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Old 08-04-2006, 05:03 PM
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Sad Body In Woods Identified As Missing Woman:Lori Hamm

The wait is over for the family of Lori Hamm, missing since July 16.

Hamm, 36, disappeared after leaving her Kelso, Wash., church.

Late Thursday, the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office confirmed that a body found Tuesday in the dense woods between Kelso and Castle Rock, Wash., is Hamm. Homicidal violence was listed as the cause of death.

Witnesses spotted convicted rapist John Thomson, 46, driving Hamm's car the day she vanished. She was not in it. It was later found in a Home Depot parking lot. Then the car he was last seen driving, a Honda Civic, was found abandoned in San Bernardino, Calif.
Thomson is wanted for questioning in connection to Hamm's death, as well as in the disappearance of Spokane resident James Ehrgott. The 73-year-old went missing July 7 after leaving a café. Witnesses report seeing Thomson driving Ehrgott's car, which was later found at a campground in Lewis County.

Thomson (pictured, left) is 5 feet 9 inches tall and about 190 pounds. Police believe that he changed his appearance by shaving his head and growing a goatee.

Thomson is considered armed and dangerous. If you see him, call 911. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at (360) 577-3092 or the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office at (360) 577-3092.
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Old 08-06-2006, 05:01 PM
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Alert After 2nd body found, hunt for a Suspected Serial Killer Intensifies

After 2nd body found, hunt for a Suspected Serial Killer Intensifies

San Bernardino County authorities Saturday discovered a man's body near the Cajon Pass and said the deceased could be a convicted rapist's third homicide victim.

Investigators said the body might be that of Charles Ray Hedlund, 55, of Lucerne Valley, whose wife reported him missing this week after he failed to show up for work after a Las Vegas trip.

The district attorney's office has issued a murder warrant for John Wayne Thomson, 46, a thrice-convicted rapist, in Hedlund's death. Officials declined to say how they linked the two men.

Washington state authorities are searching for Thomson in connection with a Longview woman's death and a Spokane man's disappearance.

Thomson is 5 feet 9, about 200 pounds, with blue eyes, scars and tattoos, the FBI said.

A man matching that description was seen Tuesday at the McDonald's near Interstate 15 and State Route 138, said Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Cindy Beavers.

Motorcyclists found Hedlund's bloodied Ford pickup this week near Cleghorn Road and Interstate 15. On Saturday, authorities found the body west of the freeway near Old Route 66.

The Sheriff's Department can be contacted at (909) 387-3589; the FBI at (310) 477-6565.

Hunt for Wayne Thomson intensifies after bodies found

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. - The hunt for suspected serial killer John Wayne Thomson is intensifying after police in California found a body they believe belongs to a man who could be one of his victims.

The 46-year-old Thomson has two murder warrants hanging over his head and is also wanted for questioning in the disappearance of a third person. One of the murder warrants was issued by police in San Bernardino, California, where Thomson is the prime suspect in the disappearance of 55-year-old Charles Hedlund.

A body was discovered in California on Saturday, near where Hedlund's pickup was found earlier in the week.
Police in San Bernardino told KATU News "they have reason to believe that it is Hedlund's body," but that will not be confirmed until an autopsy is done.

Another murder warrant was issued for Thomson out of Cowlitz County.
Investigators there believe Thomson is responsible for the death of Lori Hamm, a Longview woman whose body was found earlier this week.

Thomson is also being sought for questioning in the disappearance of 73-year-old James Erhgott of Spokane.

Thomson has an extensive criminal rap sheet including three felony convictions for rape and is believed to be armed and dangerous, said Laura Eimiller, an FBI spokeswoman in Los Angeles.
He has spent time in jail and a psychiatric hospital and moves from place to place, she added.
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Old 08-10-2006, 05:45 PM
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Exclamation Serial Killer Suspect Killed Driver Who Stopped to Help, Officials Say

Serial Killer Suspect Killed Driver Who Stopped to Help, Officials Say

Charles Hedlund of Lucerne Valley made a tragic mistake when he stopped to help a disabled motorist last week along Interstate 15.

Hedlund, returning from a Las Vegas vacation, had no idea the man he was assisting was suspected serial killer John Wayne Thomson, said San Bernardino County Deputy Dist. Atty. Victor Stull.

Thomson stabbed Hedlund multiple times with a short blade knife and took an unspecified amount of cash, which may have been part of the more than $6,000 that Hedlund had won in Vegas, Stull said.

