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On 30th Anniversary of the Murder of Kim Thomas, Loved Ones Still Have No Closure

Those she left behind

To mark the 30th anniversary of the murder of Kim Thomas, her family and friends have come together to honor Kim’s life, help keep her memory alive, and find justice for her. Our new website whokilledkimthomas.com will be a central repository for remembrances of Kim, material related to the murder investigation, and a point of contact for anyone who would like to stay up to date on the case. We would like to thank Queen City Nerve for the opportunity to tell Kim’s story.

“Thirty years have passed and no one has been held criminally responsible for my sister Kim Thomas’ murder. This is not okay. My unwavering and fervent quest for justice for Kim will only end with a conviction. Darrell Price, sergeant of the Cold Case Unit in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police, keeps Kim’s case active. In the near future, he will be presenting it to renowned experts to gain additional insights. There are new technologies that may help with determining the time of death and potentially uncover new evidence. Kim is gone, but she is definitely not forgotten; she left many powerful waves and ripples that are still palpable and evident every day.” -Lynn Thomas

Kim Thomas has been dead almost as long as she was alive. She was born on June 8, 1958 and if alive today, she would be 62 years old. Today, 30 years since her senseless murder — one of the most brutal Charlotte has ever seen — there are still more questions than answers for those who were touched by her life … and death.

To this day, Kim’s case remains unsolved; no one has been prosecuted for her murder. What we do know is that on July 27, 1990, this passionate, vibrant, and loving woman was forever silenced — drained of life, her throat slashed during the attack. Her head was nearly severed from her body with more than 50 cuts to her neck, leaving just her spine and some soft tissue.

How do you measure a life — especially one that was taken in such a violent manner? With cases like Kim’s, we become so focused on the circumstances surrounding the victim’s death that we forget how they lived — who they were to those who loved them then and love them still.

Kim Thomas (All photos courtesy of Nancy Verruto)

It’s an overwhelming shock when someone’s life ends in this way; the lasting effects can be felt for years — even across generations. It’s these aftershocks — the palpable absence, the hole, the emptiness — that can be most difficult over the long-term. There were the little quirky things about her personality that we often took for granted until she was gone: the sound of Kim’s voice, the very tone and cadence when she spoke, her scent, her laugh, the mischievous sparkle in her eyes. Though her years on Earth were brief, the seismic and colossal waves of Kim’s life and death are still reverberating.

“She was the person I loved most in the world,” recalls Kim’s sister, Lynn.

Sally Gordon, another close friend of Thomas told Charlotte Magazine in 2006, “When she was passionate about something, she just dove right into it.”

Kim’s son, Elliot, was only 10 months old when she was murdered; he will never know just how much she loved him. And her niece, Carolyn, who shares similar mannerisms, interests, and style with Kim, will never know her stubborn, feisty, outgoing and delightful aunt.

In a 1997 Dateline interview, Kim’s father, Louis Thomas, shared: “The pain I feel and have suffered all these years can only be alleviated once the crime is solved. It’s like a play that doesn’t ever finish.” Louis and his wife Helen both died without seeing justice for Kim.

A Morning Like Any Other

The week leading up to Kim Thomas’ death seemed relatively ordinary. Kim, her husband, Edward Friedland, and their son, Elliot, had posed for professional photographs and taken their first family vacation since Elliot had been adopted. On the night before her murder, Thursday, July 26, Kim’s best friend Nancy Verruto recalls having a lengthy phone conversation with Kim. As they both sipped wine and prepared dinner, they discussed that Elliot had been a bit sick, but still made plans to meet the next day and take their children to the Jewish Community Center pool.

At 8:45 p.m. that same evening, Kim turned on her video camera, as she did frequently to record various life moments. In fact, the particular tape she used that day started at the end of May with a video of Elliot taking some of his first steps with the aid of a walker. Fast forward to July 26: Eddie is shown holding a small bird, covered in soot, and wrapped in a sheet. It and a few other birds had apparently taken up residence in their chimney. Eddie holds up the bird for the camera and continues outside to release it as Kim follows along, still filming. It’s dusk, a dim light coming through the trees, and we can see the bird is gently placed down on the deck.

