American Cleared in Tijuana Slaying
TIJUANA, Feb. 27 -- Mexican officials have cleared Richard N. Thomas, 34, of La Puente, of any connection with the slaying of an unidentified woman whose torso was found 19 miles south of here last week.
Thomas, a television repairman who owns a string of thoroughbreds stabled at Caliente race track, was picked up and held by police here seven days ago.
The slaying victim's body had been bound with a television lead-in wire.
Richard Thomas was at home in bed, sleeping off a nightmare, when I called his wife yesterday.
"He got in at 5:30 this morning," she said. "Completely exhausted.
"I'm just so relieved that it's all over, that he's back."
Until Thomas' arrest last week, he, his wife and their three children were just another nice family in a nice house in a nice neighborhood.
"When it happened, I told my older girl what it was about," Mrs. Thomas explained to me. "I warned her that until her dad was cleared and released, some people might say some mean things.
"It broke her up. At first, it did. She loves her father -- maybe even more than she loves me. He's just a wonderful man.
Friends Are Wonderful
"But after I had explained everything, she smiled and said, 'Mother, I can hold my head up anywhere when they talk about daddy.' "
"Did they talk?" I asked.
"Here on the street, a few children said some terrible things. A couple of kids came over and told my children that their father had cut up a woman.
"But the adults -- they were wonderful. The ones who knew Dick, of course, felt as bad as I did. But even the others -- they did everything they could to make it easier."
"Were there any crank letters, crank phone calls?" I said.
"No," Mrs. Thomas answered. "Only once, when I was walking down my side of the street, there was a group on the other side. One of them shouted, 'Don't go across the street. The butcher's wife is here.'
"I ran back into my house. It was just a kid, I guess, but when you're under a strain, it can upset you."
School Officials Kindly
Mrs. Thomas added that she had avoided telling her younger children about her husband's being jailed.
"I kept them in school," she said. "The officials at school said they'd watch and make sure that none of the other children made remarks. They were very helpful.
"The kids did learn, of course. But it was from others in the neighborhood, and news broadcasts."
Richard Thomas owns a modest television repair business.
"We're not rich people," his wife told me. "I have to admit that that's what we're worried about now -- that this terrible thing doesn't hurt our business.
"The only reason they picked Dick up was because of the television wire at the scene of the crime, and the fact that he was driving a television repair truck in Tijuana.
"It could have happened to anyone in the same business. To a plumber, if they'd found a pipe.
"I only hope," she concluded, "people will realize that what happened to us could happen to just about anyone."