Stull said the details of the murder were "going to take some people's breath away" in the trial.

Thomson's arraignment was postponed Wednesday at the request of his newly appointed attorney, Deputy Public Defender Joseph D. Canty Jr. Thomson did not enter a plea, and will appear again in court Sept. 5.

Though Thomson will be tried in San Bernardino County first, prosecutors intend to use evidence from Washington state, where he is believed to have killed two people.

Thomson allegedly bragged to acquaintances in Washington about killing 36-year-old Lori A. Hamm of Longview and 73-year-old James Ehrgott of Spokane, who disappeared in early July, according to a probable cause affidavit unsealed in Washington this week. The court document was posted online by a Spokane, Wash., television station.

Charlie Rosenzweig of the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office, the department's chief criminal deputy, said Hamm and Thomson met at the Maltese Tavern in Kelso, where Hamm sang karaoke and Thomson was briefly employed.

On the day Hamm disappeared, July 16, Thomson was seen driving her blue Ford Focus, Rosenzweig said.

The affidavit states that several Thomson acquaintances — including a man who told police Thomson had sold him Hamm's cellphone — told investigators that Thomson showed them credit cards in Hamm and Ehrgott's names.

When one acquaintance asked Thomson about the cards, Thomson replied that there should be no worries because he had put "a bullet in his head," according to court documents.

When Thomson acquaintances Don Cobb and Stan Payne drove around with Thomson in the Focus later that night, they told police that Thomson passed around a handgun and said he needed more bullets because he had only one left.

Payne later led police to the gun that he said Thomson abandoned in a truck in Longview. Payne also told investigators Thomson told him he had "capped [Hamm] in the back of the head."

At Payne's direction, investigators also checked a nearby trash can and recovered Hamm's credit cards and identification and a credit card belonging to Ehrgott, as well as papers and identification cards that belonged to Thomson.

Rosenzweig said Thomson tried to use some of the stolen debit cards but was unsuccessful because he did not have the personal identification numbers.

Later this week, San Bernardino County prosecutors say they plan to file additional charges against Thomson for carjacking one person and attempting to carjack two others Monday before he was arrested in Victorville.

Thomson was initially detained and tied up by two pressmen at a Victorville newspaper who rushed to help one of the carjacking victims. Others may have assisted with the capture.

Thomson has been charged with Hedlund's murder.

Stull said because of the defendant's extensive criminal history, which includes several felony rape convictions, a conviction of carjacking or attempted carjacking could put Thomson in prison for life as a three-striker.

Canty said he could not comment on Thomson's alleged crimes because he had not seen the police reports.
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Old 08-11-2006, 01:25 PM
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Eek! Murder renews attention to troubled area

Murder renews attention to troubled area

CAJON JUNCTION — For years a portion of Cleghorn Road and the adjoining mountain area have been known as a hot spot for illegal activity that authorities say is a result of casual homosexual sex taking place there.

Days after the body of Charles Hedlund, 55, was found near Cleghorn off Old Route 66, officials from the Victorville sheriff's station saturated the area with 11 detectives and deputies Thursday afternoon in an effort to remove some of the criminal element that has long been prevalent.

Authorities say Hedlund stopped in the area last week when he saw a stranded motorist, later determined to be suspected killer John Wayne Thomson. The area has long been a problem for authorities, but Hedlund's murder brought new light to an existing problem. "This place is on the Internet for sexual predators, and they know to congregate here and that it is not routinely patrolled. This is where they hang out and as a result, you get parolees here renting out their campers, people selling designer drugs that they normally sell in the clubs and then you get people bringing weapons to protect themselves, theft, things like that," said Detective Sgt. Bob Hughes of the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Victorville station. "A lot of unreported violence happens here because if you get two guys in a car having sex and one beats the other one up and steals his car, he doesn't want it publicized because maybe he has a wife who he doesn't want to find out."

Within 15 minutes of the team's arrival Thursday afternoon, they had stopped five people, the majority of whom were arrested, said Detective James Wiebeld, who helped plan the saturation.

"They're out there for one purpose: sexual gratification. It is that simple. Can you imagine how many crimes go unreported down there? It's a thorn for the people of Devore," Wiebeld said.

He explained that along with the first group of people the team stopped, one of whom fled from authorities, investigators found a great deal of sexual paraphernalia accompanied by the usual excuse.

