(Introduction to show begins)
TODD MATTHEWS (Missing Pieces Host): This is Missing Pieces. I’m Todd Matthews and tonight we have Paula McKnight. How are you doing Paula?
PAULA McKNIGHT (Guest and mother of Raymond Paul Thomas): I’m doing fine, thank you.
TODD: Now where are you talking to me from?
PAULA: I’m talking to you from Missouri.
TODD: Okay. How was the weather there today? It was really warm here in Tennessee.
PAULA: Well, it was warm but it was supposed to rain today.
TODD: We always talk about the weather.
TODD: Okay, you are the mother of Raymond Paul Thomas, and we’re going to call him Paul throughout the rest of this broadcast, and on August 19, 1993, Paul’s truck broke down on the corner of Highway 44 Junction. He walked to his uncle’s home for assistance but his uncle was not home, and then what happened?
PAULA: He was walking in that approximate direction.
PAULA: The area had changed so much since Paul had been to his uncle’s and Paul couldn’t recognize the location anymore because there had been so many changes. I was living in Melville, (Louisiana), which is about 75 miles north of there…
TODD: Uh huh.
PAULA: …and the next morning when I got up, there was a phone call; my little sister was on the phone talking to someone and once she got off the telephone, she told me that there had been an accident. And, you know, I thought maybe Paul had had a car wreck or something, and I said, “Well, where is he? What do I need to do? Let’s go do this.” And finally, my little sister just looked at me, and she said, “Paula, there’s no easy way to tell you that Paul is dead,” and I just…I had a cup of coffee in my hand and I remember glass shattering, and I remember stumbling back into the dining room, we had a loveseat, and I remember stumbling back onto it and hitting my head on the brick wall. And I was…
TODD: It’s hard, I know, and it’s okay. Just take your time.
PAULA: It was horrible, and I was trying to pack to get ready to go down there and all of a sudden I remember hearing someone screaming at the top of their lungs, and my father came running into the room, and I realized it was me, I realized that I was the person screaming. Paul was 21 years old.
TODD: Uh huh.
PAULA: And his brother was at school and we had to go get him to take him down there with us to Gonzales, and my brother had gone to try to identify the body. Paul had gotten a couple of new tattoos and my brother didn’t know about them, and he said that the body was so bloated that he couldn’t identify him, and Paul had been taken to Earl K. Long Hospital for the autopsy. I remember we were trying to make arrangements for the funeral and I still hadn’t seen him yet, and I kept hoping and praying it wasn’t him, and when we got to the funeral home, I walked into the back where his body was and they pulled back the sheet covering him and I started screaming at the top of my lungs. I went to hold him and my brother-in-law grabbed my arms to hold me back and he said, “You can’t hold him Paula,” and the guy told me that he might come apart in my arms because of the autopsy and how much damage to his body had been done. Anyway, they let me kiss him and from there, it was just an endless nightmare for me. I got to talking to the detectives, working with them, answering questions later on after the funeral, and the regular detective was Detective Lynn Calamia from State Police Troop A, and Trooper William R. Davis from Troop A, because the accident, a supposed hit-and-run, happened on a state highway. Even though it was in Ascension Parish, it was under state police jurisdiction. Now, when Paul was killed, the road where he was killed…
TODD: Uh huh.
PAULA: …that section of LA Highway 42, east of LA Highway 44, at the time of the accident, was closed to through traffic. The road was closed on LA 42, west of LA 933, due to road repair because the bridge was out so the only people that could have been in that location were local people. I have reports of people hearing dogs barking, at 2 o’clock in the morning, a guy said he heard dogs barking and he couldn’t see what they were barking at, but when he went outside to go to work at 5:30 a.m., he heard someone yell. He said he thought someone was yelling at the dogs to be quiet. And then, earlier in the morning, there was a lady who heard someone, some type of noise at possibly 4 a.m., but she couldn’t see what it was. Later we discovered that she heard him calling for help. He called for help 3 times, each time weaker than the first, and the next morning, a witness, I can’t tell you his name, he was backing out of this driveway and he had a dead body at the end of his driveway. It looked like it had been there for a while; the blood was dried, and it was a male victim…
TODD: Uh huh.
