The women helped him to the bathroom, where he crumpled briefly to the floor. He was wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt, and neither noticed any bruising or cuts on his face or body.

They wondered whether Abbott was drunk but saw no sign of alcohol and smelled no booze on his breath. He later wrote them a check (including a $100 tip) and sent them off about noon.

Because police never retrieved Abbott's cell-phone records during their investigation, it's unknown whom he may have called from that point until he died.

Thomas Abbott visited Thailand a
few months before his mysterious May
2009 death.
Courtesy of the Abbott Family
Thomas Abbott visited Thailand a few months before his mysterious May 2009 death.
A sketch of Frank "Skip" Buchanan, who swore he had nothing to do with Abbott's death.
Alvaro Diaz-Rubio
A sketch of Frank "Skip" Buchanan, who swore he had nothing to do with Abbott's death.

But Buchanan did leave several voicemails for Abbott that day culminating in a significant call at 4:32 p.m. Martha Novorr says she and her college-age son listened to it a few days after Abbott's death.

She says Buchanan sounded extremely irate, saying he was leaving work early to come by Abbott's apartment — and warning Abbott to let him in.

Buchanan normally worked until about 6 p.m. Work records collected in the civil case show he left early that day, about 4:45 p.m.

It adds up to a likely one-on-one meeting between Skip Buchanan and Tom Abbott just 24 hours before Buchanan would find his former lover's body.

Novorr tells New Times that she played Buchanan's angry voicemails over the phone to Detective Sikes before mailing her the cell. Sikes' police reports note that she received the phone a few weeks after Abbott's death, but they don't mention the messages.

Novorr is convinced that Sikes failed to download the messages and also neglected to push T-Mobile to produce a copy of Abbott's cell records.

Asked about that by New Times, Sikes declined to speak for publication without permission from her supervisors, which she didn't get. However, a colleague of hers says Sikes claimed that Abbott's phone had no voice messages on it.

Someone is lying.

Buchanan has no alibi for about two hours after he left work that Friday afternoon, as no one is known to have seen or spoken to him during that time. This suggests he did go to Abbott's apartment, as he allegedly said he would on the 4:32 p.m. voice message.

If true, that would make Buchanan (with one possible exception) the last known person to have seen Abbott alive — and afforded him a window of opportunity to commit an assault.

The exception is Abbott's co-worker, Mike Talley, whose recent account in the civil case is described later in this story.

Tom Abbott's cell phone, by the way, still is in the PPD evidence room.

Skip Buchanan's cell records show that his friend, Tom Kelly, phoned Buchanan twice between 6 and 7 p.m. that Friday.

But he says Buchanan didn't answer or call back until about 9 that evening. Buchanan didn't use his cell phone during that stretch of about two hours, which ended about 8 p.m.

No one ever came forth to say he or she spoke to Tom Abbott on Saturday, May 30. That was the day Abbott was scheduled to leave Phoenix for Dallas at 3 p.m. Sister Martha says she'd already made plans to pick him up at the airport and get a late dinner.

Buchanan's phone records show he called Abbott three times that day without leaving a message, including one call when Abbott should have been airborne.

Tom Kelly was going to pick up Buchanan's boyfriend, Patrick Roland, at Sky Harbor about 7 p.m., and Buchanan asked to come along. But Kelly tells New Times that, at the last second, Buchanan said he wanted to stop by Abbott's apartment before heading to the airport.

"He was real vague, something about going to pick up a few things," Kelly says. "There was no sense of urgency at all, nothing about going to check up on Tom. I thought Tom was gone to Dallas by then. It was all a little confusing."

Kelly drove over to the apartment. Buchanan knocked on the front door — Kelly says he thought that was odd because Abbott was supposed to be gone — and then walked around the back to the sliding-glass door.

It was unlocked, and Buchanan let himself in.

Tom Abbott's naked and battered body awaited him.

The police spoke to Kelly before allowing him to leave for the airport. Skip Buchanan stayed at the scene.

Back at home, Roland saw a hooked-up flat-screen TV, which Buchanan later told him had been a gift from Abbott.

Exactly when Buchanan collected the TV is a critical part of this case's timeline.

Buchanan told police that he never returned to the apartment after leaving on Thursday night with Tom Kelly. But Kelly insists that the TV was in the bedroom when they left.

So when and how did Buchanan get it over to Roland's?

Patrick Roland went to his car to pick up Buchanan at Abbott's apartment. But the vehicle wouldn't start.

Roland says it occurred to him later that Buchanan probably had used the car to get the TV and hadn't closed the hatchback properly, leaving on the backlight and draining the battery.

This had to have been after the Thursday-evening visit with Kelly, allegedly the last time Buchanan saw Abbott.

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