Kim remarks that she hopes the rest of the birds can get out. We hear crickets in the background as she says, “Oooh, what a wonderful night.”

Eddie goes somewhere off camera, and Kim walks down into the tree-filled yard, her dog Rags trotting behind her. She points the camera at the base of one tree and exclaims, “A mister frog is in his home!”

We can see Rags walk over to investigate before they move back into the house. Kim says to Ed: “I hope the rest of those birds can get out of there. Maybe we should leave the flue open?” His response is inaudible. The camera is jostled around, and at 8:46 p.m., we hear her say, “This thing is all out of tape.” That was the last recorded proof of life from Kim Thomas.

Kim in 1989, the year before she was killed.

Her husband recounted that when he left the house the next morning, July 27, just before 8 a.m., Kim and Elliot were waving to him from the door as he drove off. Her friend Nancy started calling Kim around 9 a.m., but there was no answer, which was unusual. Starting to worry just a bit, she made several attempts to reach Kim that morning. The answering machine was not turned on so she couldn’t leave a message.

Nancy went to the pool in the afternoon as they had planned, assuming that Elliot was probably still sick and Kim had decided to stay home. Nancy headed to Kim’s house later that afternoon, but for some unknown reason, she instead turned around to finish her errands and get home before rush-hour traffic.

Kim had a hair appointment at 11:45 a.m. and had arranged for a babysitter. The sitter called five times to confirm, starting around 8:45 a.m., but there was no answer. Kim never made it to the salon. She had plans to take Elliot to a Gymboree class before the hair appointment, but again, never made it.

To Know Her Was To Love Her

Friends and family describe Kim Thomas as larger than life, smart, passionate, if not impetuous. Her sister Lynn says she was good at everything she did from a young age, whether it was school or sports or music. Kim played both the clarinet and piano and both teachers would remark at how naturally gifted she was but would add that she lacked the discipline to put in the practice to become great. This seemed to be a theme in her life; she would try something she was interested in, become good but not great then move on to the next venture that fascinated her.

As an adult, Kim similarly tried her hand at many things. She attended The University of Rochester, where she met her soon-to-be husband, Edward Friedland, and graduated with a degree in Psychology.

After going on to complete her Masters degree in Music, Kim moved around with Eddie as he worked to establish himself as a nephrologist. From Rochester, they moved to New York City, Miami, then eventually Charlotte. Kim had several jobs through the years, including as a voice-over artist with WNYC, a stockbroker, and broadcaster for Financial News Network in Miami. She also served on a task team for creating new policies for Independent Adoptions in the Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services and co-chaired the Southern Piedmont Adoptive Families of America.

Kim was the leader of the Charlotte chapter of the National Organization for Women, and co-authored a guide for pregnant women called A Charlotte Child with Nancy Verruto.

Once when her sister Lynn was visiting Kim in Miami, Kim lamented that she wanted to spend more time with her, but had to go to work the next day. Right then and there, in the jacuzzi, she announced: “Well, you know what? I’m not really happy being a stockbroker anyway, so I think I’ll quit tomorrow, then we’ll have more time to spend together while you are here.” Lynn responded, “I don’t think Mom or Dad will be happy about that.”

Kim with her mother.

Kim giggled and said, “Okay, fine, I’ll wait a day!” So she waited, but no longer than a day.

For all of her restlessness, the main constant in her life, according to friends and family, was Kim’s zest for life and the fierceness with which she loved. She tried to help those around her to be the best they could and encouraged others to live life “big and authentically,” recalled her sister Lynn.

