Safco murder suspect set for April 26 trial

Published 11:55 am Monday, January 2, 2023

A Carrollton man accused of fatally shooting a coworker over a cellphone dispute in 2021 is set to stand trial for first-degree murder on April 26.

Preston Kyle Thomas, 24, allegedly shot and killed 26-year-old Rakim Breeden of Como, North Carolina, on Sept. 23, 2021, while the two were employed at the Safco Distribution Center near Windsor. Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office investigators say the two had argued after Breeden allegedly knocked Thomas’s cellphone off a ledge. Thomas then allegedly retrieved a gun from his car and shot Breeden multiple times during a second argument while the two were outside on break. Breeden died en route to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital.

The day of the shooting had been Breeden’s first day on the job, according to his mother, Mary, who had partnered with the Sheriff’s Office to offer a $5,000 reward last year for information leading to Thomas’s arrest.

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Thomas pleaded not guilty at his arraignment on Sept. 21, 2022, and has requested a jury trial, according to court records.

Thomas had turned himself in the morning of April 14 after eluding law enforcement for nearly seven months. Sheriff’s deputies and a Virginia State Police tactical team had attempted to apprehend Thomas the day of the crime at his last known address in Eagle Harbor apartment complex, where they spotted a car allegedly belonging to Thomas that had been seen leaving the crime scene — but didn’t find Thomas himself.

Sheriff’s Office Capt. Tommy Potter stated at last year’s press conference that Thomas was alleged to have fled to the Hampton-Newport News area during his time as a fugitive.

Thomas was initially charged with second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The murder charge has since been upgraded to first-degree, which Virginia law defines as murder “by poison, lying in wait, imprisonment, starving, or by any willful, deliberate, and premeditated killing” or murder in the commission of another crime.

The trial is expected to last three days.