Thomas McCloud Jr was fourteen years old when he was convicted of two murders in Michigan. According to court documents Thomas McCloud Jr and another young teenager Dontez Tillman attacked a homeless man and ended up beating the sixty one year old man to death. This teen killer would be convicted of a second murder in the same fashion. The fourteen year old would be sentenced to life in prison without parole
Thomas McCloud Jr 2020 Information
Name:THOMAS JAY MCCLOUD JR
Height:5′ 6″Weight:171 lbs.
Date of Birth:12/01/1993 (26)
Thomas McCloud Jr Other News
Every day is long for Thomas McCloud Jr., an 18-year-old prisoner serving a life sentence for crimes he committed at 14, but it’s the final two minutes that feel like an eternity.
Each night before lights out, Thomas McCloud walks past 41 cells — each home to an inmate older than himself — until he reaches his own. And then, in an act he describes as the hardest part of his new life, he locks himself in.
A fitting metaphor, perhaps, for a teen convicted in the brutal and fatal beatings of two homeless men on the streets of Pontiac. But also a chilling reminder of a life sentence that has only just begun.
“It just brings you back,” McCloud says by phone from behind an inch of plexiglass in a no-contact visitor area of the Michigan Reformatory in Ionia.
“I try not to think about it, because it just puts you in depression. But then you walk past all these people who been here so long and then they make you shut your own door. Over and over again. Every night.”
Thomas McCloud won’t have to worry about that walk on this particular night, however. After he puts down the phone, he’ll return to solitary confinement, a punishment he received after a guard overheard him engaging in an inappropriate conversation with another inmate
McCloud, convicted in 2009 on two counts of first-degree murder, is one of 359 prisoners in Michigan currently serving a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for crimes they committed as minors. That’s one out of seven of the 2,500 juvenile lifers nationwide.
Next Tuesday the U.S. Supreme Court will weigh whether juveniles are too impulsive, their brains too underdeveloped, and their remaining lives too long to receive the same mandatory life sentences as adults who kill.
Because the cases before the high court focus on two 14-year-olds, MLive this week is looking at Michigan’s lifers behind bars at the same age.
McCloud and fellow 14-year-old Dontez Tillman, his best friend and middle school classmate, were tried and convicted in the fatal beating of Wilford “Frenchie” Hamilton, a 61-year-old homeless man found behind a Pontiac nightclub in 2008.
He and another friend, 16-year-old Darrin Higgins Jr., were charged in the beating death of a second homeless man, 65-year-old Lee Hoffman. And all three teens were accused but not charged in two other non-fatal attacks.
Higgins took a plea deal, testifying against his friends in exchange for a lighter sentence. He could be released as early as 2027. McCloud and Tillman — acting on the advice of their mothers — rejected multiple plea deals and stood trial in 2009.
“Mr. McCloud, you killed two people,” Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Steven Andrews said at sentencing. “You killed two men who did you no wrong.”
Tillman’s mom cried aloud during the hearing. McCloud’s sister ran from the courtroom when the sentence was read. Both boys wept, just as some jury members had when they delivered their verdict.
“There’s nothing that can help you brace for your son’s life to be taken at 14,” McCloud’s mother said in a television interview outside the courthouse. “Thomas has been misdiagnosed, he shouldn’t even have been charged as an adult.”
The trial made national headlines, with some speculating the teens killed for sport. “They were boys who beat up homeless people because they wanted to,” Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said in an MLive interview last year as she looked back on the case.
McCloud, who is in the midst of an appeal, refuses to discuss specifics of the case but maintains his innocence, admitting he made mistakes but arguing he and his friends never intended to kill anyone.
He blames his conviction, in part, on admissions he made during a police interrogation, suggesting he was high, drunk and thoroughly confused.
“I feel bad for the families (of the homeless men) and my own,” he says. “But at the same time, part of me doesn’t feel bad. You all just killed me too by putting me here for life.”
Through his first two and a half years in prison, McCloud has received nine tickets for minor misconduct violations and two for serious fights. Those numbers are not unusually high, but he’s a Level IV inmate, meaning the state considers him a significant threat.
His last fight of record — a January incident he describes as a rivalry dispute between inmates from Pontiac, Flint and Detroit — resulted in his transfer to Ionia from Lapeer, where he had lived with Tillman and other young prisoners in a special section of the Thumb Correctional Facility.
“I didn’t want to leave Tillman,” he says of his friend. “That was my man. He’s almost like family, blood family. I’m glad he’s still there though, because this place is f—-d up.”
At 18, McCloud is one of the youngest prisoners in the Michigan Reformatory, a high-security prison only minutes from the Ionia Free Fair. He says he’s purposefully made few friends as he looks to stay out of trouble. And while he enjoys joking around with some of the older prisoners, he’s reluctant to disclose his age for fear he’ll become a target.
A lot of them been here longer than I’ve been alive,” McCloud says. “A lot of them try to help you, but I see them and I worry I’m gonna be the next old guy telling young (prisoners) they’ve got to strive to do well and get out.”
McCloud’s childhood, as he describes it, did little to set him up for success. His dad went to prison when he was 6. He received therapy for bipolar disorder and depression at 11. He skipped his first day of school in fifth grade. The next year he began smoking and drinking on a regular basis.
McCloud says he did not learn to read or write until after his arrest, explaining he was forced to take classes at a juvenile detention center while he awaited trial. After sentencing, he began to work on his G.E.D. in Lapeer.
Today, reading is one of McCloud’s favorite hobbies. He’s currently working his way through “Under the Dome,” a thousand-page novel by Stephen King he borrowed from another inmate who had been using it as a TV stand.
But McCloud’s options for learning — and for living — are limited since his transfer to Ionia.
He’s on a waiting list to return to school. He’s afraid to visit the library because of stories he’s heard about sexual assault. He hasn’t saved enough money to buy a TV. He doesn’t have a job. And because he is a high-security prisoner, he only has access to the yard once a day.
He dreams of a future on the outside, and has kept tabs on challenges to the law in Michigan; a federal anti-lifer case is pending in Detroit, and some inmates have individual claims. He was not aware of next week’s Supreme Court arguments.
But as he begins to show signs of aging — he’s filled out and grown a light beard since trial — he’s afraid of what the phrase “life in prison” might actually mean.
“The scariest thing is to think that I’m going to die in prison,” he says. “It’s always in the back of my mind. I’m scared of dying, period, but it’s worse to think it’ll happen here.”
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