Saturday, May 1, 1993

Murder of Kim Thompson-Wright - Trooper Douglas Wright

Also See:

Trooper Douglas Wright - Murdered ex-wife Kim Thompson

Ex-officer Charged With Murder

August 06, 2002
By Kenneth Lim Staff Writer

Boynton Beach — A former Michigan state trooper was arrested at his Boynton Beach home on Monday in connection with the fatal shooting of his estranged wife more than nine years ago in Michigan.

Douglas J. Wright, 50, was arrested without incident on charges of murder and using a firearm. He was taken to Palm Beach County Jail and is to appear in court today.

05011993 - Trooper Douglas Wright - Murder of ex-wife Kim Thompson




On May 1, 1993 Genesse County Sheriff deputies received a call from the home of Kimberly Thompson- Wright [a dispatcher for the Flint Police Department]...

...Kimberly's ex-husband Douglas Wright, [a former Michigan State Police Trooper], informed dispatch that Kimberly had shot herself.

When Sheriff deputies arrived at Kimberly's home, they found Kimberly dead on a couch in the basement...a bullet wound to her chest.

Former Trooper Wright informed the sheriff deputies, that he had gone to his ex-wife's home earlier to discuss their impending divorce. He took with him his brief case that contained:

Divorce papers...

...Two bottles of Black Velvet Whiskey...


According to former State Trooper Wright, he and Kimberly "drank hard, then fought even harder"

Wright claims that he then went outside to cool off for a bit and cleaned up the backyard [leaving his briefcase with his gun downstairs with Kimberly].

When he went back downstairs, Wright said he discovered that Kimberly had shot herself [with his gun]...He claimed he never heard the gunshot [as he was outside].

Wright claimed he attempted to give Kimberly CPR....He hid the liquor bottles...and wrapped his gun in a blanket...For a seasoned law enforcement officer, Wright had knowingly contaminated the scene.

The medical examiner concluded the evidence was conflicting and declined to say whether Kimberly's death was a suicide or a homicide...

Former State Trooper Wright was not charged with the murder of his ex-wife Kimberly in 1993. Wright continued to work in law enforcement after Kimberly's death...

Wright worked for the Holly Police Department [after Kimberly's murder]....

...and then Wright was employed by the Gaines Township police department [after Kimberly's murder].

And then Wright moved to Boynton Beach Florida with his [and Kimberly's] son.

In 2000, newly elected Genesee County Sheriff Robert Pickell decided to reopen cold homicide files.

The first case that came to mind for Undersheriff James Gage, was the death of Flint PD Dispatcher Kimberly Thompson Wright. Undersheriff Gage had previously been Trooper Douglas Wright's supervisor at the Flint Michigan State Police Post.

Sheriff Pickell assigned the case to Detective David Dwyre. In a taped interview, Wright now claimed that he was inside the house when he heard the shot fired by Kimberly: "I get into the stairwell and I hear a gunshot."

Detective Dwyre asked Wright, "Were you afraid that she was coming after you to shoot you?"

Wright replied, "No, that never...thought never entered into my head."

Detective Dwyre asked Wright, "Well, what did you do?"

Wright's response was, "Well I went outside, and I played..."

With the statement obtained by Detective Dwyre, placing Wright in the house at the time Kimberly was shot and killed, the Genesee County Prosecutor's Office authorized criminal charges against Wright.

In August 2002, Wright was arrested on murder and weapon charges in the MURDER of Kimberly Thompson- Wright.

In 2003, Former Michigan State Trooper Douglas Wright was tried for the murder of his ex-wife, Kimberly.

He was found guilty of murdering Kimberly. Wright was sentenced to 25- 50 years in prison.

Former State Trooper Douglas Wright murdered his ex- wife, Kimberly. For almost ten years, he got away with her murder by covering it up as a suicide. Life for Wright was a beach.

Life for Wright will surely be a 'beach' now, thanks to the dedication of Sheriff Pickell, Undersheriff Gage, Detective Dwyre, and others in law enforcement and the Prosecutor's Office. They insured that Wright did not escape justice in the murder of Kimberly Thompson - Wright.

