LAW OFFICERS, PSYCHICS AGREE ON MURDERER
By Jennie Jones Giles
A suspect known to authorities was profiled Wednesday in Court TV’s “Haunting Evidence.” The suspected murderer in the unsolved 41-year-old triple homicide fits the profile of a person who went on a vicious crime spree in 1968 and later died in state prison and, significantly, can be placed in Hendersonville around the time of the 1966 murders (Aug. 22, 2007).
“Case closed,” said retired Hendersonville Police Chief Bill Powers. “Edward Thompson did it.”
Edward J. Thompson Jr., the last person to be declared an outlaw in the state of North Carolina, kidnapped, raped and murdered victims in North Carolina and Virginia before he was captured in 1968. That crime spree began in May 1968 in Henderson County.
By the end of his crime spree, he had kidnapped nine people, raped five and killed two. He received five consecutive life sentences, plus 20 years, and died July 16, 1989, in the state prison in Raleigh.
John Oliver, psychic intuitive and medium, describes the 1966 triple murderer on the television show as African-American, with a tall face, medium eyes, a long and broad nose, a slight mustache, full lips with the top lip slightly thinner and a slight part in his hair.
The show’s producers say Oliver did not have access to information about Thompson or any of the other suspects. No photographs of suspects were given to Oliver.
Description of a killer
To investigators and victims of Thompson’s crimes, the description fits Thompson. He was one of the named suspects for the murders of Vernon Shipman, Charles Glass and Louise Davis Shumate.
Powers, former Henderson County Sheriff’s Detective Neal Grissom and retired SBI agent Charles Chambers all said they believed that Thompson was the murderer when interviewed in a Times-News series on the case last year.
“The murder was committed by Thompson,” Powers said.
Powers said that as an underage juvenile, Thompson killed his father with a blow to the head using a gun in Rockingham County. The juvenile records are sealed and this has not been confirmed.
“He was mean, very moody,” Grissom said. “I don’t have one doubt in my mind he’s the guy who did it.”
Thompson was a loner, never married and had a bad temper, according to investigators.
“He’s a killer,” Grissom said. “He’s the one.”
“I am not so sure this is the only killing this man is responsible for,” Oliver said on the television show. “And I think we can find this killer in the criminal justice system, his fingerprints, his mug shots. This person has been arrested for other killings.”
Just before the triple murder, Thompson was serving time at the prison on Mountain Road, working on road crews, Powers said.
“I worked with him on Main Street,” he said. “He was released just before the murders were committed. About a year or two later, he went on the rampage.”
Between his release from the state’s minimum security prison formerly located on Stoney Mountain Road in Henderson County and the triple murder, Thompson burglarized homes not far from murder victim Shipman’s house, Powers said.
When Thompson escaped from Hendersonville Police officers on Harris Street after kidnapping his first two victims in 1968, officers found in the residence every news item that had been in the paper on the triple murder, Powers said.
“I know he did it,” Grissom said. “I lacked being able to take him to court. Couldn’t place him in the car with them.”
Witnesses who saw the victims July 17, 1966, with a third man in the back seat, described the man as white, not black. Thompson is light skinned. Oliver said on the night of the filming in Henderson County for the show “Haunting Evidence” that the man was light-skinned. In a more detailed profile not shown on television, Oliver describes the suspect as possibly of mixed race.
“The FBI told me to go ahead and charge him, that I had the evidence,” Grissom said. “But the D.A. (district attorney) didn’t think so and he had a good lawyer.”
Thompson was not interviewed by investigators in 1968 concerning the 1966 triple murders. The fingerprints found on Shipman’s car by Hendersonville Police were not tested for a match to Thompson.
The state of Virginia did not extradite Thompson for the kidnappings, rapes and murders in Virginia.
“Virginia decided not to extradite him,” Chambers said. “We gave him the maximum sentence here.”
Powers and Chambers went to visit Thompson at the state penitentiary in Raleigh in 1969 to ask questions about the triple murder.
“He said he didn’t know what we were talking about and pretended he didn’t know me,” Powers said.
“He told us he had nothing to do with it,” Chambers said.
DISCARDED EVIDENCE HINDERS ABILITY TO CLOSE THE CASE
By Jennie Jones Giles
Along with evidence submitted to the State Bureau of Investigation and more information obtained on suspect Edward Thompson Jr., there might be closure to the unsolved murders of Vernon Shipman, Charles Glass and Louise Davis Shumate.
