RICHLAND COUNTY, SC — Wednesday nights meant supper and choir practice for church friends Kathy Bradley and Lynne Thompson.
But on one Wednesday in January five years ago, Thompson did not make it to Spring Valley Presbyterian Church. That morning, she went to a drive-through ATM at Trenholm Plaza in Forest Acres and was shot multiple times in a random robbery. The suspect fled in her van and later was arrested and charged with Thompson’s murder.
Five years after Thompson’s death, her friends and family are wondering why the case has not gone to trial.
“Her loss, it just was really felt very deeply by myself and everybody who knew her, and we have not forgotten at all,” Bradley said, with her voice trembling. “We need some accountability for her murder.”
A gag order has been placed on all participants in the case, and the case records have been sealed. That has left friends and family wondering what’s happening – if anything.
“That’s part of the frustration too – the lack of information,” said Jesse Thompson, Lynne Thompson’s son.
The suspect, Kendrick M. Nesbitt, then 37, was arrested at an apartment by investigators from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department’s Fugitive Task Force, the State Law Enforcement Division and U.S. marshals. Nesbitt is still being held at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center.
Thompson said he has seen cases in the news resolved much more rapidly.
“It’s just sort of been dropped, like the case was completely forgotten,” he said.
The 5th Circuit’s Luck Campbell is prosecuting the case, and Fielding Pringle, the chief public defender for Richland County, is representing Nesbitt. Because of the gag order, both are forbidden to comment on the case.
No one will say why there’s a gag order in place.
Generally speaking, gag orders are used in trials in which something would prejudice the proceedings, said Kenneth Gaines, the University of South Carolina School of Law professor.
A gag order protects the integrity of the proceedings and is used to ensure the defendant gets a fair trial, Gaines said.
Gaines said trials can take a while to go to court because solicitors could have a heavy court docket, or the delay could be because of an investigative matter.
The Forest Acres Police Department incident report provides some details from the incident. The report said that on Jan. 21, 2009, officers responded to shots fired at the Bank of America on Trenholm Road. When officers responded, they found Thompson lying on the ground, the report stated.
“She was mostly unresponsive, with the exception of saying she did not know the suspect,” the report stated.
Thompson was transported to the hospital and died during surgery.
Nesbitt was named as the suspect and was arrested the next day. Three others, Antwan Todd, Tracey Todd and Darius Soloman, were arrested a couple of weeks later and charged with conspiracy to commit murder. They waited for Nesbitt to approach the woman, then drove away when they heard the van’s horn blaring, according to affidavits released at the time.
Nesbitt’s criminal record is extensive, with charges dating to 1989 in Spartanburg and Anderson counties. His convictions include grand larceny, a weapons violation, armed robbery and assault and battery.
Five years ago, Jesse Thompson was 19 and a freshman at Presbyterian College. His parents were legally separated, he said. The loss of his mother forced him to grow up much earlier than he would have liked, he said.
When people ask about his parents, it puts the burden on Thompson to try to explain his mother’s death. He has to try to make a person he just met feel OK about the explanation and not be overly sympathetic, he said.
Bradley still misses her friend on Wednesdays and on other days when she sees simple reminders as ordinary as a commercial for a power washer.
“She would be so enthusiastic about cleaning stuff,” Bradley said. “Every time I think of a power washer, I just have to laugh with the joy of remembering her.”
Thompson said he inherited his mother’s desire for cleanliness and her sense of humor.
He said he remembers details about his mother such as the way she said his name or the way she would laugh. He also misses the little things he took for granted, like her doing laundry or having dinner ready for him.
“The little things that made her my mom, that I miss more than any one memory.”
Reach Cope at 803-771-8657.