Family describes slain teacher in first day of murder trial
by Rachael Brown
rgriffin@annistonstar.com
Jun 25, 2013 | 9789 views |  0 comments | 212 212 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Nicholas Smith is charged in the 2011 death of third-grade teacher Kevin Thompson. Photo by Stephen Gross.
Nicholas Smith is charged in the 2011 death of third-grade teacher Kevin Thompson. Photo by Stephen Gross.
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Frances Curry remembered her son, Kevin Thompson, as an amazing gift.

“Family was the most important thing to him,” Curry said Tuesday in her testimony during the first day of the capital murder trial of Nicholas Smith, one of the men accused of killing her son.

Smith, 24, is one of three men charged with kidnapping Thompson and stabbing him to death. Thompson’s body was discovered near U.S. 278 in Cherokee County, almost two days after he went missing in April 2011.

Curry said when Thompson grew up their family didn’t have a lot of money, “but we sure did have a lot of love.”

Thompson was perceptive when he was young, as Curry described him, and said she tried not to appear sad in front of him because it would always affect him.

Curry recalled a time when Thompson was working part-time at Walmart, before he graduated college and became a teacher at Wellborn Elementary School.

“He picked up the phone and said ‘Ma, I know you don’t have any money, so tomorrow I want you to go to the bank and get $150 out of my account,’” Curry said.

The next day her son had transferred the money into her account, even though she told him she was fine.

“If there was a need he was going to be there,” she said.

Thompson knew he wanted to be a teacher, Curry said, and was determined to graduate from college. At one point he worked three jobs to pay his tuition, his mother said.

“He knew his destiny in life was to help out the children,” Curry said through her tears.

Rena Curry, Thompson’s younger sister, said she spoke to her brother every morning through text messages.

“We contacted each other each morning with a simple text message saying ‘I hope you have a good day,’” she said. On the morning of April 21, 2011, Rena never got a response from her brother.

It was also that morning when Thompson, 29, didn’t show up to his job as a third-grade teacher at Wellborn Elementary School, and his co-workers started to worry.

Wendy Burns, a teacher at Wellborn Elementary, said she never knew Thompson to be late for work. Burns said she knew of two days when Thompson was not in school, one was when he graduated with his master’s degree and the second was for a doctor’s appointment. Burns noted that in the second instance, he’d only taken off half the day and Thompson was in his classroom teaching hours before he was scheduled to return.

Burns told the courtroom she and several teachers were concerned about Thompson when he didn’t show up and he couldn’t be reached on his cell phone. Later, a school resource officer was sent to look for Thompson and the fact that he was missing would become apparent.

Prosecutors say Thompson was kidnapped from his Jackson Trace Apartment in Jacksonville by Smith, Tyrone Thompson — a family friend and no relation — and Jovan Gaston. The teacher was driven to several ATMs in Jacksonville and Anniston where he was forced to withdraw money at gunpoint.

Law enforcement officers in Cherokee County discovered Thompson’s body in the early morning hours of April 23.

Seth Rochester, a former investigator for the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, told the courtroom he discovered Thompson’s body behind a guardrail near mile marker 166 on U.S. 278. Rochester said he found upturned dirt and leaves near Thompson’s body and it appeared he had been dragged. Thompson’s neck and mouth were wrapped in duct tape, Rochester testified.

Dr. Emily Ward, a medical examiner for the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences, performed the autopsy on Thompson’s body and determined he died as a result of multiple stab wounds.

During Ward’s testimony, Frances Curry left the courtroom, visibly shaken by the details of her son’s murder.

Ward told the jury Thompson suffered facial injuries consistent with being severely punched or kicked, his throat was cut and he was stabbed four times in the chest. Two of those stab wounds were deep enough to penetrate Thompson’s heart, Ward said.

Thompson also had small cuts on his hands that were consistent with defensive wounds, she noted. The medical examiner also discovered two tablespoons of blood in Thompson’s stomach that he likely swallowed after his throat was cut.

“He did not die quickly from those injuries,” Ward said.

The jury heard testimony from 15 witnesses on Tuesday presented by prosecutors Brian McVeigh and Lynn Hammond of the Calhoun County District Attorney’s Office. Testimony will continue Wednesday morning at 8:30.

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

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