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PRESUMED GUILTY
William Nack
February 02, 1998
When the three-year-old son and former wife of NFL special teams star Bonnie Thompson were savagely murdered the night before the Pro Bowl, police were sure they had another O.J. on their hands
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February 02, 1998

Presumed Guilty

When the three-year-old son and former wife of NFL special teams star Bonnie Thompson were savagely murdered the night before the Pro Bowl, police were sure they had another O.J. on their hands

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The Pro Bowl was to be played in Hawaii on Sunday, Feb. 5, 1995, and Thompson had been picked as an alternate on special teams. When starter Steve Tasker of the Buffalo Bills broke his arm in mid-December, the NFL told Thompson that he would go to Honolulu. Thompson had already bought plane tickets for his girlfriend, Angic Heisser, and for Devyn when Tasker received medical clearance and decided to play.

So Thompson had canceled the Hawaii trip and was sitting at home alone when White hit the garage light switch and the door button. For Thompson, caught in those intersecting lines of time and space, no breath he would take would be the same again.

As Trackling recalls, he was about to drive away when he glanced back at 8130 Morrison and saw a light flick on and the garage door begin to rise. He backed the Sentra to the driveway of the house, blocking it. Smith, Bannister and Phillips, all armed and wearing gloves, scrambled from the car and swept up the drive. White was about to get in his 4Runner. Devyn was walking around the back of the vehicle to the passenger side.

Trackling saw Bannister lead White at gunpoint back to the house door. Phillips picked up the child and followed them inside. Smith, hitting the button, brought down the garage door. Trackling then eased the Sentra a few yards forward, away from the driveway and behind some bushes, and cut the engine and doused the lights. He waited alone in the dark. Twenty minutes passed. Twenty-five, perhaps 30.

Inside the house, the three intruders were tearing up the place, ransacking it for drugs and money. They ripped the phone out of the wall in the master bedroom. They tore the bed apart. They pulled out dresser drawers and emptied bathroom cabinets. They tipped over shoe-boxes, scattering their contents, and pulled clothes out of the closet. They turned up the sound of the TV in the family room, where they held their three hostages. The intruders had taken ski masks into the house, but they weren't wearing them.

The next thing Trackling remembers is the garage door opening and Phillips, behind the wheel of the 4Runner, backing it out. Then the carnage began. Smith seemed determined to leave no witnesses. Trackling heard the pistol shots in quick succession.

Devyn was in his mother's arms when Smith opened fire with the Ruger. He shot the boy eight times—once in the chin, once through the right ear, five times in the back and a final time behind the head as Tangie tried to shield him. Devyn died with a fist clinging to his mother's hair. Then Smith killed Tangie with three shots to the back of her head. And White? He died like Tangie, instantly, facedown on the floor, shot three times in the head. Police would find 14 9-mm shell casings strewn around the bodies, and the coroner would find 16 entry wounds among the dead. Two of the bullets in Devyn passed through Tangie as she cradled him in her arms. A neighbor's dog barked at the sound of the shots.

Trackling remembers seeing Smith leave the garage at 8:55 with the Ruger in his hand. Smith hit the button on the way out, bringing the door down behind him. He and Bannister and Phillips pulled away in the 4Runner, which, authorities believe, Phillips had stolen because he thought that Trackling had fled and left them without wheels. Trackling now drove away in the Sentra, and the others followed him for a few blocks before blinking their high beams for Trackling to pull over. They abandoned the 4Runner and jumped into the Sentra to make their escape. Smith was gloating over the way White had died. "Did you see the dude's head when I hit him?" Smith said.

Bannister, as Trackling recalls, was angry at Smith. "Man, you hit the woman and child more than you hit the man!" he said. "The dude didn't have nothin'!" No cocaine. No $20,000 in dummy money. They drove west through New Orleans. When they dropped Smith off at his girlfriend's house on their way back to St. Thomas, he handed the murder weapon to Bannister. It was a fateful moment for all four men.

As for Bennie Thompson, he was in the worst place to be on a night like this. He was home alone. There was no witness to confirm it. Thompson had nearly had the perfect alibi, a Pro Bowl appearance. Instead, he says, he had been rattling around his five-bedroom house, talking on the phone to friends and relatives, when he decided to watch a movie. He picked through his collection of tapes and chose Fatal Attraction. He slipped it in his bedroom VCR. A half hour into it, long before Glenn Close boiled the pet rabbit, Thompson slipped off to sleep.

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