Southwest Virginia Regional Jail inmate indicted on charges of aggravated malicious wounding
By Claire Galofaro
Published: October 27, 2010
ABINGDON, Va. – A man called Snake, who killed three people during a shooting spree through Buchanan County last summer, is now accused of shanking another inmate with a sawed-down plastic toothbrush.
Frank Carl Thomas Jr. was indicted Tuesday in Washington County on charges of aggravated malicious wounding and being a prisoner in possession of a dangerous instrument.
On June 27, Thomas was at the Southwest Virginia Regional Jail in Abingdon awaiting a capital murder trial. According to the sheriff’s office, he shared a cell block with a man he “didn’t like,” who had already been convicted on two counts of sodomizing a family member.
The toothbrush shank was crafted inside the jail and, according to court documents, Thomas used it to stab his co-inmate “three times in the head.”
The man was taken to the hospital, treated and sent back to jail.
Four days later, Thomas signed a plea deal that sent him to prison for life at least a dozen times over. He pleaded guilty in Buchanan County to 14 charges, including car jacking, armed robbery and capital murder. He dodged the death penalty in the deal, but was sentenced to 10 consecutive life terms, plus 108 years. He also was convicted in federal court for possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, distributing cocaine and distributing oxycodone, and sentenced to another 30 years.
The federal gun charge concerned the weapon Thomas used to shoot Roger and Janice Justice and Timothy Dale Blankenship on Knox Creek Road in Hurley, Va.
On the morning of Aug. 6, the Justices were found shot to death in their home. Twelve hours later and a mile down the road, Timothy Dale Blankenship was found with a gunshot wound to the head.
The motive was never entirely clear. Buchanan County Commonwealth’s Attorney Tamara Neo said it was drug related – that Thomas was attempting to get OxyContin at the time of the shootings. But the small town of Hurley roared with rumors of a hit-list – that Thomas was systematically eliminating those he thought had somehow wronged him. He was arrested the next morning at his mother’s house on Coon Branch Road.
Thomas is scheduled for a jury trial at 9 a.m. Dec. 3 on the charges stemming from the incident in the jail.
About 60 others also were indicted Tuesday by a Washington County Grand Jury. The majority are facing drug, theft and fraud charges.
At least two people were indicted for trying to take stuff from Washington County Sheriff’s deputies.
According to court records, on Aug. 18, 2009, a sheriff’s deputy set up a $300 camera on Toole Creek Road to watch for illegal dumping. Three days later, the camera turned up missing. A full year later, on Aug. 30, the deputy found the camera at an Abingdon pawn shop and a Trout Road man’s name was on the ticket.
Chris Mitchell was indicted Tuesday on a charge of grand larceny.
Denver Rife, of Hillman Highway in Abingdon, was indicted for disarming a law enforcement officer.
According to court documents, Rife went to an Abingdon wrecker garage and started telling the employees “that he was going to kill them.” When a deputy arrived, Rife told him that “he was going to kill everyone,” then grabbed the officer’s shirt, pushed him and tried, unsuccessfully, to get his gun.
A North Carolina man was indicted on rape charges after he was accused of raping a woman who was passed out in a sleeping bag during trail days.
Jonathan Karl Bailey, of Rutherfordton, N.C., was charged with rape by force or threat.
According to court records, onlookers saw a man pull a sleeping bag up over a woman’s head and, while she mumbled “stop,” he said “who cares if she’s passed out.” He was asleep behind the passed out woman, whose pants were around her ankles, when the Damascus chief of police arrived.
Bailey is scheduled for trial at 9 a.m. Nov. 22.
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