PAULA: According to some reports, they claim that Paul was laying in the road; Paul was not laying in the road, not of his own choice, he was not laying in the road, of his will. Paul, he wouldn’t have done that, not lay down in the middle of the road. They found his truck, which had broken down. I have reports where a sheriff’s deputy had spoken to Paul during the night as he was walking. The sheriff’s deputy who spoke to my son that night said that he was not intoxicated or on drugs. It states clearly in the report, “His speech was good, he was very coherent and answered questions with no problem.” The only media ever involved concerning this case, was when they were asking for information about his death.
TODD: Now you say that law enforcement spoke to him that night, when he was already out, did they not assist him or…?
PAULA: No, they didn’t. There was a burglary; an alarm went off where Paul was at, where he was close to…
TODD: Uh huh.
PAULA: …the deputy left him there, on foot, and when they returned, it was later on that they found him dead.
TODD: How far is this from where you lived? You indicated that you had to pack.
PAULA: I’m sorry?
TODD: You indicated that you had to pack for the trip down there.
PAULA: Yeah, it was 75 miles from where he was at.
PAULA: He had been living in Baton Rouge, and I had been living in Melville, Louisiana. The only other publicity to his case was his obituary, articles I ran in the paper asking for help and things like that. No response ever came. Police officers tried telling me he was drunk and all that stuff, and I know that’s not true because of the reports that I have in front of me right now.
TODD: Uh huh. Well, even if he were drunk at the time, that doesn’t change the fact of what happened to him.
PAULA: Right. They arrived at the place where the alarm went off at 12:57 a.m., they checked the building, nothing was done there and they left. And the other guy waited for the key off the other deputy, but what happened, you know, why did they leave Paul there? Why didn’t they take him with them or give him some assistance or something? They didn’t offer him a ride or anything.
TODD: Have you been able to see the written report where all of this was gathered up?
PAULA: I’m sorry?
TODD: Have you been able to see a written report where they actually saw him and wrote up this whole incident? Were you able to see that or do you have a copy of that?
PAULA: I have this in front of me as we speak.
TODD: Okay, because that can be handy.
PAULA: I have all those reports.
TODD: Now, the trauma and the injuries, and you know I understand that the first thing somebody wants to do is hold somebody that they love, and I understand that completely, but it sounds like his injuries were really significant and then he was probably alive for a period of time and was able to call out.
PAULA: Paul’s right leg was almost completely severed from his body.
PAULA: He had blood in his urine, blood in his scrotum, blood in his penis, and in his kidneys. He had several fractures. We have reports from the ME and everything. His sinus cavity was split open from the left eye right down to the right of his face down half the sinus cavity. He had indentions above the right eye. He had one tooth knocked out. His hands were mangled or something, injured. He had a fracture of the right hand and the right thigh, and the nasal septum. He had multiple lacerations and abrasions on the head, chest, right side of the abdomen, right thigh and leg, and the back. Cerebral edema, marked pulmonary congestion and edema. Cause of death: Multiple fractures and lacerations.
TODD: Well, they’re calling it a vehicular accident, were they able to describe how he was actually struck with this vehicle? Was it from behind, the front, because I’m seeing here that he could have been hit repeatedly by an unknown object?
PAULA: No, they have never been able to determine which way he was hit.
TODD: Do you feel like they were really working on the case? I mean, that’s been 15 years now, nearly.
PAULA: Yeah, August 19th will be 15 years. No, they have not been working the case. The case has been a cold case for a reason. The law enforcement that I was working with at the time, I was helping them, and I had several attempts made on my life and people following me and things of this nature and I reported this to them and I met them at a restaurant. They informed me then to, “Back off or I would be next.” I will be the next body they will find.
TODD: The police told you this?
PAULA: Yes, sir. And I had another child to raise…
TODD: Uh huh.
PAULA: …and I sat in the car and I cried, and I told them, “Yeah, I better back off. You guys are not going to do another blessed thing.”
TODD: So you were supposed to just…and I’m very pro law enforcement, but I know that there are instances where things have not been fully followed up on as they should be, so you’re supposed to just accept what’s happened, don’t cause any problems, and you’ll make it yourself, right?
PAULA: Right, that’s their idea. Just leave it alone, go on without it, get over it, but I’m his mother, I gave birth to him.
