Dave Roepke, Published October 05 2010
Slaying suspect was on a mission
A fellow resident of the sober group home in rural Mahnomen County, Minn., where the 52-year-old was living had told him there was a drug dealer living “down the road on the right.” Citing the hardship drugs had brought his family, he hoped to rob the house and, if needed, kill its residents.
He rode his bicycle to the house a mile away from the sober home shortly past 6 p.m. Thursday, armed with a rifle he said he got from his uncle. When he barged in after no one answered his knocking at the farmhouse, he didn’t find drug dealers. Inside were Francis Lundon, 72, and his wife, Ethyl Lundon, 71.
“I should have left,” Thorson later told investigators, according to the charges filed in Mahnomen County District Court on Monday.
He didn’t leave. Thorson and Francis Lundon talked at length about his plans, he later told police, and Thorson suggested they should just “have a beer over it” because he didn’t want to kill the couple.
But when the husband tried to grab Thorson’s rifle while they were in the kitchen, Francis Lundon took a shot to the stomach – though Thorson told police he has no recollection of pulling the trigger.
As Lundon moaned and tried to get up, Thorson shot him again, this time in the head. As Ethyl Lundon screamed at him to get out and yelled that he’d killed her husband, Thorson did what he later described as “cold-blooded,” his only option for escape.
“So I shot her. I shot her in the back twice,” he said.
That’s the story Thorson told investigators after his arrest in Benton County, Minn., about 3:25 a.m. on Friday, according to the complaint on two counts of second-degree murder and felony charges of burglary and motor vehicle theft.
The bulk of the allegations in the complaint are allegedly based on a police interview with Thorson in which authorities claim he freely confessed to the fatal shooting, saying “What I did was wrong; I can’t change it.” In the complaint, authorities say they read Thorson the Miranda warning prior to him consenting to the interview.
According to the complaint, Thorson told Special Agent Dan Baumann of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and Benton County Detective Sgt. Neal Jacobson that after the shooting, he also considered engaging law enforcement officers in a suicidal standoff.
“I thought it was my destiny to do this, but it wasn’t supposed to be these people,” Thorson is quoted as saying. “Then my destiny was to shoot it out with you guys to see how many I could get before you got me. Seriously.”
Thorson on Monday made an initial court appearance, where bail was set at $5 million cash without conditions or $2 million cash or bond with conditions, said Mahnomen County Attorney Julie Bruggeman.
Bruggeman said Thorson will be appointed an attorney on Thursday, when he is scheduled to make his next court appearance. He said in court his income is about $89 per month.
About 20 Lundon family members attended the hearing. Most of them declined to comment, but Andrew Lundon said the high bail amount wouldn’t make up for the loss of his great aunt and uncle.
Mahnomen County Sheriff Doug Krier described the Lundons as a “good family,” and said police had never been called to their residence previously.
Thorson has a long but mostly nonviolent criminal record, including four drunken-driving convictions but no felonies, according to online court records.
He’d been living at The Center for Human Environment, a sober house for the chronically chemically dependent, for three years.
The center’s executive director, Darby Miller, told The Forum that Thorson was a well-trusted resident of the center, a generous man who made rocking chairs and donated items to charity.
After the alleged shooting, Thorson told police he grabbed the keys to the Lundons’ pickup and drove a winding route that first took him through Bemidji, Cass Lake and Walker before he stopped for gas near Laporte. He said he’d bought $30 worth of gas from a dairy farmer just before he was pulled over on State Highway 25 in Benton County just north of Benton County Road 12.
According to the court complaint, deputies were tipped off by a man who said he gave Thorson $20 to buy gas when he stopped in Morrison County. Thorson told the tipster he’d killed two people in Mahnomen County with a rifle, which he accidentally shot while stopping for gas.
The man went to the home of the police chief in Pierz to tell him about the encounter with Thorson.
When arrested, Thorson told the deputies he wanted to confess, the complaint alleges.
Detroit Lakes Tribune staff writer Riham Feshir contributed to this report.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Roepke at (701) 241-5535