Homicide

Liberty murder victim knew his killers through a relative, police say

Updated: 2014-01-07T01:58:32Z

By CHRISTINE VENDEL

The Kansas City Star

Mark Thomas, a city employee and grandfather from Liberty, offered to drive two acquaintances of a family member to a Kansas City mobile home park late Friday.

It’s unclear whether he knew that one of his passengers had a violent past.

The pair forced Thomas to pull over. Then they robbed, tortured and fatally beat him before leaving his body in a Clay County park restroom, according to court records.

Police arrested Zachary M. Lisle, 20, and a 16-year-old boy Saturday as they tried to escape from under a mobile home in the 8800 block of Northeast 107th Terrace — the address where Thomas was supposed to drop off his passengers.

Police found Lisle with $556 and blood staining his clothes, shoes and hands, court records said.

Officers were summoned to the mobile home park by Thomas’ relatives, who had been searching for Thomas for hours. They found Thomas’ abandoned vehicle, with blood inside and out, two blocks from the mobile home where Lisle had been staying. Inside the vehicle, officers found a large knife, a knife sheath and several ATM receipts showing recent withdrawals.

Police also found a black bag that a witness said Lisle left on the front porch of the home on 107th Terrace, according to court records. The bag contained bloody clothing. Under the home, police found a set of vehicle keys thought to belong to Thomas.

Clay County prosecutors on Sunday charged Lisle with six felonies: first-degree murder, robbery, kidnapping and three counts of armed criminal action. He entered a routine not-guilty plea at his first court appearance Monday and remained in jail on $1 million bond.

Juvenile authorities detained the teenager and planned to pursue an adult certification hearing for him.

Lisle is serving five years’ probation for an unlawful use of a weapon conviction from December 2012. A Clay County judge revoked his probation in August for violating the terms. The judge sentenced him to 120 days of “shock time” in the Clay County jail. Online court records indicate he was released in September on probation.

In that crime, Lisle pointed a gun at a woman’s head in September 2012 after she interrupted an argument between him and her daughter. The woman had been helping her daughter move out of an apartment in the 3800 block of North Flora Avenue.

Lisle ordered the woman and her daughter to leave the apartment, according to police reports, telling the woman that “when he killed her, it was going to hurt.” Police went to the apartment and arrested Lisle, who told police he was a “habitual user” who used methamphetamine, but preferred marijuana or “downers,” police reports said. At that time, he had an outstanding drug warrant from Pleasant Valley, police reports said.

Lisle’s criminal record also includes two forgery convictions.

Police didn’t release any information about the juvenile who was arrested in connection with Thomas’ killing.

Thomas’ body was found Sunday in a park at Smithville Lake.

He had retired from General Motors, police said, and he coached his grandson’s sports teams. Relatives were too distraught to grant media interviews, police said.

The Liberty Community Center hired Thomas in October 2009 as a part-time custodian.

Janet Snook, director of Parks and Recreation in Liberty, described Thomas as a kind and gentle man who loved his family.

He “was always quick to share photos and stories of his grandchildren,” she said in an email.

When his grandchildren visited him at work, “he never missed an opportunity to show them off to staff and members alike,” Snook said. “His work family here at Liberty Parks and Recreation will miss him very much.”

Most of the photos Thomas posted to his Facebook page featured his grandchildren, including a snapshot in June of his grandson fishing with the caption “future pro.”

In November, Thomas thanked his Facebook friends for their birthday wishes.

“Looking forward to the next one,” he wrote.

To reach Christine Vendel, call 816-234-4438 or send email to cvendel@kcstar.com.

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