Why Was Good Samaritan Murder Suspect Free?
Prosecutors had tried to have the suspect declared a sexually violent person. Video by tmj4.comvideo
RACINE - Police believe repeat sex offender Wilbert Thomas beat Sandra Teichow, strangled her, and left her body in the woods. The question now is, why was Thomas a free man?
Sandra Teichow, 67, was known for her charity work, and that’s exactly what she was doing last week when she was murdered. Investigators believe Teichow was handing out quarters to strangers at a Laundromat when she met Wilbert Thomas.
Thomas has three sexual assault convictions going back more than 45 years. In a 1991 case, he allegedly assaulted a bartender. TODAY’S TMJ4 obtained dozens of letters Thomas wrote while in jail during that trial.
In one, he admits saying, “I’d physically assaulted her,” but he claims, “It had been initiated by her.”
So how did Thomas end up a free man again? After he served his sentence, prosecutors tried to get Thomas locked away indefinitely, saying he was a danger to society. But the effort was unsuccessful.
“I believe in 1997, the Department of Corrections and the Department of Justice were wrong in not considering him a sexually violent person,” said Racine County District Attorney Michael Nieskes, who prosecuted Thomas in 1991.
In another attempt by prosecutors in 1999, a psychiatrist wrote there was a “substantial probability” Thomas would sexually assault someone again, and a judge agreed. However, an appeals court later overturned the decision, saying the paperwork had been filed three days too late, since Thomas’ incarceration had concluded.
“So, we were left with no recourse but having the matter dismissed. But we decided we had to make the effort,” Nieskes said.
Thomas has been free for the last several years, and court records show he hasn’t reported his location to the sex offender registry in the last year.
Even if Thomas had been locked up indefinitely, he might still be a free man today. The courts have let some long-term commitment offenders go when they reach old age. Thomas is 65.