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Cold Case: T. Eugene Thompson

By Caroline Lowe, WCCO-TV

ST. PAUL (WCCO) -- In 1963, it was called the "murder of the century" in Minnesota. In St. Paul, an intruder attacked a well-liked housewife and mother named Carol Thompson. A jury convicted her husband, T. Eugene, of hiring the killer.

More than 40 years later, a new book is shedding new light on this high-profile case and its effect on the four Thompson children.

In the middle of the trial, a WCCO-TV reporter interviewed T. Eugene Thompson. He asked Thompson his reaction to the sea of faces that he confronted every day he went to the courtroom for his trial.

"I find a great many who express an honest curiosity in me as an individual," Thompson replied. When the reporter asked him to describe his wife, Thompson said, "Carol was one of the most wonderful persons anyone could really ever want to know."

After a jury convicted him, Thompson was mobbed by the media as he was escorted to jail where he would spend the next 20 years.

Bill Swanson was just 18 years old when Carol Thompson was murdered. He is now a senior editor at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine. He spent eight years researching the case, combing old files, sifting through stacks of news articles in preparation of his book Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson.

"This book is not a whodunit. But it is a mystery, and not the least of the mystery is how a family continues, more or less intact, with the person in this case responsible," said Swanson.

Jeff Thompson was only 13 when his family was suddenly thrust into the spotlight. Like his father, he became an attorney and is now a judge in Winona.

"There are people who just simply cannot or simply will not face up to what they have done," he said.

Jeff and his three younger sisters decided to stage their own trial when their father was released from prison. They invited their father to present his case. Jeff played prosecutor.

"The purpose was for him to prove to us he really had been wrongfully convicted. He would bring anybody he wanted, but this was going to be his one chance," he said.

The children left the meeting convinced of their father's guilt.

"One of the questions we still have is 'Why did this happen?'" said Jeff, who said that the event has stayed with him every day of his life. "That's one question I have been getting: 'What is it like?' Like William Faulkner said, 'The past is not dead. It is not even the past.' It is kind of like losing a limb, you never forget it. It is always there but you adjust and move on."

When asked if it would help in any way if his father would acknowledge his responsibility for his mother's death, Jeff could only say, "I don't know."

His children have a cordial but distant relationship with their father, who is now 79 and lives in the Twin Cities. They sometimes get together with him for family events. Jeff even invited him to his swearing in as a judge. Some might express surprise that the children, who effectively confirmed his murder conviction, still keep him in their lives.

"I think we have managed to compartmentalize the damage, and are willing to deal with him as a human being but at arm's length," said Jeff.

T. Eugene refused to be interviewed for Bill Swanson's book.

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