A random encounter with a burglar on a cold December morning cost Steven Sawyer his life.
But while the family of the 49-year-old Overland Park man continues to grieve, they are grateful that a suspect has been charged in the crime.
“We are happy that we no longer have to worry about this person walking the streets,” said Sawyer’s sister, Tamika Jones.
On Tuesday, the 19-year-old Kansas City, Kan., man accused of shooting Sawyer to death on New Year’s Eve morning made his first appearance in Johnson County District Court.
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DeMario D. Thompson is charged with first-degree felony murder and auto burglary. Arrested last week in Kansas City, he is being held in the Johnson County jail in lieu of a $1 million bond.
Court documents detailing the evidence against Thompson have not been released. But the charges say he killed Sawyer while committing a burglary.
Sawyer had gone outside to warm up his car in the 9200 block of West 83rd Terrace before stepping back inside to get something, his sister said.
When he went back out, he apparently encountered a burglar in his car and was fatally shot, Jones said.
Thompson has an extensive juvenile record dating to 2009, according to Wyandotte County court records.
The records show he was charged in seven cases with crimes ranging from theft and burglary to criminal possession of a firearm.
A bench warrant for his arrest was issued last May, alleging that he was AWOL from house arrest, according to the records.
Thompson was not required to enter a plea at Tuesday’s court hearing. His next appearance was scheduled for Feb. 26.
Jones said that Overland Park police did an “outstanding job” and that the family had felt confident that Sawyer’s killer would be found.
“We were very excited that an arrest was made,” she said. “Now we’re hoping the rest of the process goes as well.”