TODD: Now if they were so certain that you could be next, did they have any idea of who might have caused this?
PAULA: Oh, they told me I was getting too close. Now, my brother and his wife, and Paul’s girlfriend were in motel room, Motel 6 on Steven Lane, in Baton Rouge, the night Paul was killed…
TODD: Uh huh.
PAULA: …Paul’s girlfriend was the one who called Paul to get him to go on an errand or something that caused Paul to go out that night. Paul had no intention of leaving the house on Flannery Road where he was staying. His girlfriend called whooping and hollering, from what I understand and cussing, so he told her he didn’t have the gas and he was going to see if he could get some gas money, and that’s all I know other than the fact that they found the truck. Now, another thing, and unfortunately the police don’t know this, my brother has told me several times, you know, I told him what the sheriff’s department had asked me, and they had asked me how would I feel if I found out my brother knew something or had something to do with it, and I’m not going to repeat my answer to that, but I told them they would have to have concrete proof on that. And later on, in 1996, I mentioned this to my brother, and I told him about it and I asked him, I said, “Now if you know anything about this, and you’re not telling me, so help me God, you’re going to wish to God you had.” And he got irate with me and swore at me and since I’ve been up here in Missouri, he’s been up here as well and he has told me several times that if he hears one more thing about him having anything to do with this or knows anything about this, that he will come after me.
TODD: Well do you think his reaction should be, “What makes them think that I have anything to do with this?”
PAULA: Right. And he told me that he would come after me and I told him it would be a short trip, so he made terrible comments of this nature to me, and when no one else would be around and I just stepped up to him and told him, “Bring it on.”
TODD: Now, this is your brother, now you have to know him really well, this is your brother; what does this indicate to you?
PAULA: That he might know something, I mean, I don’t know. To me, I’m really not certain. I’m honestly not certain what it means, but I think he may know something or, if not him, I know for a fact his wife does.
TODD: Well, what do you think his fear is? Do you think his fear is that he could possibly get hurt because of it, or he doesn’t want you to know his involvement or what? You have to know, you’re his sister, you’re hurting, of course you’re going to ask questions, right?
PAULA: Right. Right, because this is my son. I don’t know his reason for this but my brother is heavily into drugs and things of this nature, and so is his wife, and come to find out, so was Paul’s girlfriend. We had one incident where we were talking to an individual and he told us that Paul was killed as a message to Paul’s girlfriend because she was hiding out from them because she owed a lot of money, and when I spoke to the detective about this later, they said, “Oh, that’s just somebody trying to get somebody else in trouble because they’re mad at them.”
TODD: Where is she at now?
PAULA: I’m sorry?
TODD: Where is the girlfriend at? Where is she now?
PAULA: As far as I know, she’s in Louisiana. I’m trying to locate her now. I know where the other one is. I know where my brother’s wife is.
TODD: Now, this has been so many years ago now, do you feel like a lot of evidence is gone, possibly?
PAULA: Yeah, I do. I do. As a matter of fact, when I talked to the police about getting copies of the pictures that they took at the site for Paul…
TODD: Uh huh.
PAULA: …they told me that usually after 5 years, those photos are destroyed. And I said, “How can you destroy evidence on a case that’s still open?”
TODD: And you’re not the first one to tell me something like that, I’ve heard that on many, many occasions with cases that I’ve tried to gather data and the first problem I have is, “Okay, where’s the data?” and nobody seems to have it anymore, so that’s telling me it’s in the hands of somebody that’s supposed to be looking at it as a cold case, well they’re not, because it’s gone.
TODD: So all this time that you had your hopes that somebody was looking into something, you find you were painfully, very wrong.
PAULA: Right. It’s been a painful reminder to me of everything that goes on, you know, I can’t get past this. You know, I want to know. I have a right to know what happened to my son. Why? Who did this? Why aren’t the police investigating this? Why aren’t they working on it? These are things I want to know. No one has the right to take another human’s life; I don’t care who you are. I believe in capital punishment, yes, but to commit cold-blooded murder, no, I don’t. I don’t believe that that person has the right to take another human’s life.
