A Scottsdale attorney who claimed he shot and killed a man in self-defense during a road rage incident will not face murder charges.
A Maricopa County grand jury failed to indict David Appleton after a 14-month investigation by Scottsdale police and prosecutors. County Attorney Bill Montgomery made the announcement Wednesday morning.
"After reviewing the investigation into an incident of suspect David Appleton, we did not determine that to be a self-defense case and we did seek a grand jury indictment. The Maricopa County grand jury declined to return an indictment," said Montgomery.
Scottsdale police were called to the scene near Pima and Pinnacle Peak roads in December of 2011. Appleton made the call after he fired one shot at Paul "Tom" Pearson, who he had been going back and forth with while driving on the roadway. Pearson was a well-known Valley businessman who was active in charitable organizations.
Appleton told police he pulled in behind a drug store hoping to lose Pearson. But Pearson pulled in behind Appleton and, according to Appleton, who stayed seated in his car, Pearson ran up to his driver's window, reached in and started choking him. That's when Appleton said he showed Pearson his gun and when Pearson would not stop choking him, he feared he would pass out so he fired one shot, hitting Pearson in the chest.
"I respect the role of the grand jury in our criminal justice system. And the decision that was made by the grand jury had to deal with the case that we currently have. Unless and until something changes with respect to what we have on hand and our assessment of it and what we can do with it, we're in a holding pattern," said Montgomery.
Appleton's lawyer, Edward Novak, was not surprised the grand jury did not indict his client.
"Dave did everything you are suppose to do. He tried to get away from Pearson, pulls to the side, he stays in his truck, he doesn't get out of his truck, he tries to defuse the situation. And when his life is in danger he defends himself. He then sits there and immediately calls 911," said Novak.
Appleton was initially arrested and booked for second-degree murder charges after Scottsdale police said it did not appear to be a case of self-defense. But formal charges were never filed and Appleton was set free.
For more than a year, detectives and prosecutors tried to make a case against Appleton and that's when they attempted to get him indicted.
"Fourteen months. They couldn't find anything to establish any guilt on Mr. Appleton's part. So there's isn't going to be any other continuation of this case. It's over," said Novak.
Attempts to reach Pearson's family were unsuccessful. But CBS 5 News did speak with the Pearson's attorney, Patrick McGroder.
McGroder said he and the family are not going to let this go.
"We believe Tom Pearson was murdered and we are exploring all our options both criminally and civilly," said McGroder.
He said he believes the evidence demonstrated Pearson was murdered. He added the family will decide shortly on whether to file a civil suit against Appleton.
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