Carol Thompson Murder: Is T. Eugene Thompson Dead or Alive?

Image Credit: Pioneer Press

Investigation Discovery’s ‘A Crime to Remember: Devil’s Advocate’ follows the sensational homicide investigation after Carol Thompson was murdered brutally in her Minnesota home in March 1963. Often dubbed as one of the most infamous crimes in Minnesota’s history, the episode takes the viewers through the chain of events that transpired around six decades ago. If you’re interested and want to find out more, including the killers’ identities, we’ve you covered. Here’s what we know. 

How Did Carol Thompson Die?

Carol Ann Swoboda Thompson was born to Otto Swoboda and Antonia “Tonia” Valenta Swoboda on October 11, 1928, in Saint Paul, Minnesota. She married prominent attorney Tilmer Eugene Thompson of Saint Paul in Minnesota and had four young children, ages 6 to 13, as of March 1963. A neighbor said, “She was, in many ways, the prototypical early 1960s wife and mother. I mean, they had everything except the white picket fence out front.”

Image Credit: New York Times

According to news reports, Carol was an active member of the Edgecumbe Presbyterian church and also in the Scouts — all the things that stay-at-home mothers did in those days. She had numerous friends who played bridges with her and attended the extravagant coffee parties she threw. Hence, it was a shock when Carol’s next-door neighbor opened her door on March 6, 1963, to find her standing barefoot, blood streaming from her head and face. According to reports, “she was so bloody, they didn’t even know who she was.” Carol collapsed at their doorstep, gasping, “I’ve got a knife in my throat. A man did it. He came to the door.”

The show depicted how an assailant tied to drown 34-year-old Carol in the bathtub and struck her on the head with a piece of rubber hose. However, when she did not die from those attempts, he tried to shoot her with his Luger pistol, but the gun misfired. The perpetrator battered her face by pistol-whipping her and stabbing her more than 50 times with a kitchen knife. Carol managed to crawl to her neighbor’s doorstep, asking for help, and was rushed to Ancker Hospital. The surgeons removed a 3-inch knife blade from her throat, yet she succumbed to her injuries three hours later.

Who Killed Carol Thompson?

According to news reports, the investigators found pieces of the Luger pistol’s grip in the Thompson residence, which led them to Dick W.C. Anderson, an ex-convict from Michigan, in April 1963. He quickly confessed to the police that he was hired by a former Twin Cities prizefighter, Norman J. Mastrian, on behalf of Carol’s husband, Tilmer. Court records state Norman was a former client of Carol’s husband. Besides, Anderson claimed he was paid $2,300 to commit the murder.

Image Credit: Pioneer Press

Nicknamed “Cotton” for his shocking white-blond hair, Tilmer was born in 1927 in Blue Earth, Minnesota, about 120 miles southwest of Minneapolis. The son of a chicken farmer, he dropped out of high school in Elmore and enlisted in the Navy, serving on a minesweeper in the Pacific during World War II. He met Carol at Macalester College in St. Paul. The college romance blossomed into marriage after he graduated from St. Paul College of Law (now William Mitchell College of Law).

According to news reports, Tilmer was a notorious womanizer who engaged in numerous extramarital affairs and several girlfriends throughout his 15 years of marriage with Carol. He had secretly taken out life insurance policies in “bits and pieces” for around a year, totaling about $1.1 million, before he ordered the hit on his wife. He allegedly wanted to get rid of her to marry his “longtime girlfriend” and get his hand on the insurance money.

The police reports state Tilmer was very careful while masterminding the hit — he removed the house phone that Carol could have used to call for help and got rid of the family Dachshund. Eventually, he hired his former client, Norman, for the job since he knew the latter had connections in the underworld. Tilmer was the prizefighter’s defense counsel a few years earlier when he got embroiled in legal issues regarding a homicide case. However, Norman “drew the line at murdering a church-going wife and mother,” even though he was “probably a cold-blooded murderer himself.”

Police reports state that unbeknownst to Tilmer, Norman started looking for a sub-contractor for the hit and contacted several people. Soon, he found Dick, a troubled Korean War combat veteran, who agreed to take the hit job in exchange for money. He would later allege in court that Norman paid him only $2,300 and pocketed the remaining $300 that Carol’s husband had paid for the job. Tilmer, the Minnesota State Bar Association criminal law committee’s Chairman, was arrested at his summer home in Forest Lake on June 21, 1963. Dick and Norman were arrested earlier; all three were charged with first-degree murder.

T. Eugene Thompson Passed Away in 2015

Both Dick and Norman were found guilty of first-degree murder charges in May 1963 and were sentenced to life in prison after being convicted. Tilmer faced the same fate at the hands of a Hennepin County District Court jury on December 6, 1963, and was sentenced to life. His son, Jeffrey “Jeff” Thompson, the chief judge for Minnesota’s Third Judicial District, recounted how Tilmer’s six-week murder trial was “the O.J. Simpson trial of the time” in terms of its rampant publicity.

Tilmer was paroled in 1983, after serving only 19 years of his sentence, along with Dick and Norman. Jeff said he and his sister confronted their father in 1986, demanding evidence of his innocence. He stated, “It was pretty clear during the course of that conversation that he wasn’t going to be able to do that. After that, I didn’t hear a whole lot of protests.” Jeff added, “Yes, I’m convinced he was guilty. I have faith that the jury came to the right verdict.” Reports confirmed that Tilmer died on August 7, 2015, at his condominium in Roseville, at the age of 88.

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