Michigan Offender Tracking Information System
MDOC Number: 459658
SID Number: 2313520P
Racial Identification: White
Gender: Male
Hair: Gray
Eyes: Hazel
Height: 6' 4"
Weight: 210 lbs.
Date of Birth: 05/02/1952 (59)

MDOC STATUSCurrent Status: Prisoner
Assigned Location: Lakeland Correctional Facility
Security Level: II
Earliest Release Date: 12/01/2024
Maximum Discharge Date: 04/01/2045



Sentence 1

Offense: Homicide - Murder, Second Degree
MCL#: 750.317
Court File#: 02010836-FC-N
County: Genesee
Conviction Type: Jury
Minimum Sentence: 25 years 0 months 0 days
Maximum Sentence: 50 years 0 months
Date of Offense: 05/01/1993
Date of Sentence: 06/25/2003

Sentence 2
Offense:Weapons - Felony Firearms
MCL#: 750.227BA
Court File#: 0201836-FC-N
County: Genesee
Conviction Type: Jury
Minimum Sentence: 2 years 0 months 0 days
Maximum Sentence: 2 years 0 months
Date of Offense: 05/01/1993
Date of Sentence: 06/25/2003

Ex-officer Charged With Murder
August 06, 2002
By Kenneth Lim Staff Writer

Boynton Beach — A former Michigan state trooper was arrested at his Boynton Beach home on Monday in connection with the fatal shooting of his estranged wife more than nine years ago in Michigan.

Douglas J. Wright, 50, was arrested without incident on charges of murder and using a firearm. He was taken to Palm Beach County Jail and is to appear in court today

Cold Case Files:
Case #2: The Bad Cop

On the night of May 1, 1993, police in Fenton, Michigan are called to the home of Kimberly Wright. The cause? A reported suicide. But, what officials find when they arrive on the scene is confounding. Kimberly’s estranged husband, a former state trooper, has completely contaminated the scene. The victim’s body has been moved, the weapon cleaned and other evidence packed away. Detectives immediately suspect Doug Wright of murder, but with no hard evidence and an inconclusive determination from the medical examiner, the investigation simply stalls.

Eight years later, a new sheriff and his team take a fresh look at Kimberly Wright’s case and determine the only way to shake up their number one suspect is to get him talking. This time a battle of wills is in order. But what will it take to prove that Doug Wright is really THE BAD COP?

Cold Case Files - A Sister Lost; Rumors of Murder
Aired on Sunday, Mar 14, 2010 (3/14/2010) at 12:00 PM

KURTIS: In Fenton, Michigan, what was once a marriage is now a battleground. Doug and Kimberly Wright are separated and well on their way to a divorce. They fight tooth and nail over everything: the house, the alimony, and custody of their young son. On the evening of May 1, 1993, a call comes in to Genesee County 911 from Kimberly Wright's home. It's Doug Wright. He tells police his wife has shot herself.

KURTIS: Deputy Doug Sepanak is the first officer to arrive at the Wright home.

DEPUTY DOUG SEPANAK: Doug Wright met me at the door, and when you're a police officer, there's certain things you'll key in on that will throw up little flags so that you know what to watch out for. When I shook his hand, his hands were all wet still. He told me he just washed his hands.

KURTIS: Sepanak thinks washing ones hands should be the last thing on Doug Wright's mind. He recognizes Wright as a former Michigan state trooper recently fired for discipline problems. The officer asks where Wright's wife might be found. He leads the way downstairs to a rec room in the basement.

DEPUTY DOUG SEPANAK: And lying on the couch was Kim. She had a hole in her shirt about the mid-sternum area.

KURTIS: Wright tells Sepanak he tried to resuscitate Kimberly by performing CPR on the couch-- a fact that doesn't sit well with the deputy.

DEPUTY DOUG SEPANAK: One of the first things they teach you in CPR is you do it on a hard surface, and the couch is no place to do CPR.

KURTIS: For Sepanak, the facts inside Kimberly Wright's home are not necessarily making sense. He calls in forensics to process the scene as a possible homicide and asks Doug Wright to come down to the station. Just a few hours after the death of his wife, Doug Wright sits down with detective Ives Potrafka. Wright says he went to Kimberly's house to talk about their pending divorce. He brought with him his briefcase containing divorce papers, a nine-millimeter Sig Sauer pistol, and two bottles of Black Velvet whiskey.

DETECTIVE POTRAFKA: You wouldn't think a person, if they wanted a serious discuss, would bring a lot of liquor with them. And I would not have thought he would have been bringing a weapon with him in his briefcase. That seems a little unusual.

KURTIS: Wright says he and Kimberly drank hard, then fought even harder. At one point, according to Wright, he went outside to cool off, leaving Kimberly alone with his gun and the whiskey. Wright claims he was outside for about 40 minutes, moved a lawn tractor, and cleaned up the yard a bit. Then Wright went back inside and found Kimberly, his gun in her hand, and a hole in her chest. According to Wright, he never heard a shot fired.

DEPUTY DOUG SEPANAK: Did not hear the shot-- that was his statement.

KURTIS: Upon finding the body, Wright claims he panicked, moved Kimberly, and tried CPR, wrapped the murder weapon in a towel so his son couldn't get at it, put away the whiskey bottles. In short, Wright, an experienced police officer, thoroughly contaminated the scene.