"They all say they are there to watch the trains. Who drives from Anaheim, Victorville, Desert Hot Springs, anywhere, to watch trains?" Wiebeld asked.

When detectives Brett Zour and John Wickum stopped a vehicle in the area, they found a man performing a sex act in plain view of the road.

"He said, I was just hiking back there; I'm looking for rocks. Well, who hikes in dress shoes?" Zour said.

Other representatives from the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department said that they do not believe the area to be a heightened criminal area.

"That's not an area I would consider high crime," said Cindy Beavers, spokeswoman for the sheriff's department. "If there's no money exchanged it's not illegal, but I'd call it inappropriate if they're having sex in plain view,"

There were roughly 20 cars parked alongside the road about 4:30 p.m. Thursday including a camper that officials suspect is rented out for sexual purposes.

Of the people who were stopped initially, one was a parolee in possession of drug paraphernalia, another had a no bail warrant, another had a $7,500 warrant, one individual was on felony probation and was found to be under the influence, and another, who led authorities on a short pursuit, was found to be a parolee at large.

"It's been happening for several years, but it's gotten progressively worse with more and more people. Look around, this is the middle of the week and there are this many people here," Hughes said.
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Old 08-11-2006, 06:03 PM
Gary Dee Gary Dee is offline
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Default Newspaper workers get $6,000 reward for stopping Thomson

Newspaper workers get $6,000 reward for stopping Thomson

Two Southern California newspaper employees who wrestled suspected murderer John Wayne Thomson to the ground during an apparent carjacking Monday have earned a $6,000 reward offered for Thomson's capture, Cowlitz County CrimeStoppers announced Tuesday.

"They deserve every bit of it. I'm just glad to get him off the street," said CrimeStoppers chairman Ray Caldwell, who is flying to Victorville, Calif., to present a 5-foot-long ceremonial check to Daily Press workers Joe Iskandar and Rey Bantug at noon Thursday.

The men leaped into action Monday afternoon when they saw Thomson dragging a screaming woman out of her car by the hair in his third carjacking attempt that day. Iskander, a 27-year-old press foreman, put Thomson in a "full Nelson," and Bantug kicked out Thomson's knees from behind and then bound his wrists with plastic "zip ties."

The men had no idea they'd caught the suspected murderer whom West Coast authorities had been hunting for three weeks and whom a former girlfriend called "an evil man."

Thomson, 46, is suspected of killing Spokane resident James Ehrgott, Lori Hamm of Longview and Charles Hedlund of Lucerne Valley, Calif., all within the last month. He is being held in protective custody at West Valley Detention Center in San Bernardino County, Calif., and is scheduled to make his first court appearance today at 8:30 a.m.

A memorial service for Hamm, 36, will be held at 1 p.m. today at First United Methodist Church in Kelso.

Against usual policy, the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department released Thomson's arrest photo Tuesday. Authorities are trying to retrace his path across California and want to hear from anyone who came into contact with Thomson between July 25 and Aug. 7, said sheriff's spokeswoman Arden Wiltshire. On Aug. 5, the body of California businessman Charles Hedlund, 55, was found in a remote part of San Bernardino County, three days after his bloody truck was discovered a couple of miles away. Hedlund's friends told The Press-Enterprise that he had been on his way home from Las Vegas, where he'd won nearly $10,000 in a slots jackpot.

Thomson, a serial rapist, had been seen at a McDonald's in the area earlier in the week, and the car he'd stolen July 19 from a woman in Kelso was found abandoned nearby.

He resurfaced at 12:15 p.m. Monday, when he allegedly used a hammer in an attempt to take the car of a 70-year-old man in Victorville, according to San Bernardino authorities. He ditched the car within minutes and then tried to seize the car of a 47-year-old woman in a parking lot. When the woman's son dragged Thomson out of the car, Thomson ran to a restaurant across the street and attempted another carjacking. That's when Iskandar and Bantug came to the rescue.

Cowlitz County Sheriff's Detective Sid Ackler and other detectives spent Monday evening and Tuesday interviewing Thomson, whose identity was verified by fingerprints because he initially claimed to be someone else, Wiltshire said.

"It's just good that he's talking with our detective," said Charlie Rosenzweig, chief criminal deputy for the Cowlitz County Sheriff's Office. "The more opportunity we have to find out the truth --- that's a good thing for us and for the victims."

