The pursuit of justice never ends, not even after death.
Paul Echols, a retired Carbondale, Illinois police officer and detective Jimmy Smith from Cape Girardeau, Missouri, seek to clear the name of Grover Thompson, a man who died in 1996 while serving a 40-year sentence for attempted murder.
Smith and Echols maintain that Thompson was innocent.
The perpetrator of the crime for which Thompson was convicted, a brutal stabbing, is Timothy Krajcir, a convincted serial killer who confessed to the attack in 2007. The crime was perpetrated on a 73-year old woman in 1981.
“I just want the truth to come out. I’ve been a police officer for many, many years, and I’ve seen our great justice system work the way it was intended many, many times. In this particular case, it failed miserably. He (Thompson) was wrongly convicted of this crime.”
Thompson died in prison in 1996 as a wrongfully convicted man, Smith and Echols contend.
The victim of the attempted murder, Ida White, and a neighbor who came to her assistance after hearing her screams identified the suspect as a black man. Krajcir is Caucasian.
Thompson was traveling from Milwaukee to Mississippi at the time to visit some relatives, stopping of for the night in Mount Vernon, where White lived. He planned to sleep in the post office across from White’s apartment when he was arrested for being a suspect in the attack.
The neighbor, Barry Bates, took a quarter of an hour to positively identify Thompson in connection in the attack, though he was the only suspect present.
According to the State-Journal Register,
Bates has since told investigators that if he had to pick Thompson out of a line-up, he couldn’t have done it.
But he had already sealed Thompson’s fate.
“I truly believe the whole problem with this case was the eyewitness he gave,” said Detective Echols.
According to the detective, Krajcir has dark hair and a dark complexion, which makes is plausible for him to be misidentified as an African-American.
Echols linked Krajcir to a 1982 murder using DNA evidence. After continued questioning, Krajcir confessed to several other rapes and murders he had committed, as well as to the attack on White. To further support that confession, he was able to accurately produce a sketch of White’s bathroom. Krajcir agreed to confess in exchange for Missouri to not pursue the death penalty against him.
Detective Echols went on to author a book about Krajcir, which featured a chapter on Thompson. An intern working with the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project has pressed for clemency for Thompson, who never left prison walls again after wrongfully being convicted of attempted murder. The Project’s director, Larry Golden stated, “The injustice in this case is huge.”
The pain of that reality will never escape Thompson’s family.
“It (clemency) won’t bring him back. He won’t see it, but at least we will see some closure to it,” said Thompson’s nephew, S.T. Jamison.