Kenneth Thompson was sentenced to death by the State of Arizona for two murders. According to court documents Kenneth Thompson used a hatchet to murder Penelope Edwards, and her boyfriend, Troy Dunn. Afterwards he would set the bodies on fire. Kenneth Thompson was arrested, convicted and sentenced to death.
Kenneth Thompson 2021 Information
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The man who tried and failed to convince jurors that his upbringing as a Scientologist helped rationalize why he bludgeoned two people to death and set their bodies on fire was sentenced Wednesday to death by a Prescott jury.
The jury announced its verdict of death shortly after noon, according to a public information officer for the Yavapai County Superior Court.
Kenneth Wayne Thompson, 35, used a hatchet and knife to kill his sister-in-law, Penelope Edwards, and her boyfriend, Troy Dunn, in March 2012, according to court testimony. He then poured acid over the bodies and set the house on fire before fleeing the scene.
A jury convicted him of the killings Feb. 20. Jurors began deliberating on March 30 whether Thompson should spend his life in prison or die by lethal injection.
Prosecutors with the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office painted the crime as a deliberate plan, hatched in Thompson’s mind days before and carried out unbeknownst to anyone, including his wife, Gloria.
As evidence, prosecutors told jurors how Thompson bought a gun and a temporary cellphone in the days before. He then told his wife he was leaving their home in the Ozarks region of Missouri to travel to Memphis to deal with a legal issue involving his parents’ estate.
Instead, Thompson drove to Arizona, making the journey in just over a day with minimal stops, according to court testimony.
Thompson’s attorneys didn’t dispute the bare facts. But they offered a different motivation and rationale, rooted in Thompson’s being raised as a Scientologist.
Thompson, in his attorney’s version, saw himself on a mission to rescue two children who were in his sister-in-law’s care. Thompson’s wife, Gloria, had cared for the children temporarily while her sister, Penelope, had served a prison sentence. After the children were returned to their mother, Gloria still fretted about the kids’ well-being, testimony showed.
Thompson and his wife had just discovered that one of the children was being treated in the psychiatric ward of a children’s hospital. And for Thompson, who was raised as a Scientologist, that was akin to killing the child spiritually.
“(Scientologists) think psychology is evil and a scam,” defense attorney Robert Gundacker told jurors in his opening statement.
Thompson, according to his attorneys, came to a junction of Interstate 40 and made an impulsive decision to head west to Arizona rather than east to Tennessee.
Thompson’s wife sent increasingly frantic text messages to his phone, imploring him to contact her. But Thompson didn’t take his phone on the trip, testimony showed. He had a temporary phone; his usual phone was found at his Missouri home weeks later, his wife testified.
The trip was not evidence of premeditation, his attorney said, but showed how seriously Thompson took his religious belief that the child receiving mental treatment was in spiritual peril and needed rescuing.
Thompson, speaking to jurors before they began deliberating his sentence, said he showed up at the house aiming to bribe his sister-in-law to let him bring the children back with him to Missouri.
I was going to try to buy happiness for these two children,” Thompson said, according to a story in the Prescott Daily Courier. Thompson, according to the Courier, spoke to the jury for nearly four hours.
Thompson told jurors the conversation about the children turned violent.
“I can’t say I’m sorry they’re dead,” Thompson told jurors, according to the Courier. “Penelope Edwards hurt her children all the time. Troy hurt children. He was not a good guy.”
His attorneys argued that Thompson killed the couple in the heat of passion. They asked jurors to return a verdict of manslaughter.
The jury deliberated less then two hours before returning the verdict that Thompson was guilty of first-degree murder. That same jury then began deciding whether the crime merited the death penalty.
Gregory Parzych, one of Thompson’s attorneys, said his client showed little emotion in the courtroom when the verdict was announced.
Parzych, who defended Thompson along with two public defenders from Yavapai County, said the defense team was disappointed that their strategy of trying to get jurors to see the crime through Thompson’s unique upbringing did not keep their client off death row.
“When you get a death verdict, you will always second-guess yourself and you always regret certain things that you did or did not do,” he said. “That’s just inevitable.”
Though the state objected to the defense, the judge allowed Thompson’s attorneys to spend the better part of a day at trial walking jurors through the beliefs of Scientology.
An expert in the religion, flown in from Canada, gave sworn testimony about the origins of the religion, which included a warlord named Xenu who buried beings in a volcano on what is now Planet Earth.
Jurors also heard about the use of introspective counseling called “auditing” that Scientology adherents believe can rid the body of unwanted thetans, leaving a person in the desired state of “clear.”
Thompson’s ex-wife, Gloria, testified that Thompson had stopped being a practicing Scientologist, partly because of the expense.
Other testimony suggested that Thompson was a so-called “free zone” Scientologist. That schism of the faith adheres to what it says are the original teachings of the church’s founder, L. Ron Hubbard, and does not follow the church’s current leader, David Miscavige.
The Church of Scientology was not pleased to see its religious beliefs become entangled in a brutal murder trial.
A Church of Scientology spokesperson, Karin Pouw, in a statement sent to The Republic in February, said the testimony about Scientology was distorted and incorrect, contributing to “hate, intolerance and bigotry.”
Deputy Yavapai County Attorney Steve Young echoed that sentiment during his closing arguments to jurors before they decided whether Thompson was guilt
Kenneth Thompson Death
Kenneth Thompson was murdered in prison on January 1, 2022. The killers have yet to be identified
Kenneth was murdered on December 29th, not January 1st, and his 2 killers were identified from the start.