Rosenzweig declined to provide details about Thomson's demeanor or conversations with detectives, saying that releasing such information could prejudice a jury pool when and if Thomson is brought to trial. He did say, however, that detectives were trying to find out what happened to 73-year-old Erghott, who disappeared July 7.

Other than his car and his empty wallet, no trace of Ehrgott has been found. According to court documents, during the week of July 16, Thomson showed his Longview acquaintances Ehrgott's credit cards and said he had "put a bullet in his head."

Lori Elmore, Thomson's girlfriend in the late 1980s and early 1990s, said he showed up at her sister's home in Riverside, Calif., on July 22. The house used to belong to Elmore, and when her sister saw Thomson, she immediately ordered him off the property. Elmore said she doesn't know if he wanted to see her or was looking for money.

Thomson physically and emotionally abused her, Elmore said, and her family shielded her from him in the years since they parted ways.

"He's just an evil man, " Elmore told The Daily News. "He has no conscience, no reality of right and wrong. It's his way always."
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Old 08-13-2006, 04:32 AM
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Exclamation Thomson makes first appearance in California courtroom

Thomson makes first appearance in California courtroom

SPOKANE -- John Wayne Thomson made his first appearance in a San Bernardino County court room Wednesday where he’s facing murder and carjacking charges stemming from the death of a California businessman.

Thomson is being held without bail in San Bernardino County on charges he killed 55-year-old Charles Hedlund of Lucerne Valley, California. He faces additional charges from an attempted carjacking earlier this week in Victorville which led to his arrest.

The district attorney's office in San Bernardino County expects to extradite Thomson following his trial in California.

“Hopefully we can convict him and he will go through the appellate process of course and then he will be extradited to Washington,” Deputy District Attorney Victor Stull said. “I fully expect we are not going to wait until the appellate process is done here because that is going to take just too long."

When he returns to Washington State he will face charges for the murder of Lori Hamm, 36, of Longview and most likely face charges relating to the disappearance of 73-year-old James Ehrgott of Spokane. Ehrgott has been missing since early July and authorities suspect that he, like Hamm and Hedlund, was killed by Thomson.

Thomson will enter a plea at his arraignment next month.

Last edited by Gary Dee : 08-13-2006 at 07:35 AM.
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Old 08-14-2006, 02:13 PM
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Exclamation Police Expand Search For Missing Man's Body

Police Expand Search For Missing Man's Body

Alleged Serial Killer Suspected In Disappearance

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Police in Washington are revealing new information in their search for a missing man.

Investigators say John Thomson abducted 73-year-old James Ehrgott (pictured) from People's Park along the Spokane River, shot him and dumped the body under a two-lane bridge with high grasses somewhere in the inland Northwest.

Detectives have been searching the Spokane area but are now expanding the search throughout the Northwest.

Besides the Ehrgott case, Thomson is suspected in the murders of Lori Hamm and Charles Hedlund. Hamm's body was found last month near Kelso. Hedlund's body was found California.
Thomson, 46, was captured and is now held in San Bernardino County, Calif.
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Old 08-20-2006, 11:51 AM
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Exclamation The charmer and the monster: Those who knew John Wayne Thomson say he was both

The charmer and the monster: Those who knew John Wayne Thomson say he was both





People who knew murder suspect John Wayne Thomson well say he was all these things. In addition, their memories paint a picture of a hypnotic, controlling man who grew up in a troubled family -- a brother served time for shooting a policeman -- and found more trouble in drugs and alcohol. No one can pinpoint any one thing that turned Thomson into the three-time convicted rapist now accused of three murders in two states. But several former friends and relatives said there were hints of danger dating back to Thomson's teenage years. All were terrified of him when he was on the run during the recent West Coast killing spree.

"If you really thought about it back then, you would have known he was going to have trouble," said Patricia Wasson, whose stepdaughter married Thomson in 1978. "He was an outsider" and grew up in an abusive atmosphere, she said.

Ex-girlfriend Lori Elmore puts it more succinctly.

"He was pure evil."

The "charmer"

John Wayne Thomson was born Jan. 20, 1960, in Yakima to Elmer and Frances Thomson, the youngest of four boys. The family had previously lived in Florida but moved to the Lower Columbia region in 1965. Elmer worked on the Weyerhaeuser Co. railroad. Frances was a nurse. Thomson's ex-wife, Star Thomson, says the family was always bouncing around, living in Longview, Kelso, Toledo and Winlock.

