Details of Disappearance
Aarone reportedly resided in the 16500 block of east Kepner Place, near the corner of south Buckley Road and east Mississippi Avenue, in Aurora, Colorado in November 2005.
She lived with her father, Aaron Thompson; his girlfriend, Shely Mary Lowe (also known as Shelley Marie Lowe), who was pregnant; Aarone's older brother, Aaron Thompson Jr.; Shely's teenage brother, Rajon Russell; and Shely's five children, Andrew Lowe, Tamara Lowe, Kadezshia Smith, Eric Williams Jr., and Kaila Williams. The children in the family ranged from five to fifteen years in age. Photographs of Aaron and Shely are posted with this case summary.
On November 14, 2005, Aaron notified authorities that Aarone had disappeared. He said she got into an argument with Shely over a cookie and ran away from home between 12:30 and 1:30 p.m. She has never been heard from again.
Police investigators noted Aaron and Shely did not appear distressed over Aarone's disappearance, although temperatures outside were below freezing and it was snowing, and neither of them had any suggestions as to where the child might be. Shely was upset, but only because the police were questioning the other children.
Between 8:00 and 9:00 p.m., while officers were still searching the neighborhood for the child, Aaron said he was tired and wanted to go to bed. He consented to a formal interview at police headquarters afterwards, but fell asleep on the stairs in his house between 10:00 and 11:00 p.m. Both Aaron and Shely ceased cooperating with authorities the next day.
Aarone's mother, Lynette Thompson, lived in Detroit, Michigan when her daughter disappeared. She has not seen the child since October 2001 and is not considered a suspect in her disappearance. Within a day of Aarone's disappearance, Lynette gave media interviews stating she disbelieved Aaron's story and believed Aarone met with foul play.
Lynette stated that Aarone and her brother had been born in Michigan. Aaron and the children moved to Colorado in 2001. Lynette was supposed to go with them, but she had to be hospitalized, so she stayed behind. After she recovered, she planned to join them in their new home, but Aaron called her and told her not to come. After that he refused to tell her where he and their children were living. Lynette admitted she struggled with drug addiction in the past, but says she is clean now.
Three days after Aarone disappeared, investigators announced they did not believe she disappeared on November 14. They theorized that instead, Aarone had been murdered inside her home and had been dead for some time before her disappearance was reported, perhaps as long as a year and a half.
The Thompson/Lowe children were all taken into protective custody, as was Shely's baby daughter after she was born. Authorities cited abuse, neglect and poor living conditions as the reasons. Aaron and Shely were allowed supervised visitation only.
The first time the Thompson/Lowe children were interviewed, they supported their parents' story that Aarone ran away. They told investigators what her favorite food and color was, and said she had dressed up as a witch for Halloween. After they were taken into foster care, however, the children recanted their statements. They said Shely had told them to lie and they had not actually seen Aarone in over a year. Rajon Russell, who had moved into the home in August 2004, said he had never seen her.
Both Aaron and Shely were named as persons of interest in Aarone's disappearance and presumed death, and their home was designated a crime scene. Police stated they refused to take lie detector tests. Investigators interviewed over 450 people, searched the Thompson home, and dug up the yard. False identification cards, including driver's licenses, were found in the home, but there was no evidence as to Aarone's whereabouts.
Investigators stated that no "credible" person claimed to have seen Aarone for a year and a half and that the other children in her family were told to lie to cover up her disappearance.
Interestingly, Aarone was reported missing just hours after a social worker visited the home. The family had been receiving a housing subsidy from a charitable organization and the social worker was supposed to determine if they were still eligible. She spent 45 to 60 minutes in the home and inspected every room, but did not see Aarone anywhere.
Aarone's name was not listed on the paperwork for the home, but neither was the name of her older brother. The next day, Shely called the social worker and tried to convince her she had seen Aarone, but the social worker refused to change her previous statement.
Aarone had never attended any school in the Aurora area or been registered as a home-schooled student. Shely reportedly told one individual that she had been unable to register Aarone at school because the child's birth certificate and immunization records had been lost, but it was later determined that Aarone's father and stepmother did in fact have a birth certificate for her.
She last received medical attention in May 2002, when she was treated for an abscessed tooth at Aurora South Hospital. When her father reported her missing he said she was seven years old, but she would have actually been six. The picture he provided was from the summer of 2002; he said the family had no more recent photographs.
Weeks before Aarone was reported missing, Aaron requested that a non-profit foundation help provide Christmas presents for his children. He did not list Aarone on the application form. There was also no toothbrush and no mattress in the house for Aarone. Aaron and Shely said she slept with Shely's daughter Kaila, but Kaila denied it and none of Aarone's DNA could be found on the bedding.
