John Wayne Thomson — the alleged serial killer accused of murdering Longview native Lori Hamm in 2006 — was formally sentenced to death in California on Friday for murdering a businessman there in 2006. Cowlitz County Prosecutor Sue Baur says she’ll now begin the paperwork to bring him back to stand trial here for Hamm’s death.
If Thomson doesn’t fight extradition, Baur said she’d expect to have the court process here start in six months, though it may take much longer for a trial to start. It took he California case took seven years to resolve.
If Thomson is convicted in Washington, it’s likely he’d be returned to California to have that state’s sentence carried out first, Baur said Friday. However, she said there are too many unknowns at this point to say with any certainty.
Baur said she’s bringing Thomson back because Lori Hamm, her family and the community deserve to see him punished for his alleged crimes here, no matter what the California courts did. Convicting Thomson here, she added, also is a hedge against him ever being released in California if he successfully appeals his conviction.
Thomson is accused of killing Hamm, 36, on July 16, 2006, near Castle Rock, about a month before Hedlund’s death. He’s accused o killing Spokane’s James Ehrgott, 73, a few week before Hamm’s death.
Thomson, 54, does not currently face the death penalty in Cowlitz County, though the first-degree murder charge could be amended to qualify him for capital punishment, Baur said. He is charged with aggravated murder in Spokane, which would include the possibility of the death penalty if he were convicted there.
Thomson was convicted of killing 55-year-old California businessman Charles Ray Hedlund in late July or early August 2006 after Hedlund stopped alongside the road to help a stranded Thomson. A California jury found him guilty in October and recommended the death penalty in December. A judge upheld the death penalty Friday, dismissing an attempt by Thomson’s lawyers to instead sentence him to life without the possibility of parole.
Lori Hamm’s parents, Jerry and Marcia Hamm, attended Friday’s sentencing, saying they wanted to see Thomson sentenced and to address him court.
In an at-times bitter denouncement, Jerry Hamm called Thomson a monster and said he deserved the death penalty for his crimes. Thomson hasn’t been convicted of Lori Hamm’s death but has confessed to police, according to court documents. All of Thomson’s past history — and alleged crimes leading up to Hedlund’s murder — were included in the sentencing phase of the trial, making it possible for Hamm to participate in Friday’s hearing.
“I want you to feel the terror that (Lori) felt as you walked her to her death,” Jerry Hamm told Thomson on Friday. “You will feel that as the jailer takes you to your death. Believe me, I will be there when you die.”
Jerry Hamm also told the judge about how his daughter had worked her way back from a traumatic brain injury as a teenager and all that Thomson stole from her, including the grandchildren she would have given Jerry and Marcia Hamm.
“It’s amazing the number of families he’s wrecked, including his own,” Jerry Hamm said by telephone following the sentencing. “He has kids and grandkids, and what are they going to be able to say about him? It’s just a tragedy for a lot of families.”
“John Thomson is the reason why the death penalty is still relevant,” San Bernardino Supervising Deputy District Attorney Robert Bulloch said in a press release after the sentencing.
Bulloch said Thomson became more violent each time he was let out of prison and even tried to solicit the murder of three people from jail while facing trial in California. (He did not specify who Thomson was targeting.) “There is nothing else that society can do to stop Thomson, other than to give him the harshest punishment.”
Jerry Hamm said he plans a family meeting in the coming weeks to discuss whether they’ll support Thomson coming back here for trial. Noting that Gov. Jay Inslee has temporarily halted all executions in Washington, Hamm wondered what the point is in putting him on trial here. The family needs more time to reflect, he said.
Thomson, a three-time convicted rapist in Washington, already had a violent past before the alleged month-long killing spree. He grew up in Cowlitz County and was living in Lewis County until just before the alleged Spokane murder. At trial, Thomson’s lawyers argued that a violent, chaotic childhood led to Thomson being unable to control his emotions or actions, asking that he be convicted of a lesser charge. His lawyers also say Thomson has found religion in jail, returning to Native American roots and beliefs.
Jerry Hamm urged Thomson to make peace with his actions now, because he said Satan is waiting for Thomson on the other side.