From 1970 to 1975, Thomson attended Barnes Elementary in Kelso and Northlake Elementary, Kessler Elementary and Cascade Middle School in Longview. He dropped out of school in ninth-grade, according to prison records, and later got a GED.

This recent photograph of John Wayne Thomson was taken by an acquaintance in the Spokane area and released by Spokane police during the manhunt for the murder suspect. Relatives said Thomson likes to spend time outdoors hunting and fishing

Mary Belle Johnson, whose son Calvin was the best man at Thomson's wedding, remembers him as a nice, polite young man. "He acted like a boy his age and he done everything that was nice," Johnson said from her Castle Rock home.

As he grew older Thomson had an ability to captivate women.

His ex-wife and a former girlfriend said he was so charming that Thomson moved in or married them within three months of their first meeting. And even after they left him, he never gave up hope of reconciling, writing and calling both women from time to time.

Ex-wife Star, now 46, met Thomson walking up Longview's Commerce Avenue in 1978, when both were 18. Thomson was sitting on the corner with some friends and struck up a conversation. Their first date was that night.

"He was a really nice guy at first," Star said. "And he was good looking. He looked like Viggo Mortensen in the movie 'Hidalgo.' He was a fox. He had long hair feathered back and was a real cutie. But, you know, (serial killer) Ted Bundy was like that too. I thought about that later."

Three months later they began a troubled, chaotic marriage that legally lasted 10 years. Star says the marriage ended for her after just four years when Thomson was arrested for two rapes in 1982. Thomson, though, wouldn't sign the divorce papers for several years, she said, so the marriage didn't officially end until 1988. The union produced two sons and still haunts Star.

Thomson spent almost three years in a state mental hospital for the 1982 rapes and then did prison time from 1985 to 1988 after getting kicked out of the hospital program.

Shortly after Thomson's divorce and release from prison, Lori Elmore, visiting from California in 1988, met Thomson at a bar and moved in with him "almost instantly." Within three months the couple moved to Riverside, Calif., to work in the Elmore family stone veneer business.

Elmore, now 44, knew he'd been in prison but didn't ask Thomson what the charges were and said she really didn't want to know. It's a mistake she bitterly regrets today.

"He was real charming in the beginning," she said. "I just remember being in awe of him. He was a charmer and really suave. We'd go out eating and dancing. But afterwards it was hell."

A charismatic, troubled family

As the women got to know Thomson's family, they saw even more examples of his charm and a disturbing unwillingness to ever admit fault. They also learned his family had a legacy of tragedy and trouble.

Thomson's father, Elmer, was remote but could turn on the "bull----" when it suited him, Star said. And his handsome older brothers had charisma to spare.

"They were real good-looking boys and nice-talking guys," said Wasson, who kept in touch with the family through the two grandsons. "They were always bringing girls home. And when they broke up with them their mother would always say it was the girl's fault."

Even after his two 1982 rape convictions, his parents didn't accept that Thomson was at fault.

Wasson (Thomson's mother-in-law) drove his mother to visit him at the Western State Hospital in Steilacoom -- where he was being treated for being a sexual psychopath. Frances Thomson insisted the first girl "cried rape" after agreeing to have sex with her son, Wasson said. She also encouraged his estranged wife to get back together with her son, saying the rapes were not true.

Friday, Frances Thomson said by telephone that the first of Thomson's rape arrests was because the girl's boyfriend made her "holler rape." As for the others, she said she didn't know. Much of her son's troubles, she said, were because he hung out with bad people or got into drugs.

"He wasn't raised this way," she said.

His father told Thomson's wife, Star, that the rapes were because the girls dressed provocatively, which she flatly rebutted, telling him it was about his son's bid for power and control.

Wasson said that Thomson was picked on by his brothers, who considered him slow and dumb and not as handsome as they were. Several months after their marriage, Star realized her husband had only a third- or fourth-grade reading level, often needing her help to read signs or fill out forms.

Wasson remembers him as an underdog and said she felt sorry for him.

Turmoil and violent tempers seem to run in the family.

His paternal grandfather beat Thomson's father as a child, and his mother watched her father kill himself as a young girl, Star said. Frances Thomson said she "took a lot of beatings," from Thomson's father during her first marriage.

Then there was brother Tommy.

