Details of Disappearance
Lydia was last seen on July 5, 1996 in her hometown of Chicago, Illinois. Her husband, Everett Thompson
, owned the E.A.T. and Company restaurant in the Park Manor neighborhood of the city. They lived with their children, Andrew
and Everett Jr.
, in the 8100 block of south Rhodes Avenue.
Lydia's brother, Kenneth White, had moved in with the Thompsons in February 1996 after his release from prison; he had served a term for rape. The Thompsons' home had been Lydia's father's and he had passed it to his three children; each held a one-third share in the property.
The Thompson family was unhappy about White's presence in the home, and Everett's side of the family referred to him as a "freeloading houseguest." On July 3, about four months after White moved in, Lydia called 911 to report that he had threatened to kill her with an ax. Police responded to the scene, but the dispute had died down by the time they arrived, and they left without making any arrests.
On July 5, Everett's father called him at work. Their conversation was normal, but in the middle of it, Lydia called her husband, frantic, and begged him to come home immediately. She said Kenneth had chased her around the house with an ax and she'd locked herself in the bedroom. Everett told his father about what had happened, ended their conversation, and left the restaurant. One of his employees was the last person to see him.
Two hours later, White arrived at the E.A.T. and Company driving Everett's van, told the manager that Everett had been arrested after a car accident, and then left. White was wearing white sneakers, and the manager noticed red smears on them.
Twelve days later, on July 17, Everett's parents asked the police to check on the family, as no one could get in touch with them. The police went to the Thompson home and found only White, who said his sister and her family were fine and had taken an impromptu vacation to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where Everett was born and where his parents lived. The police could find no evidence of foul play and the Thompsons' van was missing, which supported White's story. They left without investigating further.
Over the next few weeks, White told various versions of the impromptu vacation story to people, variously claiming that the Thompsons took a bus to Philadelphia, that they took a bus to Minneapolis, Minnesota, or that they went to Hawaii. White was driving the Thompsons' van when he was arrested for falsifying Lydia's signature on a check, but the police didn't realize this contradicted his earlier statement to them.
In late July, Everett's parents traveled to Chicago and tried to find the family, investigating on their own and speaking to employees of the E.A.T. and Company, but their efforts were unsuccessful. They asked the police to investigate further. The restaurant manager told the police about White's statement the day they last saw Everett, but there was no record of Everett getting arrested or being associated with a traffic accident.
Authorities learned that in the Thompsons' absence, Kenneth had forged Lydia's and his other sister's signatures on documents to sell their home. An inspector visited the home before the sale was made and noticed that one toilet and one bathtub had recently been painted red and the kitchen floor had been torn out. These changes had been made sometime after the police visited the home on July 3, as they had examined the house and the kitchen floor had been fine and there were no red bathroom fixtures. By the time the police uncovered the illegal sale, the new owners had already had the house gutted for renovation.
The police interviewed White several times, but did not have probable cause to arrest him. He moved to a trailer in Gary, Indiana. In July 1997, the FBI searched in and around his trailer and found a pair of men's gym shoes and a boy's sock, both bloodstained. In November 1997, White was arrested for failure to register as a sex offender. He was released, but was arrested again the following month for bank fraud; he had allegedly forged Lydia's name on a check for over $13,000.
In a court hearing about the bank fraud, the prosecutor claimed White "ax-murdered" the Thompson family. The theory was that White wanted the Thompson home to himself and murdered his sister and her husband and children in order to get it.
On Christmas Day, 1997, White hanged himself in jail. He did not leave a note, and before his death he did not reveal any possible information he may have concealed regarding the Thompsons' cases.
Investigators believe White probably murdered the Thompsons on July 5 or July 6, but they never found enough evidence to charge him, and searches of both White's home in Gary and the Thompsons' home in Chicago turned up no sign of human remains.