Jacksonville resident Kevin Thompson, 29, was reported missing to police Thursday morning after he didn’t show up for work at Wellborn Elementary School, where Thompson teaches third grade.
Scores of people lit candles on the Public Square in Jacksonville Friday night, praying for Thompson's safe return. Among them were his mother and sister.
Thompson’s 2005 silver Honda Civic was found at an east Anniston home Thursday evening, and a man suspected of using Thompson’s ATM card to withdraw cash at area banks was in custody at the Anniston City Jail Friday; Jacksonville police Chief Tommy Thompson described that man as someone who might have been a childhood friend of Kevin Thompson.
In addition, police sources tell The Star, a second individual is being interviewed by authorities in Atlanta as a “person of interest” in the case.
The Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences’ McClellan laboratory was busy searching Thompson’s car for fingerprints, tissue samples and other forensic evidence that might be clues to the missing man’s whereabouts, Chief Thompson said.
“We feel … leery about it,” Thompson said of the case.
View photos from Friday night's vigil
Kevin Thompson’s mother and Wellborn Elementary Principal Douglas O’Dell said they’ve been worried about his disappearance from the moment he didn’t show up to teach Thursday.
“The only thing the police would say at first was, ‘Oh, he’s 29, he probably went on a vacation without telling anyone,’” said Frances Curry, Thompson’s mother. Curry told The Star Friday she has been frustrated with the way Jacksonville police have handled the case, that their assumption at first was he had left on his own volition.
“That’s not his personality; you have no idea who my son is,” she said.
O’Dell also described the young teacher as a hardworking, mild-mannered man who was never once even late for work until he didn’t show Thursday morning.
“It was very much out of his character,” the Wellborn principal said. “He’s a very conscientious young man; he understands what it’s like to put others before yourself … and he’s Superman in the classroom.”
O’Dell said that while faculty members at Wellborn Elementary have taken Thompson’s disappearance hard, school officials have tried to shield students from the anxiety of the situation.
“As far as the students are concerned, it’s, ‘Mr. Thompson is not here right now,’” O’Dell said. “We’re trying to keep the day as normal as possible.”
Thompson’s 17 students have been split between the remaining third-grade teachers at the school, so as to “keep a substitute from having to answer a lot of questions,” O’Dell said.
O’Dell and Curry described Thompson as a magnificent teacher whose students love him.
“And he loves teaching,” Curry said, noting how Thompson paid his way through Jacksonville State University by working three jobs, including stints at the Walmart stores in Jacksonville, Anniston and Oxford and at Compass Bank in Oxford. In December, Thompson earned his master’s degree from JSU.
O’Dell said the interview committee at Wellborn Elementary knew immediately after Thompson interviewed for a job two years ago that he belonged at the school.
“When we got through with interview, the committee was like, ‘he’s one of us; he’s got to be here. He became like a family member rather quickly,” O’Dell said. “Today has been tough; yesterday was tough.”
Anniston police, the agency that arrested the suspect for using Thompson’s ATM card, declined to release identifying information about that man Friday, because making his identity public could jeopardize the investigation, Sgt. Fred Forsythe said.
“We’re doing our job to make sure everything’s covered in our assistance of Jacksonville PD,” Forsythe said.
Curry said she knows that Anniston police are working hard to assist in the search but that knowledge hasn’t assuaged her fears about her son.
“I’m just tired. I’m so tired. I just want my child back,” Curry said.
Police describe Thompson as black, 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighing between 160 and 170 pounds and with close-cropped hair.
His family is offering a reward to anyone with information on his whereabouts. People with tips should call Jacksonville police at 256-435-6448.
Star staff writer Cameron Steele: 256-235-3562.