Tommy was sentenced to 10 years in prison in 1984 for shooting at two local officers -- one was Bill Mahoney, now the county sheriff. Tommy shot Longview Police Officer Dennis Davenport in the foot and then was shot himself before being arrested.

Tommy was released from prison in December of 1993 and killed himself that same month, apparently after getting involved with another brother's ex-wife and then learning she was returning to her husband. Frances Thomson said the woman, now dead, "played the two boys against each other."

Frances Thomson doesn't have much contact with any of her remaining sons and didn't want her new last name or the Western Washington town she lives in disclosed.

"It was just a strange family," Wasson recalls. "There was no respect for women there."

A life in shambles

Star and Elmore say their relationships with Thomson began well enough but soon turned into a hellish existence where he tried to control their every thought and action.

The women's experiences with Thomson were several years apart but are remarkably similar, including his intense jealousy and violent outbursts. They tried to leave him, the women said, but Thomson was good at either charming or scaring them to return. Sometimes, they said, he'd physically drag them back.

The only way either woman escaped, they said, was when Thomson was arrested for rape and sent to prison, first in 1982 and again in 1990.

The rape arrests were disturbing, but not a complete surprise.

"He would rape me and choke me sometimes and never take no for an answer," Star said. "And I couldn't do anything because I was married to him."

After she left him for good in 1982, Star said several of her friends told her Thomson tried to or did rape them.

Star said all she wanted was a casual boyfriend when they met, but within weeks the 18-year-old tree planter and rodeo rider announced Star was his and told her she'd better marry him. Urged on by her mother, the former "wild child" became a bride even though she wasn't really interested in settling down.

Within months, Star decided she'd had enough and announced she was leaving. Thomson, though, seduced her back and she soon learned she was pregnant with her first son.

A few years later -- after other rough patches and attempts to leave -- Star remembers Thomson taking a belt to her 2-year-old eldest son because he forgot to shut the door to his parents' bedroom. Thomson said the boy "had to learn a lesson," Star said.

"I was just so upset he did that to the baby that I just grabbed a whip off the wall and beat the hell out of him," she said. After kicking Thomson in the crotch, Star grabbed her son and barricaded the boy and herself in the bathroom until Thomson's father, Elmer, threw him out of the house.

Elmore remembers eerily similar incidents.

Once, after they moved back to Winlock from California, Elmore took her kids and started running down the road to flee Thomson. He chased them down in his car, Elmore said, and her 10-year-old daughter tried to beat him off with a stick while Elmore held her small son above her head to protect him. Thomson grabbed her daughter, telling Elmore she'd never see her again if she didn't come back to him. It worked.

"He would rape me, he would beat me, he would kidnap my children, all of the above," Elmore said. "And I just had no self-esteem. He broke all my spirit. I was in shambles."

The torture ended in July of 1990 when Thomson was arrested for raping a Castle Rock woman who tried to fend him off with a dresser drawer and lamp after he forced open her locked bedroom, according to court records.

"I'm sure it was the worst day of her life, but it was the best of mine," Elmore said, because she finally had a shot at breaking free. She moved out of Thomson's house and as soon as he was convicted and sentenced to 16 years in prison she called her sister in California, borrowed $300 and left the state, never looking back.

"He was an evil, evil man," Elmore said. "He has no conscience. No reality of right and wrong. It's his way always."

"He just redlines"

Both Star and Elmore said drugs and alcohol triggered Thomson's violent streaks.

His mother also said drugs contributed to Thomson's troubles, and friends said he'd been using meth recently. He was high or drunk when caught by two California newspaper pressmen during an attempted carjacking on Aug. 7, according to police.

Star said he started out drinking beer and smoking pot in his teens and 20s but soon progressed to harder stuff and a rougher crowd. Elmore said Thomson was using meth in California in the late 1980s, and that's when he started abusing and raping her.

"He was cool when he was sober, but he turned into Mr. Hyde as soon as he started using heavy drugs," Star said. "He turned into this monster and got real cold and cruel and said the meanest, nastiest things."

Thomson also struggled to hold down a job. Often, he would lose his temper, spout off and get fired.

"When he gets angry he just redlines, he could not think," Star said.

Once he got a job and then lost it and nine months of his freedom all in one day.

Shortly after his first son's birth in 1979, Thomson went to North Dakota for a high-paying oil rig job. The same night he got the job, though, a drunk Thomson stole a car and was arrested in South Dakota for grand theft auto, Star said.