Insights given by the stars of the “Haunting Evidence” show Wednesday on Court TV led to additional investigation by Hendersonville Police Chief John Nicholson.
“In my mind and that of several law officers who worked on this case night and day for years, Edward Thompson Jr. is the primary suspect,” Nicholson said. “I believe he is the lead suspect. No, I don’t have the evidence to prove it.”
There is an outside chance that a piece of evidence submitted to the SBI crime lab could prove if Thompson committed the murder.
At the conclusion of the Times-News series Small Town/Big Crime in July 2006, a former deputy with the Henderson County Sheriff’s Office told the Times-News that evidence from the case was long ago destroyed. The physical evidence from the crime scene was thrown into the trash and is buried beneath tons of garbage at the Henderson County landfill.
In the summer of 1969, retired SBI agent Charles Chambers personally delivered the physical evidence to then Sheriff Jim Kilpatrick. Kilpatrick did not tell lead detective Neal Grissom that the evidence was placed in a room at the Sheriff’s Office. None of the former deputies who worked under Kilpatrick and who were contacted by the Times-News ever saw the physical evidence.
Deputies who served under the late Sheriff Ab Jackson had no knowledge of the evidence until a deputy living out of state contacted the newspaper when the Times-News report came out last year. Nicholson investigated the account given by the former deputy.
When Jackson was sheriff, the old evidence room at the Historic Courthouse was undergoing renovation and two deputies were told to clean out the room.
“The two deputies accidentally disposed of all the evidence,” Nicholson said. “Out of the evidence, the only thing we were able to recover was the crutches. This is the only item we know of that survived.”
These were the crutches used by Glass, who had a broken leg at the time of the murder. The murderer placed the crutches atop the body of Glass.
Nicholson took the crutches to the SBI crime lab almost a year ago. He has not received a report from the SBI.
Nicholson did request Thompson’s fingerprints from the Department of Corrections for comparison.
Confession and opportunity
“Short of someone Thompson confessed to while in prison, I don’t think there’s anyway unequivocally to attribute the murders to him,” Nicholson said.
Thompson did tell two of his kidnap victims in 1968 that he had murdered three people.
“During his crime spree after the triple murder, Thompson made a comment to two kidnapped victims that they would end up dead like the others,” Nicholson said.
Within the past week, with help from court staff in Buncombe and Henderson counties and the State Archives in Raleigh, it was proven through court records that Thompson was in Henderson County on Aug. 4, 1966, a couple of weeks after the triple murder, and that he was not incarcerated at the time of the murders.
Thompson was charged with two counts of assault on a female and arrested Aug. 5, 1966. Records state that he used vulgar, obscene and threatening language against a woman in Hendersonville on Aug. 4 and pursued her, placing her in fear of her life. Thompson was arrested by retired Hendersonville Police officer Dubois Edmundson.
“I remember Edward Thompson, but not the specifics on this incident,” Edmundson said. “Thompson was more or less a career criminal. We dealt with him on many different occasions.”
Insights from TV
Nicholson was paired with psychic intuitive and medium John Oliver during the show’s filming. It was not long into the filming when Nicholson’s attention was captured by a statement made by Oliver.
“He said after the murderer killed each of them Shipman was face down,” Nicholson said. “When the murderer rolled Shipman’s body over, his legs were crossed.”
That is a detail only the investigators who saw the actual crime photos would know, Nicholson said.
“In fact, Shipman’s legs are twisted and I find that particularly interesting,” Nicholson said. “That impressed me because he hadn’t seen the crime photos. No one with the show had access to those photographs. There are only a few copies that I know of.”
Then Oliver began describing the anger, hostility and rage of the murderer.
“I started in my mind developing a picture of who the suspect might be,” Nicholson said.
Nicholson had discounted Thompson as the murderer because of witnesses who said the third person in Shipman’s car July 17, 1966, was white.
“When John Oliver described him as a black man, I immediately knew who the suspect was,” Nicholson said.
Oliver said the suspect had killed before.
Thompson was accused of murder in 1947 and acquitted.
It is possible that there are other unsolved murders fitting his profile in the Southeast.
The national exposure of the television show might bring forth someone who knew Thompson or who knows something, producers with the show said.
If Thompson committed other murders, the national exposure might help solve those murders.
“It might clear other unsolved murders with similar methods of operation,” Nicholson said.
Authorities with unsolved murders that fit Thompson’s pattern may have evidence, fingerprints or DNA samples that could prove if Thompson committed other murders between 1947 and 1968.