Shely's former boyfriend, Eric Williams Sr., told police that Shely told him Aarone stopped breathing in the bathtub. Shely then attempted mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but was unable to revive the child. She denied being responsible for Aarone's death and stated the girl had simply died suddenly and no one had done anything to cause her death.
Shely allegedly stated she and Aaron had concealed Aarone's death and buried her body in a field far away because the child had been abused and had a suspicious scar on her body as a result, and Shely was afraid the other children would be removed from the home. Williams says Shely was crying and hysterical while she told him the story.
Shely's friend Tabitha Graves had a similar account. She said in the summer or fall of 2004, Shely was riding in the car with her when she suddenly said Aarone had died in her sleep months before. She said she and Aaron decided not to call 911 after they discovered the body, and Aaron took the body away in his Ford Expedition and came back a long time later without it.
Graves stated Shely was extremely upset while she was talking about it and was shaking and crying so hard she was having trouble breathing. Shely told her she did not report Aarone's death because she was worried the other children in the home would be taken away. She said she was trying to come up with a good explanation for Aarone's disappearance.
After Shely told her this story, Graves began tape-recording their telephone conversations. She later turned the tapes over the police. In the conversations, Shely referred to Aarone in the past tense and said she would have Aaron place flowers on the child's grave. She repeatedly urged Graves not to tell the police what happened and expressed fears of going to jail and losing her children. Graves noted Shely did not like Aarone and had trouble disciplining her.
Velma Jean Belzaire, Shely's aunt, remembered a phone call she got from Shely in the summer of 2003. Shely asked her what to do if a child stops breathing, and said either she or Aaron were going to discipline his daughter and she had passed out. Belzaire advised Shely to call 911. A couple of days later, when she asked Shely about the child's condition, Shely reportedly replied, "I took care of it."
Shely and Belzaire telephoned one another almost daily, but Shely did not mention Aarone to her aunt again until November 2005, when she said Aarone was missing.
In May 2006, a grand jury was convened to investigate Aarone's disappearance. That same month, Shely died suddenly at the age of 33. The cause of death was heart disease; she had a history of heart problems and had also experienced complications from her final pregnancy. Shely maintained her innocence in Aarone's case until her death. She was never interviewed by police, as she refused to speak to them.
Aaron continued to maintain his innocence in Aarone's disappearance. In early 2007, a civil dependency and neglect jury investigating the alleged abuse of Aarone's siblings ruled that Aaron "was responsible for serious bodily injury or the death" of Aarone. A civil jury's finding cannot be admitted as evidence in a criminal case, however.
In May 2007 Aaron was indicted on nearly sixty counts, the most serious of which was child abuse resulting in death. That charge carried a maximum sentence of 48 years to life in prison.
The other charges included multiple counts of conspiracy to commit child abuse resulting in death, false reporting to authorities, concealing a death, conspiracy to conceal a death, abuse of a corpse, conspiracy to commit abuse of a corpse, seven counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, and multiple counts of child abuse and assault. Some these charges were related to the treatment of Aaron's other children and not Aarone.
Authorities believe Aarone died sometime between May 2002 and August 2004, probably during 2003. It was during 2003 that the Thompsons told Aarone's siblings she had moved to Michigan to live with Lynette. Shortly afterwards, all of Aarone's belongings were placed in the basement. None of the children in the family saw or heard from her again.
Her siblings told investigators that before she went missing, Aarone was repeatedly beaten and kept in a closet for hours at a time, often as punishment for bedwetting. She was also denied proper nourishment and medical attention.
All the children stated they were beaten with a belt, a baseball bat and other objects, sometimes so hard they were unable to sit down afterwards. The children claimed at least one of them was beaten every day. Several of them bear scars from the abuse.
Shely's son Andrew stated he heard Aaron beating Aarone in the basement one night. Aarone was screaming, then suddenly the screaming stopped and Andrew heard Aaron swear. Andrew never saw Aarone again. A day or two later, he asked his mother where Aarone was, and Shely told him she had moved to Michigan.
Andrew said he noticed a bad smell in the basement a few days later, which lasted for several weeks. He said Shely began attending church and saying nightly prayers a short time after Aarone disappeared, which was uncharacteristic of her previous behavior.
The Thompson/Lowe children testified against Aaron at his eight-week trial in the fall of 2009, repeating their stories of abuse. Aaron's defense acknowledged Aarone was dead and Aaron had helped cover up her death, but they said Shely actually killed her and Aaron only helped her hide this fact.
Aaron was convicted of 31 out of the 55 charges against him, including child abuse resulting in death in Aarone's case. He was acquitted of 22 charges, mainly those related to his alleged abuse of the other children. In November 2009, he was sentenced to over 100 years in prison.
The Thompson/Lowe children are all in foster care or with relatives. Foul play is suspected in Aarone's disappearance due to the circumstances involved.