November 30, 2007

Witness in murder case accused of making threats

MERCED -- A witness in the Robert Thompson murder case is in jail for allegedly threatening another witness in the case.

Both witnesses are key parts of the defense's argument that police have wrongly pinned the 20-year-old murders of two Atwater teenagers on Thompson.

At a July preliminary hearing in the case, Thompson's attorney argued that 38-year-old Greg Myers, an ex-boyfriend of one of the victims, is to blame for the 1986 bludgeoning deaths of Sheila Carter, 15, and Jodi Ragsdale, 12.

Lucile Mejia, a friend of Myers' mother, is perhaps the defense's most important witness. She claims that Myers admitted to her that he killed Carter and Ragsdale, then bragged that he'd gotten away with murder.

Now Myers is in jail for allegedly threatening Mejia over her testimony.

Myers was arrested by Merced police earlier this month after Mejia reported the alleged threats. He remains in custody at the John Latorraca Cor- rectional Facility in lieu of $100,000 bail.

He's charged with one felony count of attempting to intimidate a witness, according to court documents. If con- victed, he could face up to three years in prison.

Thompson's attorney, Randy Thomas, said Myers' arrest can only help his client's case. "This is just one more giant question mark on (Myers') record," Thomas said. "... I think this changes a lot in this case."

Mejia told police that Myers threatened her over the telephone several times, said Merced police Lt. Floyd Higdon. Higdon declined to provide specifics but said the threats were "serious and substantial."

He said Myers first denied calling Mejia. Myers later acknowledged calling her but told police he never threatened her, Higdon said.

Myers' appointed attorney didn't return phone calls for comment. Neither did the prosecutor handling the Thompson case.

The bodies of Carter and Ragsdale were discovered the morning of Dec. 13, 1986, along the shoulder of Campodon-ica Road in Cressey. Authorities say the two were supposed to be spending the night at an Atwater home where they were baby-sitting but went for a joy ride in a borrowed car.

Merced County coroner's officials determined Carter and Ragsdale were not sexually assaulted and died from blows to the head.

Though authorities questioned Thompson 20 years ago, he wasn't arrested in the murders until August 2006. Police say blood found on a car jack -- the suspected murder weapon -- ties Thompson to the killings.

Witnesses for the prosecution tes- tified during a preliminary hearing that Thompson, a reputed Hells Angels member, was friends with the girls. Witnesses said he was spotted with Carter and Ragsdale hours before their deaths, that he came home that morn- ing with blood on his clothes and hands and that he had expressed fear that police would connect him with the deaths.

Thomas said the prosecution's case is built on stale, incomplete evidence, and that authorities overlooked the real killer. He filed a motion in October asking a judge to dismiss the case against Thompson, arguing that too much evidence has been lost or de- stroyed in the two decades since the original investigation. The motion was denied.

Myers, who was 16 at the time of the murders, has testified that he and Carter dated for a short time but broke up about a year before Carter's death. He acknowledged that he was among the last people to see Carter and Rags- dale alive but denied any involvement in their deaths.

Thompson, a tall, mustachioed man with hair to his waist, was 21 and lived in Winton at the time of the killings. He was sentenced in 1987 to 14 years in prison for the abduction of a 26-year-old woman. He served seven years but returned to prison several times for parole violations, officials said. He was last released in 1998.

Thompson has been held without bail at Merced County's main jail since his arrest. His trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 14. Prosecutors said in September they won't seek the death penalty.

Myers is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing Dec. 19.

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