TODD: Now, in your opinion, what do you think happened that night? Do you believe…now you’ve got the series of event, we know what’s been written down in the police report, and we’ll try to get as much of that to put on your page here at Missing Pieces as we can without interfering with the case, or be accused of interfering with the case, but we’re trying to get together a little bit of a timeline. What do you think?
PAULA: I think that they may have an idea of who killed him but don’t have the concrete enough proof to prove it yet. I don’t know.
TODD: And it doesn’t look like they’re going to get it either, at the rate they’re going with it.
PAULA: I’m sorry?
TODD: I said, they’re not going to get it either, at this rate.
PAULA: Right, if they’re not working the case, they’re not going to get it. They’re not out there actively looking, I mean they told us that they had checked all the local body shops in the area, you know…
TODD: Uh huh.
PAULA: …for automobiles that had damage to the front end or something, well, my uncle has one of the biggest body shops, and most popular with a good reputations; they’re in Gonzales and when this came up and I spoke to my uncle about it, he said, “Bull, they did not talk to us” and he went and spoke to all his people that worked for him at a time, and, no, the police had not been by there. And he was right there within that radius where they should have been talking to auto-body shops.
TODD: So maybe they did one or two and then kind of tapered off their search.
TODD: Now, the law enforcement officers that worked on it initially back in l993, are some of the same people still there today?
PAULA: Yes. Do you need to know where they are?
TODD: No, just if they are; so there are still some people there that remember the time period.
PAULA: Most of them are still there.
TODD: So it’s not like it fell between the cracks with new people there and they just don’t know about it or whatever; these are people that know.
PAULA: Right. Now the two original detectives are in different departments now but, yeah, they’re still with the state police.
TODD: Okay, and media wise, now the original is the only time that this has been put into the media?
TODD: Now, do you watch the media in that area for other similar cases? Now that you’ve gotten online, you decided eventually, you took your story to the Internet, to MySpace.
TODD: And did things change when you did this?
TODD: Okay, now what were some of the first changes that you noticed when you took your story online?
PAULA: People started coming in and making comments. People were outraged about it. I have a petition online for this and we have a lot of signatures, but we don’t have near as many as we need.
--TODD: Okay, your petition, we’ll add it at this point in the interview. (http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/justice-for-paul-thomas.html) We’ll actually have it on your page. What does your petition say?
PAULA: It talks about Paul’s death, about how he was killed, and the fact that it is a cold case that has fallen through the cracks and that the police are not working on it, and that I want justice for my child and myself. And it talks about some of the injuries that he sustained and things like this, and I petitioned the Louisiana State Police to rework this case and find a detective and get it in motion again.
TODD: So specifically to ask them to really, officially, visually reopen this case.
PAULA: And to work on it, for once.
TODD: Now what about…has there been a reward situation offered for this case?
PAULA: I’m not in a position to do that, you know, I wish I could put up a reward. I’ve always wanted to put up a reward but I don’t have the funds to do this.
TODD: So many of you in are that position. There are a lot of people, and that seems to be the ones that can’t get anywhere because they don’t have the ability to offer a reward.
TODD: Do you feel like if you had the money for a reward, that it could possibly make a difference?
PAULA: Oh, yes. If I had the money for the reward to be posted, yes, I do believe someone would come forward and talk.
TODD: Money talks often, right?
PAULA: Money talks; everything else walks.
TODD: Now, your other son, tell me about him.
PAULA: I’m sorry?
TODD: Your other son; you have one more son, he’s an adult too now obviously.
PAULA: Yeah, he’s with me here and he wants answers; we both do, and the rest of my family, we want to know what’s going on, why this has happened and why they’re not working on the case. We want answers. We want to know and we want justice. We deserve justice and we want it.
TODD: If I was a private investigator working on this case, the first thing I would want to see is the documents that you have, all the information and you know, of course, there are timelines created so that you can wrap your mind around exactly what happened, and who was there when all of these events occurred. So you’re prepared to have all that data ready, what you have of it, should we be able to find somebody to help us piece this all together then.
PAULA: Yes, I have the documents and information, some of it is missing pieces, notes I made during the course of time when I was working and trying to help the police department, the state police. I have reports; I have everything.
TODD: Okay, and we’ll try to put as many of them that are not something sensitive that we can’t put on the case file page, but we’ll try to put as many of them on this page as possible so that people that might be in a position to help can see it and understand exactly what happened. Now, what about other cases? Does this seem to be a common way of getting rid of somebody down there?
