvement in repeat offenders.
Contact Laura Fitzgerald at (810) 941-7072 or [email protected]