Alleged killer of three people nursed grudge against family for

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

TOULON, Ill. -- Day after day for years, Curtis Thompson drove past the Geisenhagen home in this quiet, rural town, slowing down to glare through the windows, making sure the family knew he hadn't forgotten.

Thompson, 60, a retired coal miner, was known for a hair-trigger temper and harassment of many of Toulon's 1,300 residents, including a former sheriff.

But he apparently nursed his longest and deepest grudge against James and Janet Geisenhagen, neighbors who had sued him 15 years ago in a dispute over a dog attack.

The drive-bys, some harrowing highway encounters and occasional face-to-face confrontations left the couple afraid to let their 10-year-old daughter walk the few blocks to school, friends said.

Now, the town is mourning the Geisenhagens and a sheriff's deputy, all allegedly shot to death by Thompson. And some residents are asking whether law-enforcement officials did enough to prevent the violence they all feared would happen.

Garned reputation

Thompson, arguably the best-known resident of this town surrounded by cornfields, has long had a reputation for flouting authority and retaliating against anyone who got in his way.

Joe Tracy, a friend of the Geisenhagens, said the family complained to the authorities more times than he could count, and became frustrated by inaction. Several years ago they were told, "You know he's crazy, just ignore him," Tracy said.

"After that much time and so little response," he said, "you don't know what to do."

Investigators say Thompson turned violent Friday night, when rookie Stark County Deputy Adam Streicher went to his house to arrest him for skipping a court appearance in an assault case. Thompson allegedly shot Streicher to death in the cluttered carport of his rundown home. He then took the officer's handgun and squad car, and drove around the corner to the Geisenhagen home.

There he allegedly broke in and shot the couple to death in front of their daughter, Ashley, who was not hurt. Thompson was later stopped at a roadblock and shot in a gunfight with authorities. He was in serious condition at a Peoria hospital Tuesday.

Records reveal history

Investigators have refused to comment on Thompson's motive and would not discuss their handling of past complaints about him.

But court records and friends of the Geisenhagen family indicate a history of ill will dating back to 1986, when Janet Geisenhagen filed a lawsuit against Thompson. She claimed that his black Labrador retriever, Fuji, had bitten her 6-year-old son, Shawn Henderson.

Thompson won the lawsuit, but friends mark it as the beginning of his campaign against the family. There was an occasional drive-by at first, but they became more frequent over the years, according to Tracy, the family friend. He said there were a few face-to-face confrontations, and Thompson once swerved his truck toward Henderson as he walked down the street.

Tracy, too, became a target when he began working for James Geisenhagen's air-conditioning business six years ago, he said. In 1999, Thompson chased Tracy's van with his truck, passed him, then blocked the road, and jumped out of his truck with a hammer. Thompson was charged with assault, according to court records.

In that case, Jane and James Geisenhagen and his parents gave prosecutors statements about Thompson's harassment of Tracy and of themselves.

Thompson was found guilty of assault on June 20, 2000, and sentenced to 25 days in jail and two years' probation. He also was forbidden any contact with members of the Tracy or Geisenhagen families.

But Tracy said that case only seemed to fuel the harassment. The drive-bys began to occur several times a day, and extended to James Geisenhagen's parents, who lived nearby.

Dan Hardman, James Geisenhagen's business partner, said Geisenhagen often came to work fuming about Thompson's actions and occasionally confided that he was scared. "He was afraid that someday Thompson was going to go too far," Hardman said. "The things that Thompson did, he should have been called on years ago."

About two years ago, the Geisenhagens set up a camera on their garage and taped Thompson's passes by their house. The gave the tapes to authorities, but no action was ever taken, Tracy said.

Neither Stark County State's Attorney Jim Owens or Sheriff Lonny Dennison returned phone calls seeking comment Tuesday.

Court records and town residents paint Thompson as a man who does what he wants. Thompson was twice convicted of disorderly conduct for harassing a retired Stark County sheriff. Thompson once butchered a dead steer in his front yard, said Barry Taylor, a schoolmate of Mr. Thompson. And once, when the city cut off his water because of unpaid bills, he dug a well by hand in his basement, Taylor said.

Thompson's wife, Virginia, could not be reached Tuesday. Neighbors said Thompson did not seem to have any close friends.

Thompson's father died when he was young, and he was sent to work on neighboring farms for his room and board, Taylor said. "He had to raise himself; the mean part he always had," Taylor said. "He's had a tough life, and a terrible childhood. Some people can overcome that, others can't."

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