Tina Samuel testified that boy’s father was a violent man
COEUR d'ALENE — Eldon Samuel III's father had prepared to load a camping trailer with numerous guns and other weapons, stocks of water and canned food, and take the family high into the mountains in the event of a zombie apocalypse.
That's according to the teenager's mother, Tina Samuel, who testified Wednesday in his double-murder trial in 1st District Court.
She said the family took camping trips high in the mountains when they all lived together in California, before the married couple split and she stayed in California and Eldon Samuel Jr. and their two boys moved to Idaho. Tina Samuel told the Kootenai County jury the family would seek secluded spots in the mountains, shoot handguns and shotguns, watch zombie movies, and cut off the heads of rattlesnakes for fun on those outdoor outings.
She said Samuel, who was born in Modesto, Calif., in 1999, listened to and learned from his father. The teen is on trial for killing his 46-year-old father and his autistic brother, 13-year-old Jonathan, in March 2014.
"He was trained to be ready when the zombies came," Tina Samuel said of her older son.
The father taught the boys to be handy with knives and guns. He also taught the boys how to kill zombies, she said.
"Shoot them in the head or chop off their head," she said. "That's the only way to kill a zombie."
She described her husband of 14 years as a violent man who regularly packed a 9mm handgun in the waistband of his pants and got hooked on prescription drugs after some work injuries.
His demeanor changed because of drug use.
"It got so much worse over the years," she said.
She said he took far more drugs than doctors ever prescribed for him.
Before they finally broke up for good, she said, they split up an estimated 50 to 100 times. But, she said, she always took him back because she wanted to be with her boys.
She described him as controlling, moody, and often out of work. She said he brainwashed her. He worked about half the year — at the most — as a mechanic.
"Was it his habit to be high every day?" Public Defender Linda Payne asked Tina Samuel.
It was, she replied. When he wasn't working he was playing video games, watching movies and going camping.
Tina Samuel accepted some responsibility for not being there to raise her boys after the marriage broke apart. Her own prescription-drug habit prevented her from doing her job as a mother, she said.
Before the couple split, she said, the family moved more than 20 times.
Payne asked how many times they were evicted.
"Every place we lived at," Tina Samuel responded. "(Eldon Samuel Jr.) wouldn't pay the rent, the bills."
She said Eldon Samuel III, now 16, often missed school, many times because he was bullied when he did go. Teachers from Lakes Magnet Middle School, where Samuel was a student, testified that the missed school days hurt his development and grades. When he did show up, they said, he was quiet and polite and tried to learn.
A pediatrician testified Wednesday that Samuel complained of constant headaches, lingering back pain, insomnia, and reported that his father had physically abused him. The boy, who met with the doctor just after the killings when he was 14, reported living on one meal per day.
A dentist who treated him after his arrest testified that his teeth were in horrible condition from chronic neglect. Samuel had periodontal disease, multiple teeth with abscesses, and an infection. He had to have several teeth pulled because they were beyond repair. Jurors saw graphic photographs, taken by the dentist, of the boy's teeth prior to work beginning to repair the damage from years of neglect.