An elderly Clinton woman traveled to her sister’s house in California carrying a handgun, zip ties and duct tape and a letter describing her wishes to be cremated. She then shot and killed her sibling before the gun was wrestled from her hands, according to a police report on the incident.
The motive, the report indicates, was a longtime family dispute over an inheritance.
Linda Thomas, 71, was scheduled for arraignment Friday in Richmond Superior Court in California on a murder charge in the shooting death of Zonna Thomas, 69, but a judge agreed to delay it until next week. 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.
Rachel Piersig, a deputy district attorney with the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, said Linda Thomas is also facing charges of attempted murder, burglary and two counts of elder abuse, each of which have their own special enhancements.
Linda Thomas is being held in Martinez Detention Facility. This is a special circumstances case, so no bail has been set.
According to court documents, Zonna Thomas was shot in the head with a .38 caliber handgun shortly after midnight Oct. 17 in her home in Rodeo, a small city in the San Francisco Bay Area. Linda Thomas, who had arrived at the house earlier that day from Whidbey Island, was arrested by Contra County police at the residence.
Police believe the murder was premeditated and that Linda Thomas may have also planned to kill herself. In an affidavit sent to the Island County Sheriff’s Office for two search warrants, Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office Detective Brian Holland wrote that she was taken into custody while wearing a laminated copy of her driver’s license around her neck, and a document describing funeral arrangements in the event of her death.
One option described her wishes at Visser Funeral Home if her death was “local,” saying she had a prepaid cremation insurance plan that was paid in full. The second option described how her remains should be handled if she was found dead at her sister’s home.
At the time of her arrest, police found .38 caliber ammunition, duct tape and zip ties among her belongings. Also, she was hospitalized after complaining of chest pains and a deputy overheard her tell a nurse that she “shot her sister and was going to kill herself,” Holland wrote.
According to the officer’s description of the incident, police were dispatched to the home at 12:24 a.m. for a domestic disturbance call. The 9-1-1 call was phoned in by Donald Thomas, Zonna Thomas’ husband. He told dispatchers his wife had been shot by her sister.
“While units were en route, the phone maintained an open line. Dispatchers heard a male in the background yelling that his wife was shot and ‘Why Linda, why?’” Holland wrote.
The dispatchers also heard what sounded like a male holding a female down in a physical altercation.
Donald Thomas told police later that Linda Thomas was dropped off at their home at about 11 a.m. Friday morning by two unknown subjects. They had a “pleasant” day and had dinner with family friends, Holland wrote. After the meal, he retired to a bedroom while the sisters continued to talk. At about 12:20 a.m., he heard a gunshot.
“Donald ran into the kitchen and noticed Zonna laying facedown on the kitchen floor with blood coming from her head. He then noticed Linda standing approximately five feet from him raising a handgun in his direction,” Holland wrote.
Donald Thomas reportedly wrestled the gun from Linda Thomas and held her down until police arrived.
He also alleged that Linda Thomas had a longtime dispute with himself and her sister. Linda Thomas was married to his brother, the late Richard Allen Thomas, for over 30 years and she “had removed herself from all family functions.”
“Linda was upset because she felt she should have received over $1 million from Donald’s family when his father passed away,” Holland wrote.
Linda Thomas’ mother had passed away recently and she did not return to California, and Donald Thomas said it was “strange that Linda had contacted them to come visit and then was driven to California,” according to the report.
Whidbey police could provide no additional details of the shooting, but an Island County Sheriff’s Office spokesman confirmed the department had assisted in the investigation.
“What I can tell you is we served two search warrants, one on her home and another on her car,” Detective Ed Wallace said.
Linda Thomas recently sold her house in Clinton and was preparing to move in with her daughter, who lives in the Maxwelton area, Wallace said. The search warrant was executed on that home. Officers collected specific evidence requested by the Contra Costa Sheriff’s Office. According to the affidavit, that included: any letters to the Thomas family or recorded or written threats, any computers or storage devices that may contain communications, firearms documentation “pertaining to the recent purchases, documentation or hardware pertaining to a Smith and Wesson .38 special revolver, .38 caliber ammunition,” and banking and financial information.
Linda Thomas is the widow of Richard Thomas, a longtime South Whidbey Elementary School volunteer, according to his July, 2014 obituary in The Record.
Linda Thomas was also a source in a May, 2013, Hometown Hero story, quoted as helping and playing dominoes with the elderly at Brookhaven in Langley.