CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — A 22-year-old Chattanooga man remained on the loose after he fled a trial that ended with him being sentenced to life in prison for the 2012 killing of a taxi driver in Chattanooga.
Authorities say Christopher Padgett cut his GPS ankle monitor earlier this week and fled from his mother’s home.
Padgett was sentenced on Friday in the slaying of driver Nathan Deere, who was shot in the back of the head, The Times Free Press reported (bit.ly/2d2qfQT).
Padgett’s GPS bracelet monitor broke at 1:43 a.m. on Thursday, triggering a manhunt with police and U.S. Marshals Service.
Thursday morning, Padgett’s defense attorneys were ready to present rebuttal proof in support of Padgett, but he never showed up in court.
Before jurors learned of the defendant’s absence, Judge Tom Greenholtz dismissed them until 1 p.m. He asked attorneys to get to the bottom of the issue.
“I’ve never been involved in a trial before where a suspect has left in the middle of a trial,” prosecutor Cameron Williams said.
Padgett’s escape, however, did not stop Greenholtz from ordering that the trial would continue Friday.
One of Padgett’s defense attorneys, Meredith Ziebold, urged jurors on Friday not to hold her client’s absence against him. Just because both men’s phones accessed the same cell tower at the same time didn’t mean Padgett shot Deere, robbed him and took his life, Ziebold said. “That just meant they were in the same area.”
Ziebold also pointed to the state’s forensic evidence: Padgett’s fingerprints weren’t in the cab or on the cellphone.
Authorities hope to have Padgett in custody by Dec. 15, when he will be sentenced on an aggravated robbery conviction.
Information from: Chattanooga Times Free Press, http://www.timesfreepress.com