“When she was passionate about something,” says her friend Sally Gordon, “she just dove right into it.” It was her role as Elliot’s mother that she was most passionate about — according to her writings, he seemed to feed her soul.
Kim made numerous recordings for friends and family members that now provide insights into who she was. She would detail her daily activities since their last correspondence and share new life milestones. She inquired about lives, wanting to know about absolutely everything.

In a tape recorded for her friend Sherry at the end of May 1990, Kim talks about their approaching, shared birthday month in June and about the joy and inevitable exhaustion that baby Elliot had brought to her life. She continued to provide a thorough account of the quiet, but otherwise pleasant weekend she had just spent with her family. After which, she proclaimed that she had a new life philosophy that she was working on developing.

“Do you want to hear it?” she asks in the video as if she may receive a response from Sherry. “Okay, here it is,” she continues: “Life — each day — is like a piece of art and you need to take the time to do the things you do in it. Treat your day as if you were creating a painting … you have to carefully select the colors for your palette. And you need to realize that each day has a beginning, a middle, and an end, and you should try to develop some rhythm to your day. So, try to live it in a full way and enjoy everything you’re doing while you’re doing it, cause you won’t be doing it very long! Sometimes it really rings true and I can do it and sometimes I can’t.”

Kim let out a quick laugh and moved on to the next topic.

In a card with a print of Monet’s “The Artist’s Garden at Vétheuil” sent a few months earlier to her sister Lynn, Kim writes: “Ah well according to my new philosophy (well let’s say formalized not new) may you walk slowly in a garden of flowers and for several minutes you absorb the odors, colors, textures, and sounds so deeply that you become part of the garden.”

Just a few months later, she would be gone.

Even those who didn’t know Kim sought association with her after her death. Tales of acquaintance with Kim were told far and wide around Charlotte — about how they had grown up with her, attended scouts or camp with her — even though she didn’t grow up in the area.

A homicide detective who worked on the case attended the 10-year anniversary vigil and tearfully told her family that he was inspired to live his life more fully after seeing the community response to Kim’s death and learning of how she lived her life.

A Home Becomes a Gruesome Crime Scene

When Eddie returned home in the evening of Friday, July 27, he found his wife’s lifeless body in their dimly lit dining room, face down in a pool of blood. Without going to her, he called 911 and was told the medical team would be dispatched immediately. He explained that as a doctor, he could tell she was already dead, using the term “inert.” Standing at least 15 feet away from her body, he stated he could see that she was “handcuffed and it looks like someone blew her brains out.”

Elliot was in his bedroom, distraught and soiled, but had no visible signs of injury, having been left alone in his crib for at least 12 hours. Eddie then phoned his medical partner who arrived before law enforcement and immediately rushed over to Kim’s body. Ed told him there is nothing you can do, she’s dead. Ed’s colleague left, taking Elliot with him.

As the detective took Ed’s statement immediately after arriving on the crime scene, Ed continued to conduct business on his phone. Within an hour of finding his wife’s body, Ed said to one of the detectives, “I have to find a way to get on with my life.”

Kim with her son, Elliot.

Upon hearing about the horror that was unfolding at Kim and Ed’s house, Nancy and Michael Verruto hurried over along with a number of Kim’s friends. A friend asked Ed, “Is Kim OK?” He replied, “Kim is at peace now.”

When the Verrutos finally were able to get to Ed, he handed over Rags, nearly collapsing between them as he said: “She’s gone. That’s not Kim in there. A monster did this…” Again and again over the days that followed, he would repeat: “A monster did this…”

Indeed, a monster did do this.

Who Killed Kim Thomas?

Marion Gales, who was initially investigated as a suspect in Kim’s murder, was known to have burglarized homes on Thomas’ and Friedland’s street. Gales was addicted to drugs, and a witness claimed to have seen him in the vicinity on the morning of the murder. In the weeks prior to her murder, he had also done odd jobs for Kim around their home.

