Thompson had been sure the phone records would back him up. But what could he remember clearly about that night? "The police questioned me two days after I buried my son and ex-wife," Thompson says. "You tell me who can o think straight at that time."
As the media ran with each grim development—the death threat, the missing gun, the busted alibi—Thompson looked ever more guilty. There was also the news that Tangie had taken out a $200,000 insurance policy on her life when she was married to Bennie, who was the beneficiary. In the wake of their divorce she had apparently forgotten to change beneficiaries—a fact that, Bennie said, he did not know. John Dillman, a former New Orleans homicide detective who was hired by Bennie's lawyers to investigate the case, says, "Everything was circumstantial, but the evidence certainly pointed toward him."
Feeling trapped in his hometown, he knew he had to leave to survive. "It was on TV every day," he says. " 'The Thompson triple-murder case.' It was in every newspaper. It felt as if the world was collapsing around me. The walls were all falling in."
The Browns had embraced Thompson from the first week of his travails. Coach Bill Belichick and two members of his staff attended the funeral. Simmons, the strength and conditioning coach, was one of those who came, and not long after returning to Cleveland he began urging Thompson to join him. "I was appalled that he was a suspect," Simmons says. "There's no way. No way! That son meant everything to him. He talked about him all the time. I told him, 'Bennie, you need to get up here and get going. We'll be here to help you.' "
One day in late February, Thompson called Kelly and Kohnke and said he wanted to go to Cleveland. "It would not be a good idea right now," Kohnke said. "They may be coming to get you at any time."
"What would happen if they do?" Thompson asked.
"Well, you'd be charged with triple murder, and there would be no bond," Kohnke said. Thompson would be imprisoned at least through the trial.
Thompson was nearly at the end of his tether. Alone at Heisser's house, he got out his .357 Magnum, sat down by the telephone and called Glen Haisley, his best friend since high school. "They're getting ready to get me," Haisley remembers Thompson saying. "Everybody thinks I'm a murderer. Glen, I'm not going to jail. Before I go to jail, I'm going to kill myself."
"Where's your gun?" Haisley asked.
"Right here in my hand," he said.