The crime earned him nine months in jail and meant he missed his son's first steps and words. He returned from prison with his son's name tattooed on his arm and his wife's name across his chest with a ball and chain. Star was not impressed.

Elmore said he lost his job at her family's business after flying into rages and threatening several members of her family who ran the business.

Neither woman knows for sure what turned Thomson to crime, but Star thinks his parents left their boys home alone too often as children and didn't provide the church-going lifestyle she thinks is important. (Religion is what helped her escape a life of alcohol and stripping, she said).

His 72-year-old mother said Thomson was "O.K. as far as we knew" as a boy and "then all of a sudden he got in with some people that I didn't approve of and I guess that's more or less what happened."

She also said his stints in prison turned her son bad and that drugs made him so controlling she kicked him out of her trailer after his 2002 prison release.

"He was so controlling it was just unbearable," Frances Thomson said.

Both Star and Elmore also said Thomson told them bizarre and troubling stories about his childhood that might explain some of his rage. Neither woman is sure they believe Thomson, though, because he often lied when it suited him.

"He said he knew he didn't treat women well" and blamed his mother, Elmore said. "But just because he says something doesn't mean it's true."

On the loose again

Thomson's second stint in prison for the 1990 rape lasted 10 years and almost ended in civil commitment -- locking very dangerous sex offenders up indefinitely for psychiatric treatment. A forensic psychologist, though, said Thomson didn't meet the strict standard for commitment, clearing the way for his release.

Thomson served his entire 10-year sentence (it had been reduced from 16 years on a legal technicality), so all police could do upon his release was require him to register as a sex offender. He didn't have a probation officer checking to see if he had a job and he had no restrictions on where he could live or who he could see, according to the Lewis County Sheriff's Office.

His father died in 1995, so Thomson moved in with his mother and her boyfriend in Winlock after his release and later got his own trailer next door. He took up with a female trucker living with his mother and step-father and moved with her to Paris, Texas, in the fall of 2005, according to his sex offender registry.

By April, though, the relationship had soured, and he told the Paris police he would move back to Washington. (Police later learned he spent several weeks in May and June with a girlfriend in Spokane).That was the last police heard of him until a Lewis County Sheriff's Deputy called Spokane authorities on July 12 because he had discovered an abandoned car near Toledo belonging to James Ehrgott. Police later learned Ehrgott had been missing since July 7.

Ehrgott is believed to be the first of three people Thomson would kill during four weeks in a murder spree that terrorized communities in Washington and California. Four days after Ehrgott's car was found, Lori Hamm was last seen in Kelso and Thomson was driving her car, witnesses said. Hamm's body was found Aug. 1 in a wooded area near Castle Rock. Four days later, Charles Hedlund's body was found in California. Ehrgott's body has not been found, but police say Thomson is responsible for all three murders.

The news Thomson was on the run terrified many of women who once knew him, particularly because he has a habit of looking up old friends when in trouble. Police said he often shows up unannounced at friends' homes.

He showed up at Lori Elmore's old house -- now occupied by her sister -- on July 22, just days after Lori Hamm's disappearance. He was sitting on the front porch talking to Elmore's son when her sister arrived home and ordered him off the property.

The entire family was panicked until he was caught, at a location just 45 minutes away.

"I always knew he'd come back," said Elmore, adding she came close to a nervous breakdown while he was on the run. "I always told my sisters."

In Oregon, Star was terrified to learn Thomson had also stopped by his son's nearby house looking for a place to stay.

This was just days after Lori Hamm went missing and before the public had been alerted that Thomson was wanted in that case as well as the disappearance of Ehrgott. Thomson was antsy, her son told Star, and said he wanted to say good-bye to his boys.

"So we were speculating that he was going to maybe kill himself or just go out fighting," Star said. "And we were on high alert until he was caught.

"Those guys who caught him do not have any idea what they did for us and other people," Elmore said. "They have saved many, many lives."

Is it genetic?

Thomson's sons with Star were raised mostly by his parents. Star claims Thomson's mother schemed to get the kids taken away from her but admits she was drinking and partying more than she should have been. Thomson and Elmore also raised the boys for awhile, until his 1990 rape arrest.

Star said she put her life back together about 10 years ago after meeting a good man. She stopped stripping and returned to church. She'd had only sporadic contact with the boys while they were growing up, but now she talks with both.

