California murder was an ‘accident,’ attorney says

A defense attorney representing a Clinton woman who is accused of murdering her sister in California last year says the slaying was the result of depression and a “tragic accident.”

According to Wayne Anderson, a deputy public defender for Contra Costa County, Calif., Linda June Thomas was a “lovely and loving presence on Whidbey Island for many years” but became suicidal after the death of her husband, Richard Thomas, a longtime South Whidbey Elementary School volunteer.

“Tragically, it does seem that she suffered from depression after her husband of many years died, and reached a point where her own life without her husband did not seem worth living,” wrote Wayne in an email to the newspaper. “What occurred afterward was a result of that depression and a tragic accident.”

Wayne, in a Thursday interview with The Record, declined to elaborate on how the shooting was an “accident” or speak about the defense’s strategy.

Rachel Piersig, a deputy district attorney with the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, could not be reached for comment for this story.

Thomas, 72, is charged with murder in the Oct. 17, 2015, shooting death of her sister, 69-year-old Zonna Thomas. The charge carries three enhancements: personal and intentional discharge of a firearm for bodily harm, a special allegation for murder lying in wait and a special allegation for felony burglary resulting in murder. She is also facing charges of attempted murder, burglary and two counts of elder abuse, each of which have their own special enhancements.

She pleaded “not guilty” last year.

Investigators allege the murder was premeditated, and that the motive stemmed from a disagreement over an inheritance.

Court records indicate Linda Thomas sold her house in Possession Shores shortly before the murder occurred; she left the day the sale closed. The South Whidbey Record also discovered that she came into the newspaper’s office in Freeland a month prior to the killing and paid for her own obituary.

According to court documents, Linda Thomas traveled to her sister’s house in Rodeo, a small city in the San Francisco Bay area, on Oct. 16. The two went out to dinner with the victim’s husband, Donald Thomas, and others before going home, a police report said. Donald Thomas retired early and the sisters stayed up to talk; he woke up shortly after midnight to the sound of a gunshot, ran into the kitchen to find the victim face down on the floor with blood coming from her head.

“He then noticed Linda standing approximately five feet from him raising a handgun in his direction,” the report said.

Donald Thomas wrestled the gun away and phoned police. Investigators recovered a .38 caliber pistol from the scene and found a bag in Linda Thomas’ room with ammunition, zip ties and duct tape. She was also wearing around her neck a laminated copy of her Washington drivers license and a laminated note detailing her burial wishes, a portion of which gave specific instructions about how her remains should be handled should she be “found dead at my sister’s house, Zonna Thomas… .”

It concluded with the sentence, “Thank you, Linda June Thomas.”

A jury trial is set for April 17, 2017.

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