Zeigler, Part VI: On Preliminary Crime Scene Approach & Investigation
Orange County Sheriff’s Office Detective Donald Frye was on duty in the Crime against Persons Section. After investigating the crime scene, he concluded that these four people did not die at the same time. With that, I agree.
According to Frye, Mays had been shot and beaten a quarter of an hour or more, before the other three people. With that, I disagree. He also determined that someone had walked around the scene after the first three murders, and had then shot and beaten Mays. With that, I agree.
Frye concluded that only Zeigler could have done this and he found immediate support in two witnesses who conveniently showed up on Christmas Day. Edward Williams and Felton Thomas were positive that Zeigler was a cold blooded killer.
Edward Williams, at the time 47 years old, had come to the USA from the Bahamas in 1953. In 1963, he became a US citizen. He spoke with a soft Bahamian accent. Edwards worked odd jobs around Orange County as a carpenter. He also worked in construction. Williams had known the Zeigler family for about two decades. He knew them as a customer and as a part-time employee. He had helped to remodel the Zeigler’s apartment and had been part of the construction screw that built the furniture store. He was very familiar with the family, their business, and since he helped built it, the entire store.
Felton Thomas, at the time 27 years old, worked as a fruit picker and had no permanent home. He was born in the state of Georgia, in Pelham, but had no residence. He went where he could pick fruit and had been living that way most of his adult life. The provably false testimonies of these two men were the center piece of all evidence against Zeigler. More about them later.
For the moment, make two mental notes:
- Frye’s order: Mays killed first, then the Edwards and their daughter, and
- that in his initial assessment, he does not place Tommy’s shooting (it is undisputed he was shot. By whom, that’s were opinion is divided) in between Mays and the Edwards or before the Mays shooting.
Remember that you can read far more in Finch’s book “Fatal Flaw” by accessing the free PDF copy made available by Finch via his website. Just click on the link here: a free PDF version as mentioned in Zeigler Part I. Let me to highlight some other issues here.
Three officers were near the furniture store at a crucial time. One was driving around to see where Tommy & Eunice were. They had planned to attend a Christmas party together at the home of the van Deventer Family, good friends of Tommy. This man was Winter Garden’s Chief of Police Donald Ficke accompanied by his wife, Rita. While driving past the furniture store, they saw two squad cars parked at the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant nearby. One squad car belonged to Oakland’s Chief of Police Robert Thompson. The other squad car belonged to Winter Garden Patrolman Jimmy Yawn.
At first, you’d think these officers were just having dinner together but the close proximity to the furniture store has later raised questions with some people. Some are convinced that Tommy is innocent and that he was set up by law enforcement. The fact that Oakland’s Chief was outside his jurisdiction just for dinner remains a red flag to many supporters of this theory.
Chief Thompson used his radio to log out of service at 8:30pm before meeting Yawn at KFC for coffee as per his police report. He logged back in at 8:50pm after leaving the restaurant. After he left KFC, Chief Thompson stated he drove back to his jurisdiction to check some trouble spots. Finding all was quiet; he decided to go to the Christmas party at the van Deventer Home where Chief Ficke and the Zeiglers were expected as well.
Chief Thompson arrived at the van Deventer Home and logged out at 9:18pm. He got out of the squad car and saw Chief Ficke coming out of the house in great haste. The Chief explained to him that there was trouble at the Zeigler Furniture store. The two policemen turned their emergency lights on and drove off to Zeigler’s store.
Chief Thompson radioed the Winter Garden dispatch for backup and explained that he was on his way to Zeigler’s under Chief Ficke’s authority. Dispatch found two officers in the direct vicinity: Officer Cindy Blalock and Officer Jimmy Yawn.
Arriving at the scene, Chief Thompson parked his car so that his headlights lit up the front of the store. He had passed it before and had seen it was dark. This is what he saw when he got out: Zeigler trying to open the front door from the inside. His face, shirt, and especially the left underarm covered in blood. Zeigler had of course used the left underarm to press it against his abdominal wound. Zeigler recognized the officer and said “Bobby…” You can see Tommy’s shirt here.
Thompson ran to the door at the same time that Zeigler managed to open it. He grabbed the wounded man, put him over his shoulder, ran to the squad car, and gently placed Zeigler on the back seat. Thompson looked at Zeigler’s wounds and that is when he noted the dried blood. For more on this, check the post “Part V” of the Zeigler Series, here.
Thompson told Ficke was he going to the hospital with Zeigler, and drove off. They reached the hospital within three minutes. What happened next is described in the post about the crime scene, “Zeigler, Part III” that you can find here.
Note that after Zeigler went into the ER, Thompson returned to the furniture store to assist Chief Ficke. He also had crucial information to share. Zeigler had just told him that he had been shot by Mays and that he had fired back. Assuming Zeigler had hit Mays (because all was quiet when he came crawling through the front door of the furniture store), Chief Thompson reasoned Mays was either dead or wounded inside the store. In case of the latter, he knew Mays would have access to guns and depending on how wounded he was, would be able to use those guns against his fellow police officers.
To be continued.