“I’m going to suggest this,” Oliver said. “Look at similar cases in surrounding areas to see if there are other victims with items on top of them.”
EVIDENCE POINTS TO THOMPSON
By Jennie Jones Giles
Evidence indicates Edward Thompson Jr. may have committed the 1966 Henderson County triple murders.
Points of similarity
1. Murdered man in Virginia was fully clothed. Clothes of woman murdered in Virginia were in disarray. (Shipman and Glass were fully clothed. Shumate’s clothes were in disarray)
2. Rubber hose was draped over murdered woman’s shoulders (objects placed on triple murder victims).
3. “I have a gun. I’ve already killed three people,” Thompson told a couple he kidnapped in Henderson County. “Two more won’t make a difference.”
4. After kidnappings, he always brought the car back to near where the crime started. (Shipman’s car was found only a few blocks from his home)
5. He always left the keys in the ignition. (cars of Shipman and Shumate had keys in ignition)
6. He liked to tell people where to drive. He commanded people to drive him around. (Shipman was driving the car when seen by witnesses with third man in rear seat)
7. He always had driver place both hands on steering wheel. (Witnesses said this was true of Shipman and Shipman did not wave or acknowledge them that Sunday)
8. Always placed the victims on their backs (triple murder victims were placed on their backs)
9. Women always seemed to get the worst treatment (Shumate was sexually violated and had worst of the puncture wounds)
10. He was bisexual (committed both kinds of sexual violence)
11. He never left signs of a struggle where victims were found or where they were raped.
13. He was accused of killing a man in 1947 with an iron pipe with blows to the head. Thompson was not found guilty of this murder. (Triple murder victims were killed by blows to the head using a heavy, metal object)
14. He was more active on Sunday than any other day (triple murder occurred on a Sunday)
15. Most of his crimes were May to July (triple murder committed July 16)
16. Investigators believe Thompson was trying to find the triple murder scene after he kidnapped one couple in Henderson County. Thompson traveled up and down Pot Shoals Road as if he was looking for something, the victims said. (Triple murder occurred on North Lake Summit Road, directly across U.S. 176 from Pot Shoals Road)
17. He kidnapped people randomly and unexpectedly.
18. He wore dark sunglasses (witnesses said third man in car with triple murder victims was wearing dark sunglasses)
19. He asked former Henderson County Sheriff’s Detective Neal Grissom once what was going on with the triple murder investigation. Hendersonville Police officers found newspaper clippings of the triple murder in his residence during the crime spree.
20. The climax of his crime spree was almost two years to the day from July 17, 1966. He kidnapped and murdered July 15-16, 1968, in Virginia.
Known and confirmed criminal history
• 1945 Convicted of first-degree burglary in Rockingham County. Sentenced four to seven years. Man with last name Pratt testified against him.
• Sept. 8, 1947 Charged with murder in Rockingham County. Found not guilty. The victim was Pratt.
• 1950 Convicted of breaking and entering. Sentenced 10 to 15 years. County not available.
• 1956 Convicted of breaking and entering. Sentenced 9 to 10 years. County not available.
• Aug. 16, 1960 Convicted of felonious assault. Sentenced to 18 months. County not available.
• Aug. 5, 1966 Arrested for assault on a female in Henderson County.
• Date not available Found guilty in General Court (District Court) on two counts of misdemeanor assault on a female. Appealed to Superior Court.
• Oct. 17, 1966 Found guilty in Henderson County Superior Court. Sentenced to two years.
• Oct. 21, 1966 Escaped from Henderson County Jail.
• Nov. 3, 1966 Appointed an attorney on charges of breaking and entering and larceny in Buncombe County.
• Jan. 5, 1967 Convicted in Buncombe County for breaking and entering and larceny from New Bridge Baptist Church. Sentenced to two years on misdemeanor larceny charge. Sentenced to not less than eight years or more than 10 years on felonious breaking and entering, suspended for five years on condition he break no other laws.
• March 1967 Convicted of escape charge in Henderson County.
• May 22, 1967 State court in a finding of fact determined the judgment was not proper in the Henderson County misdemeanor assault on a female charge. The maximum sentence for the misdemeanor charge was 30 days in jail or $50. Judgment for assault was set aside.
• September 1967 Thompson’s appeal to be released from prison because escape occurred past the 30 day sentence was denied as invalid and untenable. He was remanded to the custody of the state prison system to complete service of the sentence imposed in Buncombe County.
