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On the day 71-year-old Kathy Thomas was reported missing, Johnston County investigators conducted a welfare check at her N.C. 222 West home just outside Kenly.
The doors were unlocked. Clothes were in the washing machine filled with water, but they hadn’t been washed. And Thomas’ Ford Taurus sedan sat in the driveway with four flat tires. Thomas’ house and car keys were also found inside her locked car.
Nearly two weeks later on Dec. 12, Johnston County sheriff’s officials arrested 50-year-old Kenneth Lamm, a convicted rapist and sex offender, in connection with Thomas’ death. A search warrant application offers new details and sheds light in the days leading up to Lamm’s arrest and the grisly discovery of the woman’s body in a shallow grave in the backyard of a Harper Street home in Wilson on Dec. 13.
Lamm, 50, is currently charged with first-degree murder and is being held without bond in the Johnston County Detention Center.
Thomas was reported missing on Nov. 30 after returning home from visiting her sister in Tennessee, according to the search warrant application. Her sister last had contact with Thomas the week prior on Nov. 23, where they spoke over the phone, records show.
But that was the last time she heard from Thomas; the two usually talked on the phone daily.
On Nov. 30, Thomas’ sister asked a friend and neighbor to ask deputies to check up on sister at her 7120 N.C. 222 West home in a rural area of Johnston County near the Wilson County line.
“The interior of the residence was unremarkable and the cat belonging to Thomas was in the home,” the search warrant application states. “It was reported that Thomas would not have (left) the cat alone in the home if she traveled away from home.”
Johnston County investigators went back to Thomas’ home on Dec. 4 for a follow-up visit where they located items including bank records and items related to the vehicle, according to a search warrant.
Investigators obtained Thomas’ cellphone records, which showed “activity” with a particular cellphone number after Thomas was last seen or heard from, according to a search warrant. Authorities would later determine that number as belonging to Lamm’s cellphone.
They also discovered that Thomas’ phone was in the vicinity of Wilson during the early morning hours of Nov. 25, a search warrant indicates.
“Based on interviews of a family member and a personal friend, it is out of character for Kathy Thomas to be away from her home for periods of time without notifying someone of her location,” according to the search warrant application.
Additional reviews of Thomas’ phone records showed only incoming “unanswered calls” and “no cellular phone activity,” including making phone calls or pinging any cell towers since Nov. 25, the search warrant showed.
Authorities later tracked down that cellphone number via a court order that led them to 717 Harper St. in Wilson on Dec. 11 — two days before Thomas’ body was found.
While Lamm’s home address is listed as 3828 Althorp Drive W. in Wilson, he often stayed with his girlfriend at the Harper Street home, investigators have said.
SUSPECT INTERVIEW AND ‘SUSPECTED BLEACH’
On Dec. 11, investigators issued a search warrant at Lamm’s Althorp Drive home in Wilson. That’s where investigators seized purple latex gloves and four articles of clothing with “suspected bleach,” according to an inventory list attached to the search warrant. After Lamm’s arrest on Dec. 12, he told detectives in an interview that he had been with the 71-year-old woman on Nov. 24, according the search warrant.
Lamm also claimed he had “sexual intercourse with Thomas on that day at her residence...,” the search warrant states.
Once Lamm made those statements to detectives, he asked for an attorney. After the attorney was contacted and responded to the office, he had a discussion with Lamm, and the interview resumed.
Lamm admitted to investigators that the cellphone in question was his phone, according to court records. Lamm “could not explain” his call records that showed him attempting to call the two Johnston County Sheriff’s Office numbers on several occasions including Dec. 4 and Dec. 5.
Investigators believed Lamm called those numbers after he looked at Thomas’ call log from her cellphone because detectives had tried to make contact with her, according to the search warrant.
At the time the search warrant was issued on Dec. 11, investigators had not found her cellphone. It’s unclear whether they ever found it.
SEX CRIME convictions
Lamm’s criminal history spans three decades, including two convictions of second-degree rape, two convictions of committing a second-degree sex offense, committing a felony crime against nature and various property crimes, most which were in Wake County, according to N.C. Department of Public Safety records.
Lamm served less than half of a 50-year-sentence when he was convicted in 1994 on sexual offense and rape charges. He was released in April 2012.