Investigators: Hitchhikers punched, choked & robbed Corbin - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Investigators: Hitchhikers punched, choked & robbed Corbin

David Obermiller (l), Bethany Goodenough (r) David Obermiller (l), Bethany Goodenough (r)
Thomas Corbin Thomas Corbin

By Trang Pham-Bui - bio | email

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Thomas Corbin's daughter and other family members hugged and cried before the preliminary hearing started Friday afternoon. Harrison County Sheriff's investigator Neil Culwell described the murder scene in a hotel room at the Crystal Inn in Gulfport on May 3rd.

"Mr. Corbin had a swollen left eye, and blood about his mouth and nose. Blood was also noticed on the couch, wall, and floor," Culwell said.

Culwell testified that 20-year-old Bethany Goodenough and 21-year-old David Obermiller beat, choked, and robbed Corbin as the 51-year-old man was sitting on a couch. Culwell said, based on the coroner's autopsy report, the assault led to heart failure.

"He told me that Mr. Corbin had been grabbed by the neck, had been punched in the face, and knocked around, which led to heart failure," Culwell said.  "And he told me that heart failure would not have occurred without assault and strenuous activity."

Investigators said Corbin picked up the two hitchhikers on I-10 in Jackson County.  They said surveillance video showed all three entering the hotel together, but only the suspects left in Corbin's pick-up truck.  Corbin's cell phone and about $300 was missing from his wallet.

Investigators were able to identify the suspects from a piece of paper with a MySpace page and a phone number on it. The suspects were arrested in Austin, Texas, on a different charge.

Investigators said Goodenough told them the assault started after Corbin made sexual advances toward her.

"Miss Goodenough tells me that Mr. Obermiller looked at her, made a hand gesture, something to that effect," said Culwell, demonstrating by punching a fist into his hand.

Defense attorneys said Corbin had just broken up with his girlfriend and had been drinking heavily that day.  They said, based on a toxicology report, Corbin's blood alcohol level was .376. That's more than four times the legal limit.

Defense attorneys also pointed out that their clients thought Corbin was alive when they left him.

"She [Goodenough] stated that I believe he was snoring, breathing, snoring when they left, and that he was unconscious," Culwell said.

After hearing two hours of testimony, Harrison County Judge Robin Midcalf decided there was enough evidence to turn the case over a grand jury.

"He was a very soft hearted man.  He would have given anybody the shirt off his back," said Kathy Corbin, Thomas Corbin's older sister.  "He was trying to help somebody.  He had two children near the same age and he was trying to help them."

Family members said Corbin was divorced and has two children. He was living with a girlfriend in Vancleave and had worked as an electrician. The suspects, Goodenough and Obermiller, are being held without bond in the Harrison County jail. 

©2009 WLOX. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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