PAULA: I’m sorry?
TODD: You know, just running over somebody, does that happen a lot in that area? Have you noticed other cases similar to this in the newspapers?
PAULA: There have been a few instances; not many. There have been a few murders down in that area but that was inside city limits; what happened to my son was outside the city’s jurisdiction and fell on state police but, yeah, there are unsolved cases down there all the time.
TODD: It would be interesting to try to get, not that we’re going to say that they are connected, but just to look at the possibility that some of them could be connected. So if you see any similar events that have happened, especially in particular, along that time period, maybe if you could try to work on that. If you’re online, you can get to these cases through information on the Internet, maybe you could start gathering some of that data, and that’s going to give you something to do that could actually affect the outcome of this.
PAULA: All right.
TODD: Other things that could be potentially tied into it.
PAULA: All right.
TODD: So that’s a really important step.
PAULA: I’ll begin looking into all that.
TODD: And we’re going to try to put together a timeline with the dates, if you could help us with that. And the hardest thing of trying to sell something like this to the media, and I don’t mean to physically sell it for money, I mean selling them on the idea, “Hey, this is a good story to run,” it’s to break it down and make it as easy for them to understand as possible. And, usually, I’m looking at these cases, and until I have an hour-long conversation with somebody like you, it just all runs together and I’m thinking, “I can’t make heads or tails of this.” If you’re a reporter, often you have a need for a story, I bet you can put together with the path of least resistance if you try to get something and you’ve got to make it easy for people to wrap their minds around it, so that’s what we’re going to try to do with this. We’ve got plain talk in this interview and hopefully we’ll give them some plain information on it so that they can understand it and work with it easily.
PAULA: Thank you, Todd.
TODD: And a lot of emotions are tied up in these things; it’s easier for somebody to read it from a distance instead of talking to you, and then decide, “Can I help this lady?”
TODD: And your page will remain here forever; for as long as we can make it stay online, we’ll leave it online so that it will be something for you to use as a reference.
PAULA: Thank you, Todd.
TODD: Hopefully we can build with it and try to at least give you something to go forward with and to add to your MySpace page, and as you’ll see on your website, on your page for this, there is actually an icon for Paul Thomas that’s actually one of the banners that you can put on MySpace. You can ask your friends to put it there, they’ll be able to immediately go back to your page so that they can read your information, and if there is any update we’ll add it.
PAULA: Thanks, Todd.
TODD: But we’ll do our best to try to put this together for you.
TODD: And that’s the important thing, try to get a lot of people to use the same piece of reference so that they can actually say, “Okay, this is your written word here,” and you know they’re hearing what we’re saying right now too; this is all part of it.
TODD: They’re seeing how we’re trying to build this make something usable out of it so that we can push it forward in the media, and we’ll definitely work on some updates with this.
TODD: Hopefully we’ll make some progress on it.
PAULA: And I’ll work on the timelines; see what I can come up with.
TODD: And that’s good to give the family something to do, not just something that’s going to just keep you busy, but something that’s going to be of value, and I think this will be of value, to get your stuff together and clean it up as much as possible and just try to make something we can go by on it.
PAULA: Yes, I have Nancy to help me with a lot of this.
TODD: Yeah, we have Nancy now; she’s a lady that has helped us a lot with Missing Pieces. She’s sent a lot of people our way and she knows that we’re trying to find…often, usually, a lot of times we’ll use people that have actually had some resolution in their case, to use as an example, so that you can show the world what you’re capable of doing when you put your mind to it. But often she helps us find people like you, the most forgotten, the most difficult to deal with situations, so that we can try to re-hydrate it and put it back together into a form that people can understand again. So, hopefully, this will be enough to help jumpstart where you’re going.
PAULA: Yeah, that’s what she and I have been trying to work on is trying to get everything hydrated and in the water as much as possible.
TODD: Well, I think that we’ve got a good start on it, so we will tell everybody goodnight for tonight. You and I are going to talk a little while longer after we sign off and we will do our best.
PAULA: All right.
TODD: All right. Goodnight, everybody.
PAULA: Goodnight, everyone.
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