Suspicion quickly shifted from Gales to Friedland when an anonymous tip came in to CrimeStoppers revealing that Kim’s husband was involved in an extramarital affair with a nurse he had worked with. He was later found to be involved in multiple affairs over the two-year span of his marriage.

At a neighborhood meeting, when asked if neighbors should be afraid, Chief Treadway responded they did not need to worry as they did not believe the attack was random.

In 1994, Friedland was charged with the first-degree murder of Kim. The charges were dropped soon after, when Dr. Michael Baden’s key testimony regarding Kim’s time of death was ruled inadmissible. Following the trial, Friedland filed a wrongful death lawsuit in civil court against Marion Gales and won an $8.6 million settlement. Not that anyone expected him to pay.

In the opening statement in the Friedland v. Gales case, Friedland’s attorney David Rudolf suggested: “Marion Gales was out on the street. He was out on the street looking for crack cocaine. And he was looking for money to buy crack cocaine.” The statement insinuates that Gales intended to steal valuables to pay for his drug use, yet nothing was taken from the home.

Both men were investigated, but the district attorney was not convinced that he could prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that either of them were Kim’s killer. In 1997, Eddie brought another civil suit — this time for malicious prosecution — against the City of Charlotte and the individual investigators. That suit was dropped four years later after being dismissed as in summary judgement by three state and three federal courts. In essence, it was deemed a frivolous lawsuit.

In that case, CMPD Investigator Donald Rock testified: “Something didn’t fit because the house had not been ransacked. There were a lot of items there which typically if a burglar had come in he could have stolen, items, small TVs, small stereos, things of that nature. They were all in place. Nothing was missing … the house was — was extremely neat, nothing out of place which — which struck me as odd.”

Kim with her mother in St. Maarten.

Robert Ressler, an expert that spoke on behalf of Eddie during the trial, testified: “Keeping in mind that burglaries have to be done quickly, a burglar doesn’t have the luxury of spending two or three hours looking for things. And as a result, even if it’s not trashed or vandalized, drawers are pulled open, and things are scooped out on the floor or, you know, everything is disrupted … none of that searching is present here. A closet door is open, a kitchen drawer is open, an office has some blood smears [on] some paperwork. It’s just not there.”

There was no evidence of forced entry and the house’s security system was proved to be working. The killer brought gloves, handcuffs, and a cutting instrument. Investigation showed that the attack started in the master bedroom where Kim likely was sleeping in her usual position on her belly. She was handcuffed then stabbed on both sides of her neck. She then fled across the length of the house and the killer caught her by her hair, then made many penetrating cuts to her neck, causing heavy bleeding and resulting in her slipping in a pool of her own blood.

She repeatedly tried to stand up and fell several times, all while the killer attempted to decapitate her. While Kim was not sexually assaulted, her body was staged with her legs splayed open as if she had been. Her white silk pajama top, stained red with blood, was positioned above her buttocks. The signs of rage, fierce struggle and overkill left what some Charlotte homicide officers would call one of the most horrific and gruesome crime scenes they had ever seen.

The murder was so well executed as to be pre-meditated, indicating the killer was organized and intelligent, rather than disorganized and frenzied like a drug-addicted burglar.

Kim’s murder initially appeared to be the result of a robbery gone wrong, since Friedland stated her jewelry had been stolen, only to locate it three weeks after the fact. There were large amounts of cash, credit cards, and other small valuables that were in full view and could easily be stolen. Kim was wearing a diamond pendant, diamond earrings, and a gold bracelet — all went untouched. Kim’s wedding band was the only item that was missing, and it has never been recovered.

The murder of Kim Thomas initially appeared to be the result of a robbery gone wrong, it has since become a case of justice gone wrong.

Kim Thomas’ death is still being actively investigated. If you have any information about the case, please contact Darrell Price, chief of Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department’s Cold Case Unit at 704 -336-6614. To learn more, visit whokilledkimthomas.com or facebook.com/groups/JusticeForKim.

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