Serial Killer Confesses to 1981 Mt. Vernon Stabbing
By: Carly O'Keefe
MT. VERNON, Ill. - For more than 26 years, one particular case has haunted Attorney Stephen Swafford.
"I remember this, of all the hundreds of cases I've tried, I remember this one. And I've always thought they had the wrong guy in this case," said Swafford.
It's a case of attempted murder: People vs. Grover Thompson. It involved a 46-year-old transient man arrested while, according to Swafford, he was simply trying to sleep in the Mt. Vernon post office between bus trips.
"The victim in this case was a sweet old lady. It was Aunt Bee, and the jury felt a great deal of sympathy for her and they wanted to convict someone for it. Mr. Thompson happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time," said Swafford.
Court documents state on September 7, 1981, a man was hiding in the shower in Ida White's basement apartment located directly across the street from the Mt. Vernon Post Office. He attacked the 73-year-old woman with a pocket knife when she came into the room. There was a struggle. White called for help, and the attacker stabbed her abdomen repeatedly.
In January 1982 Swafford argued that the assailant was not Grover Thompson. Twenty-six years almost to the day later, Heartland News showed Swafford a transcript of an interview in which serial killer Timothy Krajcir confesses in vivid detail to committing the crime.
"There is no way that this man (Krajcir) could have given the detail of what happened unless he was the man who did it... I am absolutely convinced he's the man who stabbed the lady in that apartment building," said Swafford.
Court documents state Ida White never identified Thompson as her attacker. Swafford claims the other eyewitness, Barney J. Bates, wasn't given much choice. Thompson was the only suspect police had him view. There was no photo array of suspects and no line up.
"I think that idea got put in his head by suggestive identification procedure. It's a situation where it came down to that eyewitness versus Mr. Thompson's denial," said Swafford.
There was a small amount of blood on a hunting knife found in Thompson's pocket, but court documents state crime lab technicians could not even extract enough to test what type it was.
"There should have been more blood on the knife. There should have been blood spatter on his clothes, on his hands, on his face, none of that was present. This eyewitness account was not corroborated by any physical evidence, but they chose to believe that eyewitness and he was wrong," said Swafford.
Unfortunately, there's no way to tell if Krajcir is telling the truth. Both the victim, Mrs. Ida White, and Thompson have passed away. But by coming forward, Mr. Swafford hopes to clear the name of a man he's always felt was wrongly convicted.
"It's bittersweet, sweet because I was right all these years, but it's bitter because I've seen an injustice done to a man for something he didn't do, and for it he ended up spending the rest of his life in prison," Swafford said.