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Jurors view images of bank security, autopsy in trial of teacher’s death

Bank staff testified on Wednesday regarding security footage and still photos at banks in Jacksonville and Anniston from April 20, 2011, where money was withdrawn from the account of a 29-year-old Wellborn teacher who was fatally stabbed that night.

Staff at Farmers and Merchants Bank in Jacksonville and Fort McClellan Credit Union branches in Jacksonville and Anniston answered questions about the images, during the trial of Tyrone Thompson, 35, charged with two counts of capital murder.

Cherokee County sheriff’s deputies found Kevin Thompson’s body nearly two days later.

Numerous photos depicted a man withdrawing money from an ATM while sitting in a silver sedan or standing outside, while another person points a rifle or shotgun toward the backseat. Some photos also depicted the silhouettes of two people sitting in the backseat.

One of the photos, which showed a man standing in front of an ATM at the Fort McClellan Credit Union branch in Anniston, depicted a man, whom Kevin Thompson’s sister identified as Tyrone Thompson, bent forward in the background.

Kendall Pool, the branch manager at the Alabama Teachers Credit Union in Anniston, reviewed Kevin Thompson’s bank statements. Pool said the bank statements indicated that $100 was withdrawn four times April 21, 2011, from the Farmers and Merchants Bank in Jacksonville.

Pool said the bank statements showed that Thompson’s card was later used at two gas stations.

At the start of Wednesday’s testimonies, jurors heard from forensic experts and viewed photos from Kevin Thompson’s autopsy, which showed the extent of his injuries before he died. The photos depicted a large gash on Thompson’s throat, and several stab wounds on his chest.

Expert witness Steven Dunton, who reviewed the autopsy report in 2011 after it was completed, said the stab on Thompson’s throat severed his windpipe and left jugular vein, and the stab in his chest pierced his heart and left lung.

According to Dunton,  it would have taken Thompson less than 5 minutes to die from his injuries. 

Forensic experts said Thompson also had a large bruise on his face, ligature marks on his wrists from where they had been bound with duct tape and a broken hip.

Dunton said Thompson’s injuries could have been caused by either one man or multiple men.

U.S. Marshal deputy James Banks, who apprehended co-defendant Nicholas Smith, Jessica Foster and Whitney Ledlow on April 22, 2011, after Smith fled to Atlanta, said Anniston police contacted U.S. Marshals and asked for help in finding Smith.

Banks said he and two other deputies spotted the car carrying Smith, Foster and Ledlow near the Atlanta airport and followed it. After several turns, Banks said, the car turned into a taxicab stand where deputies surrounded them.

Banks said the three were kept in holding cells at the airport until local police extradited them to Calhoun County.

Ledlow and Foster, who are cousins, said in separate testimonies Smith came to their home on Net Street around 3 a.m. April 21, 2011, looking exhausted.

“He looked like he had gotten beat up,” Ledlow said

The next morning, Foster said, the three got into the Ford Explorer that Smith drove to buy beer and pick up her car from a nearby apartment complex.

Ledlow said she noticed red stains on the door handle in the backseat of the car and commented on it. After that, she said, Smith seemed nervous.

Smith dropped his car off at a local detail shop to have his car interior cleaned and then left his car parked near the corner of 17th Street and Christine Avenue, and the three rode to Foster’s mother’s house, where they found a silver Honda Civic in the garage. Ledlow and Foster admitted to going through the car, stealing a ring and a camera.

“We were under the impression it was just a stolen vehicle,” Ledlow said. “We had no idea what circumstances were behind the vehicle.”

Ledlow said they called two men to help them dismantle the car, believing the parts would be sold, but left after Foster’s mother came outside and made a scene.

Foster said they passed her mother’s house again, but kept driving after they saw police had arrived.

Foster said she became aware of the circumstances surrounding the stolen car while the three were travelling to Carrollton, Ga. Ledlow said she became aware that night when they stopped at a hotel.

Ledlow recalled knowing the unmarked car following them the next morning was a law enforcement officer, and making numerous turns to avoid him.

After they were arrested and extradited, Ledlow said, she told officers Kevin Thompson’s body was left in a ditch near a wooded area.

Ledlow and Foster were later charged with hindering prosecution.

Kevin Thompson’s next door neighbor, Martelli Smith, said he heard talking and laughter outside around 9 p.m. April 20, 2011, and saw two men and a woman sitting on Thompson’s car in the parking lot. Nothing seemed amiss, Smith said.

The next morning, Smith said, he noticed Kevin Thompson’s car was gone and one of his shoes was lying in the parking lot. He said he didn’t know what to think of it.

Calhoun County Circuit Judge Debra Jones ruled in January that Tyrone Thompson was ineligible for the death penalty, citing his low IQ scores.

Smith was found guilty of killing Kevin Thompson in 2013 and sentenced to death. Co-defendant Jovon Gaston received the same sentence in 2015.

Contact Staff Writer Mia Kortright at 256-235-3563.