Craig Lester Today: What Happened to the Killer?

The 1991 disappearance and presumed murder of Terry Rouse are investigated by ID’s ‘American Monster’ in one of their episodes, titled ‘Into the Swamp.’ The case was also the focal point of an episode of Oxygen’s ‘Killer Relationship With Faith Jenkins,’ titled ‘Family Feud.’ Terry Rouse was 24 years old when he went missing in May 1991, never to be heard from or seen by anyone ever again. One name that often popped up in the case was that of Terry’s first cousin and best friend, Craig Lester Thrift. Just who is her, and why did he come under so much scrutiny? Well, we are here to explore the same!

Who is Craig Lester Thrift?

Craig Lester Thrift is the victim, Terry Rouse’s first cousin and best friend. The two were related as Terry’s mother, Sara Thrift, and Craig’s father, Larry Thrift, were siblings and part of the Thrift clan that had a good reputation in the local area. Interestingly, in 1991, Craig was married to Rhonda Thrift, who had actually dated Terry briefly in high school and then moved on to Craig. According to Terry’s sister, Angel Curry, while her brother had not expressed any negative sentiments about the marriage between his ex and his best friend, he did seem to be sad on their wedding day.

On May 11, 1991, Terry was last seen publically at a party where he stayed from around 5:30 to 6:00 AM of early morning hours. However, on the same day, around 2 in the afternoon, local authorities called Sara Thrift, telling her that her son’s car, a 1979 blue Ford Thunderbird, had been found abandoned near the entrance of Okefenokee Swamp Park, with its engine still on. This led to a search for Terry, and one of the first people to be contacted was Craig, who claimed that, unlike their usual routine, Terry had not come by to pick him up for work in the morning.

In 1997, the investigating officers already suspected Craig of foul play, but he declined to take a polygraph test. He said that without a body, they had no case, which was a strange observation for an innocent person to make, according to the investigators.  The reason behind such suspicions was that Sara Thrift had learned that Terry had been apparently having an affair with Rhonda Thrift, something that the latter confirmed to the authorities and even agreed to take a polygraph test.

Around 2008, when the Terry Rouse case was handed over to a new investigator, the authorities decided to contact Robyn Barry, Craig’s then-wife, who was in the process of divorcing him. Upon being asked if she knew who Terry was, she apparently directly asked if the police wanted to know if Craig had killed him because he had bragged about it to her on multiple occasions. In fact, many of the people living in Craig’s vicinity apparently confirmed the statement.

Where is Craig Lester Thrift Now?

In 2012, the police arrested Craig from his home at 116 Trout Street in Woodbine. A search of his house led to the discovery of marijuana and firearms, and he was also charged with illegal possession of both. During his trial, his then-wife Robyn testified that Craig often bragged about killing Terry and many times threatened her that she would end up like Terry if she didn’t listen to him. This fact was also confirmed by several other witnesses, who all claimed that Craig told them that he had shot Terry dead and thrown him into the swamp whenever he wanted to intimidate them.

Even though his ex-wife Rhonda provided an alibi, claiming that Craig was with her the entire night and morning of May 11, 1991, the jury chose to believe that Craig was directly responsible for Terry’s presumed death. Even without a body, there was enough evidence and testimony to convict Craig. In the case of Terry Eugene Rouse’s disappearance and suspected murder, the jury found Craig Lester Thrift guilty, and the court sentenced him to life in prison with the possibility of parole after seven years. He has been eligible for parole since 2019. As of now, Craig Thrift remains incarcerated in Hays State Prison, Chattooga County, Georgia.

Read More: How Did Terry Rouse Die?