Threesome face charges in beatings, burglary at horse ranch

Friday, May 3, 2002

ELSBERRY, Mo. -- After a lifetime of work devoted to the animals, it seemed fitting for William Thompson to spend his own retirement tending to the needs of retired show and race horses.

A place for older horses is just what Thompson, 61, and Kenneth Wilson, a 46-year-old accountant, created in this Lincoln County town, where they refurbished an old three-story farmhouse and opened Fieldstone Farm.

Given that venture's success, locals thought the men's caring for horses with special medical or dietary needs would put their 2,000-resident town 60 miles northwest of St. Louis on the equine map.

Things changed Tuesday morning, when police found Thompson's car in Mississippi River, about 10 miles from the farm. Arriving at the house, they discovered both men severely beaten and unresponsive in what appeared to be a burglary that turned horribly violent.

Violent attack

On Thursday, prosecutors charged three people in the case, which investigators believe netted just a diamond ring and $30 for suspects who left behind pricey vases, antiques and paintings, some left blood-spattered by the attack.

"They were looking for cash and items that could be fenced easily," said Lincoln County Prosecutor John Richards, believing the "excessive" violence reflected the suspects' mistaken assumption the farmhouse would have plenty of cash for the taking.

Tracy Lee King, 22, of St. Louis, who worked for a brief time at the farm, faces charges of assault, burglary, robbery, property damage, arson and tampering. King's estranged wife Carol King, 32, of Clarksville, faces burglary and tampering counts.

King's brother, Stephen Michael King, 26, of Elsberry, also faces charges of receiving stolen property. A juvenile, 17, is in police custody.

Thompson and Wilson, flown to a St. Louis area hospital after police found them Tuesday with severe head injuries, were upgraded Thursday from critical to serious condition. Doctors treating the men have discouraged police from interviewing the victims.

, Richards said.

The victims, Richards said, "are not in a position where we've been able to speak to them. Hopefully, that will happen, but we're going to have to wait."

On Thursday, investigators said the juvenile and Tracy and Carol King stole electronic equipment during a Monday night burglary of a Baptist church just north of Elsberry. The three, authorities said, went to Fieldstone Farms, broke in, surprised the two men and demanded cash.

Richards said the break-in apparently happened during a 90-minute window late Monday, after Thompson had a telephone conversation with a blacksmith about 9:30 p.m.

"It's our belief that (the suspects) were surprised that there were two people there," Richards said.

The suspects ransacked the house, with Tracy King starting a fire before the suspects fled with Thompson's ring after beating the victims on the head and face with a metal flashlight. Investigators later found the ring at a St. Louis pawn shop, Richards said.

With Carol King following in her car, Tracy and the juvenile drove Thompson's BMW and dumped it into the Mississippi River.

The suspects then stole cigarettes and a safe containing $1,000 from an area business, eventually hauling the safe to Stephen King's home.

Police, acting on an anonymous telephone tip, found and interviewed the juvenile Wednesday, then arrested the three adults Wednesday night.

Thompson was the former publisher of Saddle and Bridle magazine, a job he started in 1969 and retired from in 1996. Wilson is a longtime bookkeeper with the Hannibal public schools, said Superintendent John Bringer.

"He is loyal to the school district, always dependable, on time, prompt, honest. He wouldn't harm a thing," Bringer said. "We are just in a lot of sorrow."


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