“if I can’t keep the boys . . . you will never see them alive”
deputy finds same text on mom’s computer
neglect decision upheld at Court of Appeals, one week before
SIERRA VISTA – Deputies with the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Sierra Vista woman last month in a case involving a letter which contained threats against the lives of two young boys. Court records indicate the typewritten letter, found October 12 on the front door of Robert and Michele Thompson’s house, reads in part “if the judge orders that the boys are returned, I will not give them up.” It ends with a warning that “if I can’t keep both of the boys you will never see them alive again.”
The Thompsons’ two sons were removed from their parents’ care as infants due to neglect issues. The boys are in foster care together, and the Thompsons told deputies that the foster parents were likely responsible for the letter. According to an affidavit by deputy Daniel Morales, it was the second such “similar” letter Michele Thompson found while her husband was not home.
However, on November 1 deputies took Michele Thompson into custody and booked her into the Cochise County jail on charges of forgery and fraudulent schemes. They also executed a search warrant to seize the computer in the Thompson house.
Morales noted that when he and deputy David Dion interviewed Michele Thompson on October 12 she consented to them checking her computer.
She also said “I haven’t written anything on my computer.” When Morales sat at the computer, he found “a blank Microsoft Word document” on the computer’s desktop. The computer’s settings indicated the document had been “modified approximately 2 hours earlier.”
After reopening the document, Morales “right-clicked the mouse and selected ‘paste’ option” which resulted in text appearing in the document. He noted that “the pasted text read verbatim (with grammatical errors included)” to the threat letter Thompson claimed she found on the door. Morales took photos of what appeared on the screen.
Thompson denied any knowledge of how the text of the letter came to be on the computer she used. Later, however, she explained that although she did not create the letter, she had typed the words into her computer to run an online grammar check in hopes it “would give us a hint.”
Husband reported threatening letters, but never saw them
The deputies also spoke with Robert Thompson, who claimed he never actually saw the letters his wife found. He called the sheriff’s office, he explained, after Michele sent him pictures of the letters. Robert said he had concerns about the care his sons receive from the foster parents and believed the foster parents or someone in their family “could very well possibly” be responsible for the letters. But he did not believe his wife wrote the letters because then the process for getting their sons back “gets all screwed up.”
When deputies arrested Michele Thompson on November 1 they also executed asearch warrant authorized by judge Timothy Dickersonof the Sierra Vista Justice Court. The search warrant allowed for the seizure of Thompson’s computer and any “devices used to make and store a Word document” in the home.
After her arrest, Michele Thompson was booked into the Cochise County jail in Sierra Vista. Her initial appearance was held November 2 which started the 48 hour deadline for the Cochise Count Attorney’s Office to file a formal complaint. When the complaint was not received, the case was dismissed November 4.
However, the county attorney can file the charges at a later date or refer the matter to a grand jury for an indictment. It is unclear whether any future charges would include the first letter the Thompsons reported to the sheriff’s office.
Appeals Court affirms local court decision that led to 2nd son joining brother in foster care; noted “behaviors and beliefs” towards first son
One week before the second letter appeared, Michele Thompson lost her appeal of a February ruling by judge Terry Bannon of the Cochise County Superior Court that their youngest son, born in August 2015, was a dependent child “on grounds of neglect.”
In her appeal of that dependency ruling, Michele Thompson argued there was insufficient evidence to justify Bannon’s decision and contended several of the judge’s findings were unsupported by facts. Michele also noted that findings related to her mental health were based on her condition in past years without considering her current state. Thompson also argued that she had caused no harm to her child.
According to court records, the boy had been removed from his parents’ care when just a week old after an Arizona Dept. of Child Safety (DCS) caseworker determined the newborn “was at risk if he left the hospital with his parents.” DCS based their position in part on the parents’ behavior at the hospital, including an incident in which the infant’s safety monitor came to be detached.
DCS also based their concern on prior issues with the parents’ care of their oldest son. Records show DCS became involved with that boy shortly after his May 2014 birth and caseworkers documented his severe malnutrition, failure to thrive, and an “asphyxiation event” that occurred under the parents’ care.
There were also complaints that Michele Thompson ignored medical advice, refused to have the baby hospitalized for testing, and threatened the boy’s caregivers.
The first boy was removed from his parents’ care at the age of four months and placed in foster care. He was later adjudicated by the Cochise County Superior Court to be a dependent child. When the second Thompson boy was removed from his parents’ care he was placed in the same foster home with his brother.
In its October 5 decision affirming Bannon’s ruling, the Arizona Court of Appeals (Division Two) found no fault with the lower court’s determination that the parents’ “behaviors and beliefs” toward their first son could be considered an indication of how the second son would be cared for. The appellate judges also agreed with Bannon’s reasoning that a Court “need not wait until a specific injury has been inflicted on (the child) to make a finding of dependency.”
Michele Thompson was represented by appellate attorney Joseph Mendoza, while the boy was represented by Benna R. Troup of the Cochise County Legal Defender’s Office. The Arizona Attorney General’s Office represented DCS. Robert Thompson did not participate in the appeal even though the dependency ruling affected his parental rights.
Contact reporter Terri Jo Neff at 520-508-3660 and firstname.lastname@example.org