Nearly 11 years ago, Thomas Galan was a Fostoria-based drug dealer who owed a lot of money - a debt he erased by killing two men who came looking for payment, a federal prosecutor said yesterday.
Mr. Galan, 32, is on trial in U.S. District Court in Toledo on one count of drug conspiracy and two counts of murder with a firearm in relation to a drug-trafficking crime for the Dec. 7, 1996, deaths of two brothers.
He is the first person to be tried in federal court in Toledo on charges that could lead to the death penalty.
The trial, which began with jury selection Oct. 9, is expected to last two weeks.
Mr. Galan is accused of killing of Felipe Flores, 35, of Carey, Ohio, and George Flores, 31, of Findlay, whose bodies were found in a crushed van along Seneca County Road 60 in Loudon Township.
"In 1996, Mr. Galan had a problem. He had a debt with the Flores brothers," Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Wilson told a jury of nine women and seven men during opening statements.
"He needed to extinguish that debt in some fashion. He did that by extinguishing the Flores brothers."
Attorney David Doughten of Cleveland, who with Jeffrey Helmick of Toledo, is representing Mr. Galan, told jurors that he believed the evidence will point in another direction and not to his client.
He said the defense agreed with much of what the government would present as evidence, but disagreed with the government on who pulled the trigger.
Authorities originally believed the brothers' deaths to be traffic related or even a hunting accident, but discovered both brothers were shot in the head at relatively close range.
The case remained unsolved for three years until Mr. Galan was arrested on murder charges by local authorities in October, 1999. He was not indicted by a Seneca County grand jury, and the case remained unsolved.
Last year, Mr. Galan was indicted by a federal grand jury on the murder and drug charges.
Yesterday, Mr. Wilson outlined months of drug activity in the Fostoria area - about 35 miles southeast of Toledo - and the investigations that zeroed in on many of the local drug dealers.
Mr. Wilson spoke of a debt accrued by Mr. Galan, who used the Flores brothers as suppliers of cocaine and marijuana.
On Dec. 7, 1996, Mr. Galan took care of that debt when he sat with an acquaintance, Damere Lockett, in the back of the Flores' van, Mr. Wilson said.
"Tommy told the brothers that [Lockett] had $1,500, which he did not. Tommy takes out a gun, gives it to Damere. Damere said no and hands it back," Mr. Wilson said. Mr. Galan "shot the driver and then shot the passenger."
Mr. Doughten said during the opening statements the defense agrees with much of the case the government will present. But he believed the jury would see a different outcome at the end of the government's witnesses, many of whom have criminal records and made deals with prosecutors, he said.
"We believe the evidence is going to show Damere Lockett is the killer," he said. "It was Damere, and you're going to learn why."
During the first day of testimony, several witnesses spoke of the scene on County Road 60 where the Flores' van was seen traveling at a very low rate of speed and then tipping over into a ravine.
Responding emergency workers and law enforcement officers described the condition of the overturned van and the two bodies found in the front seats, still secured by seat belts.
Dr. Cynthia Beisser, a Lucas County deputy coroner who autopsied the brothers, testified that each died because of a gunshot wound in the head. She ruled the deaths homicides.
Mr. Helmick asked her where the gunman likely would have been sitting - either behind the driver or the passenger.
Dr. Beisser said based on the evidence, she couldn't say for sure where the shots came from, only that they were from the back.
Testimony in the trial continues today before Judge James Carr.
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