NEOSHO, Mo. — Christopher Lamb broke down on the witness stand Tuesday while testifying against his father, Rickey Lamb, who is charged with killing his son's girlfriend, Sarah Tyminski, and wounding his son in an exchange of gunfire over a child custody dispute.
Christopher Lamb was the second witness called by assistant prosecutor Sarah Crites at a preliminary hearing in Newton County Circuit Court where his 60-year-old father was ordered to stand trial on a first-degree murder charge.
Crites began her direct examination of the 35-year-old son by asking him what happened June 17 at his residence on Eloise Lane south of Joplin.
"Hell happened that day," Chris Lamb replied.
He said he was standing in the kitchen of his home when he saw his father pull up to their place in his truck. He said he stepped into the living room to set his wallet and phone down and heard Tyminski, who was outside at the time, greet his father: "Hey, Rick!" He said the next thing he recalls is hearing a gunshot.
Crites asked him what happened next and Chris Lamb broke down emotionally.
"I can't do this," he sobbed. "I can't do this right now."
He muttered something about a panic attack and turned toward Associate Judge Christina Rhoades to add: "I went through enough. I can't do this right now."
The judge decided to let the witness take a break and temporarily excused him from the courtroom. He left for about 15 minutes and then returned to the stand.
Christopher Lamb then recounted how when he heard the shot, he ran outside, saw Tyminski on the ground and tried to pull her to safety behind a tree. As he did so, he was shot in the arm, he said.
"I pulled my arm back to my chest and ran into my (house)," he said.
He grabbed a .22-caliber rifle, ran back outside and "hit the ground," Christopher Lamb said.
"I remember rolling behind a tree and trying to guard myself behind the tree," he told the court.
He said he can recall peeking around the tree with the rifle and trying to get his father in the crosshairs of the gun's scope.
"I was trying to defend myself," he said. "I was scared."
He said he pulled the trigger with the cross hairs lined up on Rickey Lamb's shoulder and kept shooting until his father finally left in his truck. He said he did not realize that he had been shot in the chest as well as his arm until he went back inside.
Tyminski lay dead in the front yard when emergency medical help and Newton County sheriff's deputies arrived at the residence minutes later. A round from the .30-06 rifle believed to have been discharged by Rickey Lamb had torn through her wrist and into her side.
Christopher Lamb was taken to Mercy Hospital Joplin in critical condition, according to the Newton County Sheriff's Department. Rickey Lamb was subsequently treated at Freeman Hospital West for what the sheriff's office initially reported as a shotgun wound to his shoulder.
Detective Jerry Hornback testified before Chris Lamb took the witness stand that the defendant acknowledged to him in an interview the following day that he took a .30-06 rifle to his son's place and shot him, and "possibly'' shot Tyminski.
Public defender Marshall Miller asked Hornback on cross-examination if Rickey Lamb had told him that he shot his son after his son shot him, and Hornback replied: "That's what he said, yes." The probable-cause affidavit filed in the case states that Rickey Lamb told Hornback that when he pulled into the driveway, his son knelt down behind a tree and fired a shotgun at him. According to the affidavit, the father said that was when he shot his son.
The father further said that his son dropped the shotgun when he was struck by the round and Tyminski picked it up. Rickey Lamb told the detective that he then shot her and his son picked the shotgun up a second time and shot him in the shoulder.
Miller further questioned Hornback about a supplemental case report in which the investigator reported having spoken with Christopher Lamb at the hospital, where the son told him he fired just one shot with the .22-caliber rifle and denied having fired the shotgun at all.
Hornback acknowledged that both a .22-caliber rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun were recovered at the scene, and that investigators found five spent .22-caliber bullet casings and two spent 12-gauge shotgun shells but never had the shotgun itself tested to determine if it had been fired.
Christopher Lamb testified — in contradiction of his father's account to the detective — that he was inside the house and Tyminski outside when his father drove up. He said he actually thought he heard two shots while he was still in the house.
"But the coroner said there was just one shot (that killed Tyminski)," he said. "I could have sworn there were two."
Miller asked Hornback if he had looked into why the defendant went to his son's home in the first place, and Hornback said the son told him "something about them having a dispute over the kids."
Christopher Lamb acknowledged on cross-examination by Miller that his and Tyminski's two daughters, ages 11 and 6, were living with his parents at the time. They had signed custody of the two girls over to his parents in a tribal court arrangement. The son denied under cross-examination by Miller that he did so because of any substance abuse issues he or Tyminski had.
The son said that he and Tyminski normally got to have the girls on weekends. But that weekend, for some reason, Rickey Lamb was not letting them see the girls, and it had irritated the son to the point that he threatened his father during a telephone conversation with taking their daughters back and never letting his parents see them again.
Miller asked Christopher Lamb if he had discussed the matter with Tyminksi prior to his father arriving at their home, and Christopher Lamb said he had not.
"So you weren't expecting your dad to come?" Miller asked.
"No, no," Chris Lamb replied.
He claimed the violent conclusion to the dispute was out of character for his family.
"We're Lambs," he said. "We get mad. We stomp around. But we don't (harm) people."