DEPUTY DOUG SEPANAK: A law-enforcement officer that has been in any kind of crime scene knows you don't move anything, period. You just move nothing. He should have known better. He just should have known better. It should have been instinct, being in law enforcement 20 years.

KURTIS: Though Doug Wright's story bothers Potrafka, he knows it doesn't provide enough evidence to support a charge of murder. The detective hopes Kimberly's autopsy, scheduled for the next morning, will help clarify matters. Dr. Qazi Azher does between five and ten autopsies per week. On the morning of May 2, he looks at the body of Kimberly Wright. The gunshot wound that killed Wright is in the upper abdomen, just below the rib cage. The critical question before Dr. Azher: Is this a suicide or a homicide?

DR. QAZI AZHER: About 80% of the people, if they use a handgun, they shoot to the head, and the rest of the people shoot to the chest, towards the left side because they know that the heart is on the left side. So in this case, why she selected an area which is difficult to reach and difficult to shoot-- so that created a doubt in me.

KURTIS: A strange shot for a suicide, but by no means impossible. Next, Azher moves to toxicology. Tests show Kimberly Wright's blood alcohol content to be .4%-- a huge amount of liquor-- which makes Azher wonder if Kim Wright was sober enough to even pull the trigger. On the other hand, alcohol is a key ingredient in most suicides. Azher concludes the evidence is conflicting and declines to say whether this case is a suicide or a homicide.

DR. QAZI AZHER: I will leave this as indeterminate, and maybe in the future we will have some more clues and some more information which could lead to the correct manner of death.

KURTIS: Azher's finding doesn't help Potrafka, who believes the totality of evidence points strongly towards murder staged as a suicide.

DETECTIVE POTRAFKA: When you started putting it all together, that's what I believed happened-- not only from the crime scene, but we received numerous calls from people that knew her that said that this lady was devoted to her son, there's no way-- call after call after call.

KURTIS: One such call is from Kimberly's cousin, Beth Hallstrom, who tells Potrafka about the constant stream of threats Doug used to level at his wife.

BETH HALLSTROM: He would tell her... her pet name for my mother was Aunt Bets, and he would say, "I haven't been a cop for all these years without learning a thing or two; I can kill you and make it look like your Aunt Bets did it."

KURTIS: Hallstrom's statements strengthen the case against Wright, but leave it far short of what is needed in a court of law.

DETECTIVE POTRAFKA: It was a circumstantial case. It wasn't like we found his gun, and he claimed it wasn't his gun. He said it was his gun. He said he took it there. He said he moved the body. He admitted to all this stuff. It wasn't like you found this piece of evidence and say, "Oh, I caught you in a lie."

KURTIS: The prosecutor agrees with Potrafka's assessment of the case and declines to file charges. The Wright case remains open and stone cold, until a young detective manages to do what no one else ever could-- catch Doug Wright in a lie.

KURTIS: In 1993, Kimberly Wright dies in her home from a single gunshot wound to the chest. Detectives who work the scene suspect that her estranged husband, Doug, pulled the trigger. Wright, a former cop, claims he was outside when the shooting happened and that Kimberly shot herself. The case goes cold and remains cold almost nine years. In 2000, Genesee County gets a new sheriff, a man by the name of Robert Pickell. Pickell hires a second in command, a former state cop named James Gage. When Pickell suggests they start reopening cold homicides, Gage starts talking about a cop he once worked with-- a cop by the name of Doug Wright.

UNDERSHERIFF JAMES GAGE: He said that everybody in the state police knew that he murdered his wife and that he was a man who got away with murder. Even back in '93, we felt there was enough there for a warrant, but the prosecutor's office didn't at that time.

KURTIS: Pickell and Gage agree the only way to shake Wright's story is to get him talking. Pickell selects one of his youngest and youngest-looking detectives to take on the assignment-- a 32-year-old rookie named David Dwyre.

SHERIFF ROBERT PICKELL: He doesn't alarm anyone. He looks like a choirboy. He's not threatening, but he has all of the right ingredients.

DETECTIVE DAVID DWYRE: I had only about a year in as a detective, and it was pretty humbling that the administration had the confidence in me to assign me such a important case.

KURTIS: Dwyre preps for the interrogation by poring through case files, memorizing Wright's initial statements to police, and anticipating how the suspect might react to a new round of questioning.

DETECTIVE DAVID DWYRE: To me, the key that was going to make the case was going to be Doug Wright and his statements. He tarnished the scene. He moved the gun. He wrapped it in a towel. He cleaned up afterwards. Any one of those things would be a flag that this is problematic.

KURTIS: After familiarizing himself with the file, Dwyre sits down with his boss, Sheriff Pickell, himself a master interrogator for 15 years.