Amazingly, she said, they've both turned out well, though both are appalled that their father and their family name are in the news attached to such heinous crimes. Neither agreed to be interviewed for this story.

The eldest, now 26, works construction in Oregon and is married with three step-children. Thomson's youngest son, 24, lives in Washington and is engaged to his long-time girlfriend.

The 24-year-old -- the more sensitive of the two according to his mother-- hoped to help his dad turn his life around after his 2002 prison release. Star warned him he was only asking for disappointment because Thomson always lets people who love him down, she said.

Soon, she said, her sons realized that they wanted nothing to do with their father.

Around that same time, she said, her youngest son asked Star if she thought the Thomson family troubles were genetic, and if he'd also end up trouble with the law.

"I told them both that my blood runs too strong in their veins to worry about that," she said. "I said 'It's not hereditary and it's up to you to decide what kind of person you want to be and make the right decisions.' And I said 'Your dad had every chance to do that and he didn't.'"
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Old 09-06-2006, 11:05 AM
Gary Dee Gary Dee is offline
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Exclamation Suspected serial killer Thomson pleads not guilty

Suspected serial killer Thomson pleads not guilty

SAN BERNARDINO - Suspected serial killer John Wayne Thomson stood behind a glass wall Tuesday as his lawyer entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

The 46-year-old thrice-convicted rapist has been charged with murder, robbery, carjacking, two attempted carjackings and auto theft.

He is ordered back to court Nov. 16 for a disposition hearing, where defense attorney Stephan Willms and prosecutor Bob Bulloch will either reach a plea agreement or set a preliminary date.

Thomson's arraignment was continued last month to allow the defense team time to review the case and enable prosecutors to add additional charges, including the carjacking and attempted carjackings.

"I thought he was going to plead guilty and get it over with," said Lori Elmore, who dated Thomson for two years before he was arrested in 1990 for rape.

She sat nervously in the courtroom, trying to sneak a peak at Thomson, clad in a green jumpsuit, rocking back and forth on his heels with his hands clasped behind his back.

Elmore said she feels guilty because Thomson came to the Inland Empire trying to reconnect with her, and feels partially responsible for the brutal slaying of Charles Hedlund, a 55-year-old Lucerne Valley man.

Hedlund's blood-spattered truck was found abandoned Aug. 2 on a dirt road near Cleghorn Road and Highway 138 in Cajon Pass. Thomson's ID was found inside the truck.

Authorities suspect Thomson stabbed Hedlund several times after Hedlund pulled over to help the suspected serial killer, who appeared to be a stranded motorist. He also absconded with about $10,000, Hedlund's recent winnings from Las Vegas.

Hedlund's brush-covered body was found Aug. 5 west of Interstate 15 in Cajon Pass.

Thomson could face the death penalty if convicted of the murder. After facing charges in San Bernardino County, he will likely be extradited to Washington State to stand trial for the shooting death of a woman there.
Washington State police have charged Thomson with the death of Lori Hamm, 36, of Longview, Wash. Her body was found Aug. 1 in the woods of rural Cowlitz County, Wash. She had been shot in the head.

Authorities also suspect Thomson killed 73-year-old James Ehrgott of Spokane, Wash. His body has not been found, but police discovered the elderly man's car abandoned in a remote campground. Witnesses say they saw a man fitting Thomson's description driving.

The original charges against Thomson were amended to include a carjacking and two attempted carjackings in Victorville the day he was captured.

According to court documents, after hitting an elderly man on the head with a hammer, Thomson drove about a half mile in his car. He then tried to carjack a woman, but ran away when her son came running to help her.
Authorities said next he accosted a woman sitting in her car listening to the radio. As Thomson yanked her from the car and tried to drive away, two pressmen scaled a wall and tackled him, authorities said.

Rey Bantug and Joe Iskandar bound him with zip ties until police arrived. The men were later awarded $6,000 for thwarting the carjacker and capturing one of the West Coast's most wanted fugitives.

Elmore called the pressmen "Godsends" and is thankful they caught Thomson before he hurt anyone else.

She has visited Thomson twice at West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga since his arrest. She said they haven't talked about his recent crimes very much, but she is hoping to get closure by telling him how angry she is for the fear he instilled in her.

Before he was arrested in 1990, she says he beat and raped her almost daily and even kidnapped her daughter when she tried to leave.
"He doesn't have the comprehension of right from wrong," Elmore said. "He doesn't think he's done anything. He's a lost cause."
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