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Dave Olson, Published November 17 2010

Mahnomen killer stockpiled his medications

Timothy James Thorson went off his medication a couple of days before he killed an elderly Mahnomen, Minn., couple because he says he was worried changes in state medical insurance would cause him to run out.

Thorson voiced his fears in a recent letter to Darby Miller, executive director of the Center of Human Environment, a sober home for chronically chemically dependent people where Thorson lived at the time the killings took place.

“There is no excuse for what I done. But I no (sic) if I was on my meds the right way, that would never would happen.

“Now I’m a cold blooded killer. And that’s not who I am,” Thorson wrote in the letter to Miller.

The bodies of Francis Lundon, 72, and his wife, Ethyl, 71, were found Oct. 1 in their rural Mahnomen County home, not far from the center where Thorson lived.

Thorson pleaded guilty to the murders just days after the crimes and was sentenced to 66 years in prison.

Miller recently visited Thorson in jail.

He said the 53-year-old is sorry for what he did and wants to be executed for the crimes.

That can’t happen because Minnesota does not have the death penalty.

Miller said hidden medications were found when Thorson’s room at the center was cleaned out, an indication Thorson was stockpiling pills.

“I do believe he was saving his meds. And I think it’s because of his fear that he might have to go cold turkey and not be on meds for a long time,” Miller said.

Early this year, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and the Legislature wrangled over health insurance changes.

Pawlenty took steps to phase out General Assistance Medical Care, which would have pushed clients of that program to plans such as MinnesotaCare, a transition that carried the risk of a temporary gap in coverage.

In late March, the Legislature reinstated GAMC coverage for tens of thousands of Minnesotans making less than $8,000 a year, though the program was scaled back.

Miller said the change had ramifications for Center of Human Environment residents who are on GAMC because they cannot find health care providers in rural Minnesota who will accept GAMC as payment.

Only four hospitals in the state do and they are all in the Twin Cities, said state Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL, St. Paul.

Murphy said the change in the GAMC program has adversely affected lives.

“Over the course of the summer and fall there have been a number of examples of people who have been getting inadequate care as a result of the change,” Murphy said.

In one case, a man who lives in Duluth and who has a mental illness must travel to the Twin Cities in order to maintain his medications, she said.

“That’s going to last for a while, unless the new governor signs the executive order that rolls this population into medical assistance, which is what we’re hoping for,” Murphy said.

Rep. Matt Dean, a Republican from Dellwood who was involved in the health care negotiations, said the modified GAMC program has been working fairly well for the four participating hospitals. But, he added, “We’re learning as we go, and we’re hitting bumps along the way.”

He said there have been hearings across the state to gauge impacts of the change, and there have been some complaints about access to care.

“Some of those have been found to be relevant and some are not relevant. Many are on, or eligible for, other programs,” Dean said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555