Blast From the Past
Connie Thompson was livid about my recent column reporting that she had lied by failing to disclose a felony arrest record on an application leading to her appointment to a powerful state regulatory board.
In a widely circulated e-mail to people she thinks are her supporters that was forwarded to me, Thompson tries to obscure her nasty entanglement with the law by alleging that the state board on which she sits -- whose executive director wants to get rid of her for violating public trust -- is engaged in corruption.
After writing that my earlier column was "mostly fiction, inaccuracies and downright lies," Thompson goes on in the e-mail to blast executive director Victoria Martin and the board that oversees nursing homes and assisted living centers for the elderly for supposedly violating "many state statutes and laws."
Thompson's claims are getting checked out by Arizona's General Accounting Office, but they are almost certainly an attempt to divert attention from the trouble that she and her husband, Republican state Representative Mark Thompson, find themselves in these days.
The Thompsons want us to ignore the fact that they have abused their public positions to profit their private business.
They want us to overlook Representative Thompson's self-serving vote for a bill last month that stripped away the right to sue under the state's elder-abuse statutes, a provision that provided direct financial benefits to their elder-care-referral business, Adult Care Consultants. Outrage over Thompson's vote in the House Health Committee led to the House Rules Committee's killing the bill, but there is an effort to revive it in the Senate.
The Thompsons also want to hide the demand by all of Connie Thompson's fellow board members that she resign because they believe she has tried to use the board for private financial gain.
She has piously refused.
In her e-mail, Connie Thompson writes that if New Times has "any integrity at all," it should "at least print the facts."
Well, I'm eagerly awaiting the GAO report to see if Connie's claims against Martin and the board have any foundation, but until then, here are some facts that I turned up during a recent trip to Tucson, information based on events that Thompson lied about on her board application.
It took a few days of plowing through Tucson Police Department reports and Pima County Superior Court and Sheriff's Office records to get to the bottom of what happened in 1981 and 1982, but what I found was riveting.
The skeletons in Thompson's closet are no doubt why she falsely stated she had never been arrested when she applied to former governor Jane Hull for appointment to the Arizona Board of Examiners of Nursing Care Institution Administrators and Assisted Living Facility Managers.
My guess is that she lied on her application because she never imagined that anyone would discover she had been indicted by a grand jury on two felony counts "with the intent to hinder the apprehension, prosecution, conviction or punishment of Alan Robert Terry for first-degree murder."
Even though Hull apparently had no qualms about appointing Thompson to a board that has direct oversight of her business, surely such an unsettling disclosure as Thompson's arrest record would have prompted the governor to nix a sister Republican's application.
But, as I say, the odds were against anybody, including Hull's office, finding out about a 22-year-old felony indictment. Thompson must have thought that though she had sworn in the application that she had never been arrested, the charges against her were dropped eventually . . . what's the problem?!
The omission on Thompson's board application came out only after Victoria Martin dared to officially challenge Thompson's dubious ethics as a board member, and in came the Arizona Attorney General's Office. The AG's office decided last September that there wasn't enough evidence to bring criminal charges against Thompson for her board actions, though investigators did uncover the unsettling information that she did have the arrest record.
Thompson was obviously worried about what was going on, because during the course of the AG's probe, she sought legal counsel from Hugh Hallman, who recently won election as mayor of Tempe, where she and her husband do business.
She offers an absurd excuse for not disclosing her past criminal activity on her state application.
"I didn't disclose criminal charges because I didn't realize . . . that I had been charged with criminal charges," she states in an e-mail to me.
Thompson must be suffering from severe memory loss, because the events that led to her arrest were certainly something that most people would never forget.
Here's what I turned up in Tucson about Thompson's past:
In December 1981, Connie Thompson was known as Connie Stacy Lynn Lutz. A week before Christmas, the then-24-year-old Lutz was in Pinetop with her biker gang boyfriend, Jimmy Lewis.
They were faced with a crucial decision.
One of their biker buddies had shot to death a 29-year-old paramedic during a traffic altercation in Tucson shortly after midnight on December 17. Later that same day, Alan Robert Terry was at their door seeking help.
Lutz and Lewis welcomed Big Al Terry into their home, provided him a car and later fled with him to California to avoid arrest. Along the way, everybody obtained fake California driver's licenses and identification cards.
Rather than assist police in arresting a fugitive who had fired three bullets into an unarmed man, Lutz went underground with a man wanted for first-degree murder.
Early on December 17, Gary Russell, 29, had been driving his BMW automobile eastbound on Speedway Drive in Tucson when he got into an argument with Terry, who was riding a Harley Davidson.
Russell and Big Al pulled into a convenience store parking lot, and a fight ensued. Russell got back into his car and ended up running over Big Al's motorcycle. The BMW was snagged on the bike and couldn't move.