SHERIFF ROBERT PICKELL: I knew Dwyre would get him talking because of the psychology of the suspect. Wright had to know what does this guy Dwyre know? Wright had to know what does this guy Dwyre know? Wright had to know what does this guy Dwyre know? He would engage him in a conversation to find out what he knew about the murder and what his suspicions were.

KURTIS: Pickell's undersheriff, however, isn't quite so optimistic.

UNDERSHERIFF JAMES GAGE: Doug Wright could lie to the devil himself and make it convincing. I've seen it, and I thought, "There's no way that he's going to talk to this young detective."

KURTIS: On March 19, Dwyre catches a flight to Florida, where Doug Wright now lives. Back in Genesee County, two seasoned detectives wait and watch. Dwyre shows up at Doug Wright's home with two local detectives. Wright is in the garage, working on his son's bike.

DETECTIVE DAVID DWYRE: He was totally unprepared, and here comes a guy walking up there with two detectives, and then I'm in a suit, just boom, "I need to speak with you."

KURTIS: The two men sit down at Wright's kitchen table. Dwyre is on the offensive from the start, laying out his problems with Wright's statement, claiming he can prove Wright was inside the house when the gun went off. Dwyre is bluffing, but hopes he can shake Wright up. For his part, the suspect is as silent as the grave.

DETECTIVE DAVID DWYRE: I know what an innocent person should have said. "Your investigation is junk. I was outside." But when he says... and just stares at me, all right, he was there. This is what I have to work on.

KURTIS: Wright says he will think about what the detective has said and get back to him. Then the suspect shows Dwyre to the front door. The next morning, David Dwyre is just getting back from a jog when the phone rings. It's Doug Wright. He wants to meet again. Working with local police, Dwyre gets outfitted with a recording device that looks like an ordinary cell phone. He meets Dwyre at a local hotel. The two go outside and sit down at a picnic table. Dwyre pretends to be Wright's friend. He says it's possible that Kimberly shot herself, but Wright's insistence on being outside when the gun went off is making him look like a liar.

KURTIS: After a few minutes, Doug Wright opens up, retelling his story of what happened that night. It's a story that has changed dramatically.

KURTIS: Wright now says he was inside the house when he heard the shot heard that killed his wife.

DETECTIVE DAVID DWYRE: He says, "I get into the stairwell, and I hear a gunshot." "Were you afraid that she was coming after to shoot you?" "No, that never... thought never entered into my head." I said, "Well, what did you do?" "Well, I went outside, and I played"-- and "played" was the exact word he said. "I went outside and played." How does a jury look at that story? "I hear a gunshot, and then I go outside, and then I come back and do all this stuff to the scene." A jury can read through that, and I realize that while I'm interviewing him-- that this is good enough.

SHERIFF ROBERT PICKELL: Up until the time Dwyre talked to him, he always had himself outside or away. We had to put Wright at that crime scene. Once we could put him there, then we could start going after him.

KURTIS: An arrest warrant issues, and Doug Wright is brought back to Michigan, where he's booked on a charge of murder. Nine months after his arrest, and ten years after the death of his wife Kimberly, Doug Wright's trial begins. Faced with a strong circumstantial case and inconsistencies in his own statements to police, the defendant takes matters into his own hands and climbs up into the witness box to tell the jury his story.

SHERIFF ROBERT PICKELL: When a defendant takes a stand, it's by far the most dramatic moment in a criminal trial, because it's the focus. I mean, that's the defendant. The jury's heard the case against him, and now he's going to get up, and he's going to tell his side of it and explain why he's not guilty. So it's all about him.

KURTIS: Wright backs off from his statement to detective Dwyre and offers a third story to the jury. At the time of his wife's death, he believed the sound he heard inside the house was not a gunshot after all, but sounded more like a TV breaking.

SHERIFF ROBERT PICKELL: What clinched it was when he changed his story, because the assumption is is that if someone is innocent-- all right?-- there only needs to be one story. It's the truth.

KURTIS: Doug Wright's testimony on the stand seals his fate. The former cop is found guilty of murdering his wife and is sentenced to a minimum of 27 years in prison-- a verdict made possible by David Newblatt and David Dwyre, a prosecutor and detective who laid their traps well and brought down a killer.

Cold Case Files:
Video of abuse that Kimberly suffered at the hands of Trooper Wright:

"To admit that you're in a abusive relationship like that. To be physically abused and berated. It takes a lot to admit that...She told me about his constant criticism: She was ugly; She was fat; She was stupid; She was nothing without him...

...He was physically abusive. He is about six foot, five...a big man. She was five-three...tiny...petite. He would pick her up...grab her by the throat and slma her...hit her head into the wall....Choked her...Slapping...Hitting...His favorite method of intimidation was that he would kill her and throw her body in Lake Fenton and the fish would eat her and no one would find her..."