Bullied Into Murder


On Monday, August 22, 1955, Lancaster Sheriff’s deputies were summoned to the Thomson home at 4205 E Ave S.

The caller said:

“You’d better send someone over here because I just shot my mother.”

The dispatcher asked:

“Shall we send an ambulance?”

The caller replied:

“No. She’s dead. I’ll wait for you.”

Sheriff’s deputies rolled out to the home and found thirteen year old Jimmy Thomson waiting for them.

peer pressure headlineWhen questioned by Lt. Campbell Jimmy said that his mother, fifty-one year old Hilda Thomson, had surprised him as he was getting ready to run away from home. He’d packed his clothes and placed a plastic model airplane on top of the pile. The thirteen year old said after he and his mom had words he went into a bedroom where he grabbed a .22 rifle.

Jimmy told homicide investigators:

“First thing I knew I was shooting.”

Lt. Campell explained to reporters that it was difficult to obtain a coherent statement from Jimmy because the traumatized kid kept breaking down.

Jimmy answers questions at the Sheriff's Department

Jimmy has a burger and answers questions at the Sheriff’s Department

“He tells us only that he had decided to run away,” Lt. Campbell reported, because he wanted to prove to the ‘boys at school I’m not a sissy.'”

Campbell continued:

“Jimmy said he frequently has been tormented by other youngsters because he says, ‘I never was arrested or picked up like they were.'”

The cops had no choice but to take Jimmy to the station for further questioning. Finally, Lt. Al Etzel from Sheriff’s homicide was able to obtain a detailed statement from the boy of the events which led up to the shooting.

It was summer vacation so Jimmy spent much of the morning lying in bed. He told Lt. Etzel that he when he finally got up he decided to make some Jello — but he spilled scalding water on his leg. Forgetting about the Jello, he went outside where he immediately injured his knee.

Still smarting from the scalding water and injured knee, he went back into the house to watch TV. With only seven channels to choose from there wasn’t much to watch on the tube in 1955. I wonder if Jimmy caught the Jack McElroy show on the topic “I Cheated the Law”, or if he opted instead to watch “Queen for a Day”.

Nothing says "Queen" like a Dishmaster.

Nothing says “Queen” like a Dishmaster Deluxe.

In any case, at some point during the afternoon Jimmy made up his mind to kill his mother. He decided to shoot her because he couldn’t take the continued taunts of his schoolmates.

He explained to Lt. Etzel that some boys at school bullied him:

“They said I was square because I was never in trouble.”

Boy Kills mother. Hom Det. H A Waldrip holds 22 rifle used by Jimmy Thomson to kill Hilda Thomson

Homicide Detective H.A. Waldrip holds .22 rifle used by Jimmy Thomson to kill his mother.

After watching TV for a while the boy said that he went to his bedroom and loaded 12 cartridges into a .22-caliber lever-action rifle. He put the weapon under the bed, then he went outside to feed the animals — including his pet turtle.

He told investigators that he spent the rest of the afternoon on the telephone, making calls to a girl “to find out if she liked another boy.”

About 4:30 p.m. his mother came home. She scolded him for leaving dirty dishes in the sink. — then she sat down with the newspaper. Jimmy went into his bedroom and retrieved the rifle. He returned, raised his rifle and fired once. Hilda slumped over. He fired twice more.

Hilde Thomson's body examined by Deputy Sheriff Kipp and Det. H.A. Waldrip of Sheriff's Homicide

Hilde Thomson’s body examined by Deputy Sheriff Kipp and Det. H.A. Waldrip of Sheriff’s Homicide

Lt. Etzel said that the first bullet entered Hilde’s left temple. The other two struck the top of her head.

Jimmy set his rifle aside and examined his mother. It was then that he decided to run away from home. He was going to steal a car “to go camp out in the High Sierra.”

But he thought it over, he said, and called deputies.

Juvenile authorities required Jimmy to undergo a series of physical, psychiatric and psychological tests before they could decide how to handle his case. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any follow-up on Jimmy’s story in the Los Angeles Times. I hope that he got the help he needed.

In the 58 years since Jimmy shot his mother to death very little seems to have changed — as a way to deal with the pressure of being bullied children continue to act out in ways that often have tragic and far-reaching consequences.

 NOTE: Many thanks to Mike Fratantoni for assisting me with this sad tale.

6 thoughts on “Bullied Into Murder

  1. Well, I guess he showed the kids at school! I agree with you Joan, I hope he got the help he needed. Thanks for another great story!

    • Sherry – I felt bad for the kid; he behaved impulsively and he’d have to live with the consequences. What a huge burden for a thirteen year old.

  2. How very sad. I hope he got the help he needed and what about his father where was he? I have been meaning to ask you if you have written any books if you have please let me know I would love to buy them I look forward to your posts all the time.

    • Mireya – A very sad story. His dad and his older brother were both at work when the shooting occurred. I’m working on a book right now — two, actually. I’m writing one of my own and I’m editing crime scene photos for a book with James Ellroy and the L.A. Police Museum. Thank you for the kind words, I’ll keep you posted on the projects.

  3. seems kind of strange there’s no conclusion to this given the nature of the crime,even though juvenile records are supposed to be sealed,it seems like the newspapers always got the “money shot” picture like the one of this poor kid with the greasy hamburger bag,he looks shell-shocked….it reminds of the picture the newspaper photographer took of Ellroy when they told him his mother was murdered,given the draconian justice system of the time,one can only HOPE he got the psychological (obviously) help he needed,and wasn’t warehoused in some juvenile facility and turned loose even worse than he went in

    • Devlin – I was surprised when I looked for a follow-up and there wasn’t one. Sometimes though the papers went with the most sensational part of the story and that was it. The relationship between reporters and cops was so different then — reporters even had desks in local cop shops. That shot of James you mention is a perfect example of the kind of access reporters had. James said that he wasn’t even in his own garage, the photo was totally staged. I hope Jimmy got help too — he didn’t seem like an inherently bad kid, just a confused one.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *