Trial ordered for Ramona man accused in beating death of 94-year-old neighbor

EL CAJON (CNS) – A Ramona man accused of beating his 94-year-old
neighbor to death with a hammer after she let him spend the night in her mobile
home must stand on a murder charge, a judge ruled Monday.

Gary Allen Thomas, 63, faces 26 years to life in state prison if
convicted in the death of Mary Jean Eskridge.

El Cajon Superior Court Judge Lantz Lewis found that enough evidence was
presented at this morning's preliminary hearing for the defendant to proceed
to trial.

At Thomas' arraignment in May, prosecutor David Williams III said the
victim believed the defendant was a trusted friend and allowed him to spend the
night in the guest bedroom of her mobile home the night of April 30.

The next morning, Thomas grabbed a hammer out of a toolbox in the
victim's kitchen, proceeded down the hall and beat Eskridge to death as she
slept, the prosecutor alleged. A motive for the slaying is unknown.

Eskridge was a long-standing resident of the Ramona Terrace Estates
mobile home park, and Thomas' attorney said her client had lived there for
about six years.

Eskridge, who was still active in church and senior center activities,
was found in a bedroom of her mobile home about 11:30 a.m. on May 1 by
paramedics responding to an activated medical alert bracelet.

Thomas was arrested the next day. In an interview with police, the
defendant admitted beating the victim with a hammer in her home, Williams
alleged.

Eskridge, a professional dancer in the big band era, was the longtime
owner of Jean's Dance Studio in Spring Valley. The studio is now run by her
daughter. The victim also had three sons.

Thomas will be back in court Sept. 20 for arraignment and to get a trial
date.

Categories: KUSI