Big Al grabbed a handgun from a woman who had been riding with him and fired a shot into the hood of the car. He then fired three more shots into Russell, who was sitting behind the steering wheel.
Eyewitnesses said Big Al walked away after the first two shots, but heard Russell moaning, returned to the driver's side of the car, and fired a third shot into the paramedic, who died a few minutes later at Tucson Medical Center.
Terry and the woman fled the scene on foot. Within hours, Big Al was on the road to Pinetop, where he was given shelter by Lutz and her boyfriend. Over the next several days, the gang was joined by Al's girlfriend and the man who owned the motorcycle Terry was riding.
Lutz knew that Big Al had committed a terrible crime, but she did nothing to help authorities until November 1983 -- nearly two years after the murder -- when a Tucson detective picked her up in Phoenix on a felony warrant out of California for obtaining a fake ID.
"His hair was kind of weirdly cut and he had, you know, a halfway-done shave," Lutz told police in November 1983 about Big Al Terry's appearance when he first arrived in Pinetop.
"And he was just shaking and all upset," Lutz said.
"I knew something pretty bad was going on . . . by that night. I'd figured out what was going on because they were flashing it on the news that, ah, you know . . . a paramedic had been shot."
Lutz told police that after a few days everyone was getting nervous.
"You figure the police are going to follow them up there, so you know, it's not a good idea to stick around. So we left."
A cop asked Lutz whose idea it was to take off.
"I think it was everyone's 'cause Al wanted to get out of there."
So the group split into two vehicles and headed to a house in San Bernardino, California.
"We stayed there with them for about week," Lutz said.
She returned to Arizona to spend Christmas with her parents in Phoenix. Then, Lutz went back up to Pinetop, where she partied the holiday season away with her boyfriend and his biker buddies.
There was little discussion about Big Al and the shooting. "It wasn't a very, you know, jolly topic at the time," Lutz said.
Especially not for the family, including an 8-year-old child, of the dead paramedic.
"We are in absolute agony over the . . . unnecessary killing of our . . . beloved son," his mother and father wrote to authorities.
While the Russell family mourned, Lutz and her brethren became increasingly concerned about who was going to take care of Big Al.
"You know, what more can anyone have done?" she told police. "They've done what they could, you know, and . . . they all really just wanted him to get gone."
But Lutz wasn't done assisting Terry.
Rather than calling police and turning him in, Lutz went back to California and visited Big Al in Ridgecrest in January 1982.
On January 24, 1982, Pima County issued felony warrants for the arrest of Lutz and her boyfriend for harboring and assisting Al Terry. In April 1982, the couple was spotted by police in Phoenix after Lutz went to a doctor's appointment. Police followed them with the hope they would hook up with Big Al.
The surveillance, which included a Department of Public Safety airplane, continued for four days as the couple drove across the desert to California. They were arrested on April 22, 1982, near a Riverside County trailer park after police gave up on any rendezvous with the murderer.
Lutz was booked into the Riverside County Jail and, after waiving extradition, was transferred to the Pima County Jail on May 19, 1982. During her booking, she reported she was on unsupervised probation for a previous offense. She was released after her father posted $5,500 bail.
Pima County dropped the charges against Lutz in August 1982 for undisclosed reasons.
But 15 months later, in November 1983, Phoenix and Tucson police picked up Lutz in Phoenix on a felony warrant out of California related to obtaining the fake IDs.
Lutz, Lewis, Big Al and the motorcycle owner had obtained fake driver's licenses for $250 apiece from a contact inside the California Division of Motor Vehicles when they had first fled to California. Lutz's fake ID had the name Dana Mae Barrett.
Nearly two years after the murder, and faced with the felony warrant, Lutz was cooperative with police. Information she provided helped authorities uncover the fake name used by the owner of the motorcycle. In return, California shelved the charges against Lutz.
A man using that fake name had been cited by police for a minor traffic infraction in April 1984 near Salinas. The California Highway Patrol finally caught up with Alan Robert Terry and arrested him on June 1, 1984, at a Hells Angels camp in Monterey County.
Big Al Terry had been on the run for nearly 30 months. He was convicted of second-degree murder on March 8, 1985. Sentenced to 21 years in the slammer, he died in a Tucson prison hospital on December 6, 1998, of natural causes.
These are the facts that Connie Thompson hid from the state.
What I believe is that she learned how to manipulate the system 22 years ago when she was a fugitive from justice assisting a man who had committed murder. And I think she's still manipulating it today, as a member of a board charged with protecting the sick and the elderly.
Her behavior on that board has been so outrageous that other members have unanimously demanded that she resign. Meanwhile, her husband continues to support legislation that would benefit their business by stripping away legal remedies for one of the weakest segments of our society.
It's time for Governor Janet Napolitano to step in and demand Connie Thompson's resignation. And if Thompson won't go, the state should reopen its investigation and bring charges against her for lying on her board application.
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