ANNISTON, Ala. (WBRC) - Tyrone Thompson became physically ill when he saw a crime scene photo of the body of Kevin Thompson on the side of a road. He gagged and left the room, then returned and said, “I’m OK.”
After eight years, the trial is underway in the capital murder case of Tyrone Thompson. He is charged with capital murder in the 2011 kidnapping, robbery, and murder of Kevin Thompson, who was a teacher at Wellborn Elementary School. The two men are not related.
Circuit Judge Debra Jones has ruled that since Tyrone Thompson’s IQ is 70, he is not eligible for the death penalty. So if he is convicted of capital murder, his only possible sentence will be life in prison without parole. In fact, one of the delays in the case coming to trial was this specific pre-trial issue being litigated.
Two other defendants have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to death, but their sentences were overturned on appeal.
Testimony Tuesday came from teachers and former Wellborn principal Douglas O’Dell. They testified Kevin Thompson was absent without notice that morning in 2011, behavior they described as out of character for him. He had apparently not arranged for a substitute to fill in, but had laid out materials in his classroom for that day’s lessons.
A welfare check from the school's resource officer, deputy Brandon Harris, set events in motion toward this becoming a missing persons case. A Jacksonville Police Officer testified about taking his desktop computer and one shoe, found in the parking lot, into evidence.
Jacksonville Assistant Police Chief Bill Wineman testified about photos sought, and received, from area ATMs corresponding with Kevin Thompson’s card being used. One of the pictures showed the defendant, Tyrone Thompson. He also testified about finding Kevin Thompson’s missing car in a garage in Anniston, partially disassembled.
Wineman later testified about finding Kevin Thompson's body dumped near mile marker 166 on U.S. Highway 278, just inside the Cherokee County line. "He looked like he'd been in a fight," Wineman testified, adding he had been partly covered with leaves.
Wineman testified the earth was disturbed in a way to suggest a struggle, even though the guardrail appeared newly installed. Former Chief Tommy Thompson--no relation to suspect or victim--said in a WBRC interview in 2011 the victim could have been killed on the scene.
Judge Jones submitted questionnaires to two panels of jurors to deal with a change of venue request. Ultimately, a jury of eight women and seven men from Calhoun County were chosen, and the trial remains in Anniston.