Friends recount night before Wellborn teacher went missing
by Rachael Brown
rgriffin@annistonstar.com
Jun 27, 2013 | 8433 views |  0 comments | 301 301 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Kevin Thompson teaches in his Wellborn Elementary School classroom in this file photo. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star/file)
Kevin Thompson teaches in his Wellborn Elementary School classroom in this file photo. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star/file)
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Nicholas Smith consults with an attorney during his capital murder trial in the death of Kevin Thompson on Wednesday. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
Nicholas Smith consults with an attorney during his capital murder trial in the death of Kevin Thompson on Wednesday. (Photo by Bill Wilson/The Anniston Star)
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The night before Kevin Thompson went missing, his friend testified, the third-grade teacher talked about getting a Ph.D.

Christopher Wilkerson’s last real conversation with Thompson, on the telephone, ended when someone knocked on Thompson’s door, Wilkerson told jurors in Circuit Judge Brian Howell’s courtroom today. Wilkerson testified he heard Thompson say, “I didn’t know you were bringing all these people with you.”

Wilkerson’s testimony came in the third day of the capital murder trial of Nicholas Smith, 24, who is accused of stabbing Thompson to death. Thompson’s body was discovered in the early morning hours of April 23, 2011, behind a guardrail on U.S. 278 in Cherokee County. Prosecutors say Smith and two other men, Tyrone Thompson and Jovon Gaston, robbed the 29-year-old of $400 at gunpoint before they cut his throat and stabbed him multiple times in the chest.

Wilkerson, a former college classmate of Kevin Thompson’s, told the jury he was talking to the teacher on the phone on April 20, 2011, when Thompson answered the door and the call was dropped.

Wilkerson said that later that evening, he called Thompson back. Thompson told him he would return the call, but they never spoke again, Wilkerson said.

Wilkerson told the courtroom he’d also given Kevin Thompson advice to stay away from childhood friend Tyrone Thompson because he “didn’t seem like a great person to be around.”

Martelli Smith, Kevin Thompson’s next-door neighbor at Jackson Trace Apartments in Jacksonville, also testified today and described the Wellborn Elementary School teacher as a “good guy.”

Martelli Smith told the courtroom that on the night of April 20, 2011, he noticed two men and a woman in the parking lot of the apartment complex. He said he did not recognize the three and could not see their features in the darkness.

Smith said he did not see any interactions the three people had with Thompson, if they had any. The neighbor said he wasn’t concerned at the time, but later police asked him if he’d seen anyone or anything odd that evening after the teacher went missing.

This afternoon, Calhoun County District Attorney Brian McVeigh and prosecutor Lynn Hammond presented photos of Nicholas Smith’s tattoos to the jury. The photos were not visible to the gallery, but McVeigh described them as distinctive, and said they wrapped around Smith’s shoulders and arms and ran down to his hands. Previous testimony noted photos from ATMs in Anniston and Jacksonville that showed a man with a tattoo on his hand driving Thompson’s silver Honda Civic on the night he was kidnapped.

Several witnesses also testified about the other two men charged with murder, Tyrone Thompson and Jovon Gaston.

Gaston’s brother, Patrick Watkins, said he was surprised to find out Gaston owned a .50 caliber rifle that prosecutors say was used to keep Kevin Thompson in the car. Tyrone Thompson’s former girlfriend, Cheryl Bush, told the court he called her on April 20 and asked her if it was possible to use a credit card “more than twice.” Bush said Tyrone Thompson didn’t have a credit card.

Jurors also viewed photos of evidence collected by crime scene investigators. The photos were not visible to onlookers in the courtroom, but prosecutors described the items shown.

Paul Riddle, a crime lab technician at the Anniston Police Department, told jurors he collected duct tape, a steak knife caked in dried blood and white boxer shorts with a bloodstain, all from the home of Whitney Ledlow, a friend of Nicholas Smith. The items were collected on April 22, 2011, before Kevin Thompson’s body was found.

A second pair of boxer shorts with bloodstains was recovered from a trash can outside the home of Tyrone Thompson’s girlfriend, Riddle said. Also in the garbage can, investigators said, were several pairs of shoes, shirts and pants and a Valentine’s card from Tyrone Thompson’s mother.

The card read, “Make the right choices because every choice has consequences,” prosecutors said.

Testimony will continue Friday morning at 8:30.

Staff Writer Rachael Brown: 256-235-3562. On Twitter @RBrown_Star.

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