‘He was almost unrecognizable,’ beating victim’s wife testifies


Thomas C. Maslin, with wife Abigail and son Jack. (Courtesy Abigail Maslin)

It was about 10:30 p.m. Aug. 17, and Abigail Maslin sent her husband a quick text, then went to bed in their Capitol Hill home. About 4 a.m., she awoke to let out their dog and noticed that Thomas Maslin had not come home yet from a Nationals game.

Hours later, she reunited with her husband at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he lay in a coma after being robbed and brutally beaten after a night out with his friends.

“He was almost unrecognizable,” she recalled from the stand Tuesday in D.C. Superior Court, where she was the final government witness in the assault and robbery trial of Tommy Branch, 22, of Fort Washington. For about 30 minutes, she told the harrowing story of searching for and finding her husband — and embarking with him on an arduous road to recovery.

As the dark turned to light that morning in mid-August, Abigail Maslin called one of Thomas Maslin’s buddies to see whether he had stayed over after a night of drinking. He hadn’t. She called the police and completed a missing persons report. She checked his bank statements online, and she noticed two unusual purchases a few hours earlier: two $1 charges at an Exxon gas station. Her husband didn’t drive.

“I was starting to panic and go into shock,” she told the jury.

Branch is charged with robbing Thomas Maslin, 30, of his bank card, iPhone and keys and severely beating him with an aluminum bat.

When Abigail Maslin arrived at the hospital, he had a giant scar on the left side of his head, which was shaved. His left eye was swollen and protruding from its socket.

He spent several days in a coma and underwent six surgeries. For 10 days, he didn’t speak, able to communicate only by writing on a white board. He was in intensive care for a month and in rehab for three. Even today, after Abigail Maslin left her teaching job to take care of him full time, her husband still struggles to speak and walks with a limp. The couple has a son, Jack, who is 2.

Thomas Maslin has not attended Branch’s trial. Partly because of the extent of his injuries, prosecutors declined to call him to the stand.

Two other men were also charged in the attack. Sunny Kuti, 18, of Southeast Washington has requested a separate trial. Kuti was allegedly armed with a non-working black BB gun. Michael Moore, 19, of Landover pleaded guilty in the case and testified against Branch, whom he has known since childhood.

Branch, Moore testified, had lost his job the previous month and was desperate for money to pay his rent. Branch kept the bat in his car and told his friends that if their victim struggled, he would use it to “hit him so he doesn’t remember anything.”

Moore testified last week that at the time of the attack, Maslin was unarmed, threw up his hands, and offered his bank card and iPhone. Moore said Branch then came from behind and with both hands struck Maslin on the side of his head with the bat. “He was gasping for air and was making a snoring sound when he hit the ground,” Moore said.

Branch’s attorney, Dorsey Jones Jr., argued that it was Moore who struck Maslin and that Moore had agreed to a plea to pin the attack on Branch.

Under sentencing guidelines, Branch faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted. The jury is expected to begin deliberating Wednesday.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of intern Chandra Levy.
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