“Frozen Tears: The Fort Leonard Wood MP Murders” is the compelling and emotional story of a triple murder that occurred on the United States Army base of Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, in 1977. The murders were committed by an on-duty military police officer.
During the overnight shift on January 12- 13, 1977, SP4 Johnny Lee Thornton, an active-duty military police officer working the game warden detail on Fort Wood, stopped a vehicle containing four young adults who were on a double date. Thornton kidnapped all four of them. Thornton immediately shot the two handcuffed boys while they were seated inside his MP vehicle. Thornton then took the two girls to a secluded cabin along a river located deep inside the 78,000-acre military base. Thornton sexually assaulted the two young ladies for several hours. Then he shot them. All four victims were dragged into the deep woods and buried in the snow.
Unfortunately for Thornton one young lady was playing dead and despite the fact she had two bullet wounds, after he left the murder site, she was able to walk some eight miles across the rugged snow-covered firing ranges on Fort Wood seeking help.
The book begins with horrific story the frozen young lady with the bullet wounds told a homeowner that afternoon. From there it moves to an emotional roadside meeting with the first law enforcement officer to investigate this case, a Missouri State Highway Patrol Trooper. That roadside interview produced enough information to start the manhunt for Johnny Lee Thornton. And that first Trooper is also the author of the book.
Following his capture later that evening federal law enforcement agencies moved into high gear to investigate the crimes. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the United States Army’s Criminal Investigation Division (CID) poured manpower and resources into the investigation and the book will give you an unprecedented look at the investigative effort. Following the work of 28 federal agents at seven crime scenes will give you a very intense look at the detailed minutia of the criminal investigation.
As a result of the outstanding assistance given to the author by the two main FBI agents and one of the primary CID agents who investigated this case an extremely detailed understanding of this criminal case is presented. Follow along from the dangerous arrest of Johnny Lee Thornton that first night to the first detailed interrogation of Thornton by the two FBI agents. In the book chapters on the actual investigation you will get a detailed look at the collection of 151 items of evidence that went to the FBI laboratory.
The book also covers in extensive detail one unrelated murder, which at the time was believed to have been committed by Thornton, where the victim’s body was found in the same area that Thornton dumped his three murder victims. A detailed study is also presented concerning the fate of two other young adults who went missing on Ft. Wood in October of 1976. Their car was first reported abandoned by Johnny Lee Thornton. Their bodies have never been found.
Thornton’s trial in federal court featured a very unusual defense presented by his attorneys. They claimed he suffered from a split personality psychiatric disorder and his evil second persona “Bad John” was able to control and dominate “Good Johnny” and force him to commit the crimes against his will. Due to the outstanding cooperation from the retired FBI agents you will read the behind-the-scenes story of exactly how the federal prosecution was able to soundly defeat the defense attempt to free Thornton due to his “psychiatric disorder.”
Recent interviews with people who played a role in the case in 1977 will add a lot of background and inside information about the case. In addition, copies of documents presented in federal court and photographs concerning the case are included in the book. One book chapter details the results of the civil suit’s filed by the parents of the victims against the United States Government.
In summary, “Frozen Tears: The Fort Wood MP murders”, presents a detailed look at all aspects of the Thornton murder case. From the horrific crimes committed, to the arrest and interrogation of Thornton, to the intense criminal investigation and the federal court trial. In the end, Johnny Lee Thornton was convicted on all four charges. Thornton currently resides at the United States Penitentiary, Tucson, Arizona. His release date is “Life.”
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