• Oct. 18, 1968 Convicted of the following in Henderson County: Robbery with a dangerous weapon, 10 year sentence; four counts second degree kidnapping, consecutive life sentences for each; first degree rape, life sentence to run concurrent; larceny and receiving, 10 years to run consecutive. The last sentence begin date would have been in 2074.
• July 16, 1989 Thompson died of AIDS at the age of 58 in Central Prison in Raleigh. Body cremated.
1968 Crime Spree
• 10:30 p.m. May 9: A doctor and wife were kidnapped from their home in Hendersonville at gunpoint. They were forced to drive in the couple’s car out U.S. 64 West through Mills River to a house in Fairview, where the couple was injected with drugs from the doctor’s medical kit. The doctor became unconscious. The captor drove the car from Fairview along U.S. 74 to Bat Cave.
• 3 a.m. May 10: The couple was left at the Valley Clinic in Bat Cave. The captor leaves with the car.
• 5 a.m. May 10: The couple was taken to Pardee Hospital.
• 9:30 a.m. May 10: The doctor’s car was found at the Joy Drive-In on U.S. 176 and Old Spartanburg Road. The physician’s bag and a tape recorder were in the car and the keys were in the ignition.
• Afternoon May 10: Hendersonville Police Patrolmen Homer Reed and James Ball went to 521 Harris St. to arrest Edward Thompson Jr. for the kidnapping of the couple. Thompson fired at officers, who returned fire. Thompson escaped out of a back window. He was believed to be wounded in the hand by Patrolman Reed.
• Night June 16: A 20-year-old male and 17-year-old female were kidnapped at gunpoint near Camp Green Cove in Tuxedo. The couple was forced to drive in the young man’s car to a vacant house near Lake Summit, where the female was raped.
• June 16-17: Thompson drove the car, with the male victim in the trunk, from Lake Summit along (old) U.S. 25 South to Greenville County and into the Mountain Page community to Saluda, taking U.S. 176 to Pot Shoals Road. He drove up and down Pot Shoals Road as if looking for something. He continued from U.S. 176 to Oak Grove Road, Crest Road, Upward Road to Dana to Ridge Road, onto Sugarloaf Road to U.S. 64. He stopped at an abandoned cemetery off U.S. 64 and Fruitland Road. The male victim was released from the trunk and ordered to drive toward I-26 and U.S. 64 to get gas, then I-26 to I-40.
• 4 a.m. June 17: The young man purposely wrecked the car on I-40 at the Icard exchange in Burke County. The couple escaped. The captor fled.
• Night June 23: Iredell County. A 23-year-old male and 14-year-old female were accosted at gunpoint at a closed service station where they stopped to get drinks from a vending machine. They were forced to drive north on U.S. 21 toward Mooresville. Outside of Mooresville, the girl was raped. The male victim was placed in the trunk of car. The captor drove 20 miles further north. The couple was taken into the woods where they were tied with bed sheets. The girl was raped again. The couple were left tied and the captor took the car. The couple managed to free themselves.
• June 25: A N.C. Highway Patrol Trooper chased a lime-gold 1968 Pontiac Firebird, stolen from the kidnap victims, along U.S. 21 north of Statesville. The car outran the cruiser.
• June 26: Thompson was declared an outlaw, stripping him of most legal protection. He was the last person declared an outlaw in the state of North Carolina.
• Friday night prior to July 8: The stolen Pontiac Firebird was found in a wooded, isolated area in Yadkin County, with the keys in the ignition.
• July 9: Thompson mails a letter postmarked from the Hendersonville Post Office to the Times-News.
• July 14: Three girls and two adults were kidnapped and taken to a two-story rock house about 1 1/2 mile south of Roanoke, Va., about a block from the Blue Ridge Parkway. Thompson shot the two adults, a man and woman, killing them both.
• July 16: Thompson was in Rockingham County at a relative’s house with the three kidnapped girls. This was the first time his family had seen him since 1947. Family members called law enforcement.
• July 17: Thompson was caught with the girls outside Greensboro.
Edward Thompson Jr. was born June 18, 1931, in Eden, Rockingham County, N.C.
He was in “training” school (juvenile detention) seven times for crimes committed in Rockingham County, according to former Henderson County Detective Neal Grissom.
According to former Hendersonville Chief of Police Bill Powers, one of those crimes was for killing his father with a blow to the head with a heavy object.
He did not complete high school.