Details of Disappearance Thomas was last seen in Dover Township, Pennsylvania sometime in late 2011. He lived with his wife, Virginia, in a condo in the 3000 block of Barley Circle at the time. He was seen by his doctor on September 27. He had another doctor's appointment scheduled for October 25, but Virginia canceled it, saying Thomas was no longer in the area.
He has never been heard from again. His disappearance was reported in January 2017, after his daughter, Kim Via, who lives in Louisiana, asked the police in Pennsylvania to find him.
Via thought Thomas was living with his wife, Virginia Hayden, in the Carlisle area, but she wasn't sure because she and her father had been estranged since October 2005. Whenever she tried to call him, Virginia told Via that Thomas didn't want to speak to her. Via had even hired a private investigator to try to find her father, but the investigator was unsuccessful.
A state trooper was dispatched to the possible address Via gave and spoke to Virginia's granddaughter. She said her grandmother had lived in an apartment at that address, but Thomas had never lived there and she hadn't seen him in about seven years.
Police spoke to Virginia on the phone and she said she hadn't seen Thomas since 2011. She could not remember the date of Thomas's disappearance. She also gave two different accounts as to what happened. At one point she said he had taken $40,000 in cash when he left and that she had recently spoken to him on the phone, but she couldn't provide a phone number for him or the dates of their conversations.
When asked if she knew Thomas's whereabouts, Virginia told police, "maybe you ought to check the grave of my second husband for him." Her two previous husbands are both deceased. Authorities did check her second's husband grave in Maryland but found nothing unusual.
Virginia told investigators that Thomas had been diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, a terminal neurological condition, had left to seek treatment. She told the same story to her daughter, saying he had gone to Mexico. However, in an interview with a York Daily Record reporter, Virginia said Thomas gone to get treatment for a disease, but that she couldn't remember what disease he had.
Virginia also told police that when Thomas left, his brother Spencer picked him up. Spencer denies this, however, and he and his brother Owen stated they have not seen or spoken to Thomas since October 2010, approximately one year prior to his disappearance.
One of Virginia's daughters, Carolyn Cooksey, told authorities that the last time she saw Thomas was in the autumn months of 2011. Cooksey had a Christmas party at her Maryland home that year, but Thomas didn't attend. She had gotten a handwritten letter that was supposedly from him. The letter said Thomas was sick and that his family didn't care about him, and asked Cooksey to "be there for her mother."
Handwriting experts have concluded that the letter was written by Virginia. Passport records showed that neither Thomas nor Virginia had ever been to Mexico, and when police checked Thomas's medical records, they learned he had never been diagnosed with ALS.
Thomas was receiving Social Security at the time of his disappearance, and the payments, which totaled over $115,000 over the years, continued to be deposited into the Haydens' joint account after his disappearance. There was only one debit card for that account and most of the account activity was in central Pennsylvania, where Virginia lives.
Police searched Virginia's residence and found a lockbox containing Thomas's driver's license, passport, and Social Security and Medicare cards. They found Virginia's 2011 day planner; for November 1, she wrote "Tom left for Mexico."
Virginia moved out of the condo she shared with Thomas after his disappearance; it was sold to someone else in 2014. The buyer said Virginia had told him her husband was dead. Virginia told the York Daily Record that she had told many people this because "to me, he is" and because it was embarrassing to say she didn't know his whereabouts. She described Thomas as abusive.
When police reviewed the deed of sale for the condo, they noticed that a year prior to the sale, Virginia had purchased Thomas's share of the jointly owned property for $1. When the house was sold, a Specialty Warranty Deed was used to remove Thomas's name from the deed. Virginia had also sold Thomas's trailer for $135,000, telling the buyer her husband had been in a motorcycle wreck and no longer needed it.
Connie Lynn Pender, another of Virginia's children who is a notary public, had notarized the deed transfer for the house and the title for the trailer. A handwriting expert determined Thomas's signature on the paperwork for the deed transfer and the trailer sale had in fact been written by Virginia. Virginia stated she had regularly "signed everything" for him since their early in their marriage.
In late 2017, after a criminal investigation into Thomas's disappearance lasting almost a year, Pender was charged with theft, forgery and tampering with public records, in connection with her notarizing Thomas's forged signatures. She was living in Texas at the time and was extradited to Pennsylvania to face the charges. Photos of Pender and Virginia are posted with this case summary.
In January 2012, a few months after Thomas was last seen but years before he was reported missing, a bag containing skin, hair and bloodstained items, including a queen-sized sheet, was found Conewago Road near the Conewago River in Dover Township. The items were sent to the state crime lab and a DNA profile from the hair and the bloody sheet was entered into a national database, but there were no matches at the time.
After Thomas's disappearance was reported, his brothers submitted their DNA and it was compared to the DNA extracted from the items in the bag. The results indicated there was only a 1 in 403 billion chance that the DNA did not come from a sibling of Spencer and Owen. Thomas is their only sibling.
The bag was a plastic Foodsaver bag, and Virginia is known to have owned a Foodsaver system. Several of Virginia's grandchildren said she had talked to them about how to get rid of a body, and also discussed a way to kill a person and make it look like they died of a heart attack. Her second husband had died of a heart attack during their marriage. Virginia told the York Daily Record that she and Thomas had often discussed these subject and it was he, not she, who had spoken to her family about body disposal and murder.
No charges have been filed against anyone in connection with Thomas's disappearance, and police are still not sure what happened to him. His case remains unsolved.
- Northern York County Regional Police Department
Updated 1 time since October 12, 2004. Last updated March 1, 2018; casefile added.