Members of a Calhoun County jury on Tuesday began their first day hearing testimony during the trial of a man charged in 2011 with fatally stabbing a Wellborn teacher.
Tyrone Christopher Thompson, 35, who was present at the trial, was charged along with two other men with capital murder after the body of 29-year-old Kevin Thompson was found April 22, 2011, on the side of a highway in Cherokee County.
Kevin Thompson’s sister, Rena Mosley, was the second witness jurors heard from Tuesday.
“I lost a part of me when I lost him,” Mosley said. “There’s not a day that passes where I don’t think about him.”
Mosley told jurors that on the morning of April 21, 2011, a Calhoun County sheriff’s deputy came to her home in search of her brother. Mosley said she told the deputy Thompson was a teacher at Wellborn Elementary school before the deputy identified himself as the school’s student resource officer.
Mosley said she then called her and Thompson’s mother, Frances Curry, and headed to Thompson’s Jacksonville apartment.
Mosely said she arrived at the apartment, where their aunt was, to find the lights on, a candle burning, the front door open and one of his shoes lying outside nearby. She said she also noticed his car and his laptop were missing.
Mosely said Curry called police while she spent about an hour at the Jacksonville State University campus taking final exams. When Mosley returned to her brother’s apartment after the exams, she said, more people had arrived.
Mosley said she asked for help finding her brother on social media and distributed flyers made by members of their church.
Mosley said police later showed her still footage from a bank, where money was withdrawn from Thompson’s account. She said she didn’t recognize one of the men in the image or see her brother, but recognized one of the men as Tyrone Thompson.
On April 22, 2011, Mosley said, she and Curry went to the Jacksonville police station, where Curry had a heated discussion with officers about her son’s disappearance. Mosley said Curry discovered that money had also been withdrawn from an ATM in Anniston, prompting them to report it to Anniston police.
Early the next morning, Mosley said, officers told her and Curry that Kevin Thompson’s body had been found.
A jury also heard from school staff who grew concerned when Thompson didn’t arrive for work and from law enforcement agents who searched for Kevin Thompson or the discovery of his body.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office investigator Seth Rochester said his supervisor called him on the night of April 22, 2011, and instructed him to look for Thompson’s body near a guardrail on U.S. 278.
Rochester said he stopped near the first guardrail he found, and saw Thompson’s body around 20 feet down an embankment. Rochester said duct tape had been placed over Thompson’s mouth and around his wrists.
Several agents also identified several photos of the crime scene and of Thompson’s body.
When the first photo of Kevin Thompson’s body was projected onto a screen, Tyrone Thompson made retching noises and ran into a room adjacent to the courtroom. He came back in moments later and said “I’m OK,” to his defense attorneys.
Prosecutors argued that Tyrone Thompson was guilty based on evidence that placed him at every location co-defendants Nicholas Smith and Jovon Gaston drove with Kevin Thompson the night of his death
McVeigh said Smith and Gaston drove to three ATMs and Tyrone Thompson rode with them while Kevin Thompson was bound in the car. After Kevin Thompson was killed, McVeigh said, Tyrone Thompson dropped Gaston off at his girlfriend’s house, went home and went to bed.
McVeigh said police questioned Tyrone Thompson for nearly 10 hours. It wasn’t until about the ninth hour, McVeigh said, that Tyrone Thompson admitted to any involvement.
“Look at how his body was abused and left,” McVeigh said. “You tell anyone that saw that he wasn’t a part of it.”
Defense attorney Warren Freeman argued that justice was already done for Kevin Thompson when co-defendants Nicholas Smith and Jovon Gaston were both convicted of killing him. While Tyrone Thompson was there, Freeman said, that doesn’t mean he was responsible for Kevin Thompson’s death.
Freeman told jurors that Kevin Thompson and Tyrone Thompson had been friends for years, and Kevin frequently gave Tyrone money. When Tyrone Thompson met Smith and Gaston, Freeman said, he took them to Kevin Thompson’s friend when they needed money.
Freeman said Smith’s blue jeans and shoes, which were found at a home Smith was staying at, had Kevin Thompson’s DNA on them, and Smith later admitted to slitting his throat.
In video footage from the bank, Freeman said, Smith and Gastonhad the gun pointed at the backseat, where Kevin Thompson and Tyrone Thompson were both sitting.
“Tyrone’s crime is introducing them to his friend,” Freeman said. “He brought them out there for Kevin to give them money, and Kevin ended up giving his life.”
Calhoun County District Judge Debra Jones prohibited defense attorneys in July from presenting evidence that Thompson has a mental defect during the trial. Attorneys on both sides in May were barred from speaking to the media or public about the case.
Tyrone Thompson, Smith and Gaston were charged in 2011 with two counts of capital murder. Smith was found guilty in 2013 and sentenced to death, and Gaston received the same sentence in 2015. The Alabama Court of Appeals ruled in separate hearings to overturn both sentences after Mosley and Curry called for the death penalty in both cases.
Thompson, Calhoun County Jail’s longest serving inmate, remained incarcerated Tuesday without bond.