Two years ago, an elderly Clinton woman shot her sister in the head with a .38 Special Ladysmith revolver and then fought ferociously with her brother-in-law over the gun for about 15 minutes before police finally arrived.
Details of the bizarre case came out in a California courtroom during the month-long trial of 74-year-old Linda Thomas. Monday, the jury in Contra Costa County found her guilty on all the charges against her, which consist of first-degree murder, attempted murder, two counts of elder abuse and burglary.
Linda Thomas is scheduled for sentencing July 24. Facing decades in prison, she will almost certainly spend the rest of her life behind bars.
Tim Thomas, the son of murder victim Zonna Thomas, said his family was in the courtroom for the verdict.
“The family feels relieved that 12 strangers agreed with the prosecutor,” he said, “and realized that Linda was lying about everything.”
Linda Thomas took the stand in her own defense, but the gamble backfired. Tim Thomas said his aunt’s contention that the shooting was an accident and that she meant to commit suicide was not believable, as were many other details of her story.
“She is manipulative and dishonest,” Tim Thomas said. “She really thought she could convince the jury she was telling the truth.”
Tim Thomas said it’s important to his family that people on Whidbey Island understand that Linda Thomas wasn’t who she seemed to be. Three people from South Whidbey testified in court about her “good” character, Tim Thomas said.
The truth, Tim Thomas said, was that she was a lifelong bully and control freak. The prosecutor argued that the case was all about money and bad blood. Linda and Zonna Thomas were married to brothers, and Linda Thomas felt she didn’t get enough of the inheritance from their parents.
She sent her sister harassing letters from 2005 until 2014, demanding more of the money.
“She was a very disturbed person who for years sent letters threatening family,” Tim Thomas said, “and then followed up on the threats.”
In the year before the murder, Linda Thomas purchased the handgun, took firearms lessons, sold her Possession Shores home and then paid for her own obituary in the South Whidbey Record. She parked her car with a suicide note inside in front of her daughter’s home on South Whidbey, according to court records.
Linda Thomas convinced a couple of South Whidbey men to let her drive with them to California, where she surprised her sister by showing up unexpectedly at her Rodeo home. She had packed a “murder bag,” Thomas said, complete with a knife, zip ties, duct tape and a chain.
Linda Thomas hid the gun in her night gown as she sneaked up behind her sister, who was walking into the kitchen shortly after midnight Oct. 17. Linda shot the 69-year-old woman in the head, killing her. Her husband heard the shot and rushed out of the bedroom to see Linda Thomas raising the gun to point it at him, according to court documents.
The two of them ended up in a life-and-death struggle over the gun, Tim Thomas said. Although Linda Thomas is elderly, she seemed possessed and surprisingly strong, his father testified. He was finally able to call 911 on a cell phone to get help. The harrowing recording of the call was played in court, according to a East Bay Times story.
One of the many unusual details of the trial, Tim Thomas said, was that Linda Thomas had over a $1 million after selling her house, but lied about her wealth and was assigned a public defender.
But strangest of all, Tim Thomas said, is the fact that his mother would be the victim of a premeditated murder. He described her as a kind and gentle woman who invited her estranged and bitter sister into her home when she showed up out of nowhere.
“My mom was the nicest person in the world,” he said, “the last person you would ever think this would happen to.”