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Helmut Schmidt, Published October 03 2010

Mahnomen murders: Suspect described as trusted, generous

A man held on suspicion of killing two elderly rural Mahnomen County, Minn., residents is being described as generous and trusted by others at a center for chemically dependent people where he lived.

Timothy James Thorson, 53, is being held in the Benton County Jail, booked at 5:09 a.m. Friday on suspicion of being in possession of a stolen vehicle and driving after cancellation inimical to public safety, show jail records requested by The Forum under open records statutes.

Benton County officials said Saturday that the suspect in the murder of 72-year-old Francis Lundon and 71-year-old Ethyl Lundon was being held for possession of a stolen vehicle and unauthorized use of a stolen vehicle. Thorson is the only person listed in jail records whose name matched those charges.

His arrest was confirmed by Darby Miller, executive director of The Center of Human Environment, a sober home for chronically chemically dependent people about a mile north of the Lundon home.

“We had no reason to believe that he would do anything like this,” Miller said of Thorson, who had lived at the home for three years.

“The way I understand it, he (Thorson) confessed,” Miller said. “We’re all grieving right now. Why would someone like that, very trustworthy, do something like this?”

Miller indicated it shook his confidence.

“He was the one I trusted the most there,” he said.

Neither Benton County Jail personnel or Mahnomen County Sheriff’s Office dispatchers would confirm the identity of the suspect on Saturday, a day after the arrest.

Mahnomen County dispatchers also said Sheriff Doug Krier was not available, nor would any other sheriff’s office personnel confirm the suspect’s name.

The Lundons were found shot to death early Friday, Krier said that day.

He said they appeared to have been random victims and that there was no known connection between the victims and the suspect being held.

No other suspects are being sought, Krier said on Friday.

The Center of Human Environment has been in business for 33 years and has never had such an incident, Miller said.

“We’re all saddened by this, especially for the loss of the Lundons,” said Miller, who says he has no idea why Thorson would have been at the Lundon home.

Law enforcement officials have searched the center, Miller said.

Thorson made rocking chairs and donated items to charity, Miller said. One time, he even wanted to donate his 27-inch TV for a fundraiser.

“We didn’t see it coming. … He’d always help you,” Miller said.

“We do have good people there (at the center),” Miller said. “We’re not an institution. We’re like an apartment building. We don’t have criminals. We aren’t a prison. This could have happened to anybody in their apartment building.”

The investigation began about 2:30 a.m. Friday when the nearby Morrison County Sheriff’s Office received information about a possible double homicide suspect in the Pierz area.

A Morrison County deputy stopped the suspect, who was on Highway 25 just inside Benton County, said Morrison County Sheriff Michel Wetzel. The pickup was registered to a Mahnomen County resident.

Mahnomen County deputies and White Earth tribal officers went to the home eight miles east and four and a half miles south of Mahnomen on County Road 3 to check on the residents’ welfare.

“When they got there, they discovered two bodies in the house, dead from an apparent gunshot wound,” Krier said Friday.

In Minnesota, a criminal suspect can be held up to 36 hours after an arrest, excluding weekends, before being formally charged. The suspect, who is expected to be transferred to Mahnomen County, could make a court appearance on Monday.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583