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Trujillo left the room to go talk with Mike and his mother. When he came back about 30 minutes later, he told Ripley the detective could not interview Gibbons. "He advised me he does not feel Mike had anything to hide; however, he felt that because of Mike's impairments he might be misunderstood."
Ripley--who says he investigates between 80 and 100 car accidents per year, not counting nonfatal hit-and-runs--never questioned Mike Gibbons.
On December 4, he went to the Gibbons residence and asked Mrs. Gibbons what she knew about the incident, and the name of the cousin Mike was with that night. She told him her son had not been involved, refused to name the cousin, and suggested he get the information from Trujillo.
Ripley called the lawyer on December 6 and asked for the cousin's name. The last entry in Ripley's investigative report is that as of December 18, 1996, Trujillo had not called him back.
In April 1997, Gibbons was subpoenaed to testify in Thomas and Graci's lawsuit against Allstate Insurance--a case that eventually was settled out of court. Gibbons refused to answer any questions, invoking his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.
Gibbons was subpoenaed again in November 1998 as part of Gloria Cavalera's wrongful-death lawsuit, in which he is named as a defendant.
This time, Gibbons did not take the Fifth. Cavalera's lawyer in the lawsuit, Frank Powers, provided Gibbons with written questions, which Gibbons answered in writing, under oath.
He named friend Eli Miller as his passenger that night. Miller is not Gibbons' cousin. In his written response, Gibbons said that on the night in question:
". . . while driving southbound on 32nd Street near Sweetwater, a dark-colored passenger vehicle cut me off. I thought my car had made contact with that vehicle. I pulled into the parking lot at Bob's Liquors. The other vehicle pulled across the street at Jack-in-the-Box. Three individuals got out of that vehicle and began shouting obscenities. One of the individuals approached me and it looked like he had a gun tucked in his pants. As a result, I drove away going westbound on Cactus to escape from this situation. However, by 28th Street the other vehicle had begun to catch up to me. Something thrown from the other vehicle hit against my vehicle. The next thing I saw was the other vehicle fishtailing. I moved over to the fast lane of travel and ultimately made a right-hand turn onto Cave Creek Road."
Gibbons failed to say what happened to the other car after it started fishtailing. And essentially, Gibbons flipped the script from what Barcello and Henry had claimed he'd told them: The other guys had the gun, not him; the other guys chased him, not the other way around.
On November 20, 1998, Gibbons testified under oath. He was questioned by wrongful-death attorney Frank Powers, who quickly cut to the chase.
"Do you understand that you are here concerning an accident that happened on August 16, 1996?"
"Yes, sir," Gibbons answered.
"You witnessed that accident, didn't you?"
"No," Gibbons said, "I didn't."
Gibbons' account gradually unfolded. He testified that on the night of August 15, 1996, he spent several hours aimlessly driving around north Phoenix with Eli Miller.
Powers asked Gibbons how long he had known Miller.
"Since he's been born," Gibbons said.
Powers asked Gibbons if he knew Shawn Thomas, who grew up across the street from Gibbons. Gibbons said yes. Powers asked Gibbons if he had heard Shawn Thomas dealt drugs and carried a gun. Gibbons said he had.
"Do you use drugs?" Powers asked.
"Only drug is weed and that's it," was Gibbons' reply. "I tried it once."
Gibbons said he and Miller hung out at the Paradise Valley Mall until 10 p.m. on the 15th, and pulled into the Trails head shop at 32nd Street and Bell just before midnight, only to find it dark. (Trails closed at 11 p.m.)
Powers asked him why they'd gone to Trails.
"Because they have cool posters and stuff."
Gibbons couldn't recall what he and Miller were up to between 10 p.m. and midnight.
"Certainly it didn't take two hours for you to get from the Paradise Valley Mall to Trails, right?" Powers asked.
"Do you recall any other place you went or if you met up with any other people during those two hours?"
"I don't recall if I met with anybody."
Gibbons testified he was driving his parents' 1993 Dodge Shadow, which is light blue with pinstripes. He said his curfew was midnight, so from Trails, he headed home, about five minutes south on 32nd Street. Two blocks before Cactus, Gibbons said, a car pulled out in front of him. Gibbons said he slammed on his brakes.
"Did your tires lock up and skid?" Powers asked.
"Did you slam on your horn?"
"Yes, I did."
Gibbons added that he yelled, "Watch where the hell you're going."
"I take it the windows in your car were rolled down?" Powers asked.
Gibbons then reiterated his written statement: He pulled into the parking lot of Bob's Market. The other car pulled into Jack-in-the-Box. Two white guys with long hair got out, Gibbons said. "I didn't recognize either of them."