Sue Thompson hasn’t given up hope that one day those responsible for her husband’s murder almost 30 years ago will be brought to justice.
But Thompson doesn’t think she’ll be alive to see it.
“I’m 76, so I am not holding out much hope that it be solved before I die,” said Thompson. “I would like it to be for my sons’ sake. I think they need that closure but I believe they have come to accept that it is not going to happen.”
For decades, her husband, Charles W. “Chuck” Thompson blazed an indelible trail along the political landscape of Wyandotte County, serving as chairman of the county’s Democratic Party. Thompson’s relentless approach to politics helped gain him a number of political victories but also earned him a fair share of political enemies — and likely cost him his life.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to The Kansas City Star
That happened on Dec. 21, 1987 when the longtime lawyer and political power broker was gunned down while sitting in his car in the parking lot in front of Jalisco Restaurant and Private Club, 5000 State Ave. in Kansas City, Kan.
Thompson drove there to meet a man he did not know who had promised to pay him $2,000 to handle a legal matter, police said.
The killer remains at large.
“It is very unfortunate that it hasn’t been solved because Mr. Thompson was a pillar of the community and certainly a leader in the Democratic Party in Wyandotte County,” said Jerome Gorman, former Wyandotte County district attorney. “And that of course was what led to his death.”
Investigators suspected that the man who called several times to arrange a meeting may have shot Thompson.
Six gunshots blasted from a .38-caliber handgun shattered Thompson’s car window. Three of those bullets struck him in the chest.
A witness said he was in his apartment above the restaurant and heard a car engine running. When he looked out, he recognized Thompson’s car and then saw his body about 50 feet from the car, near the front of the restaurant. It appeared Thompson had gotten out of his car in hopes of getting some help.
Since then Sue Thompson said she has tried to convince investigators to dust off the case file and look for her husband’s killer.
Last fall, Thompson met with a detective with the Kansas Bureau of Investigation to see if he wanted to speak to her about the killing. Thompson said the detective told her that he didn’t have time to keep up the current cases let alone the cold cases.
Thompson retreated to her car and cried.
“It is kind of demoralizing and hurtful,” she said about their meeting. “If you are going to say ‘no’ then don’t make me go all of the way out there to say ‘no.’ You could do that over the phone.”
The murder remains an open case with the KBI.
“The case has been fully investigated,” said KBI spokeswoman Melissa Underwood. “The KBI always investigates any new lead or information that comes in.”
Days after the killing, the Metro Squad, a group of detectives from several area law enforcement agencies, convened and developed a composite of the suspected killer. Yet, after examining hundreds of leads and interviewing more than 130 people, the squad disbanded without a suspect or a clear motive.
Bill Delaney, a now-retired KBI agent, took over the investigation from there and spent years looking into Thompson’s political dealings for clues.
Those dealings saw Thompson serve as a delegate to two national presidential conventions, one term as vice chairman of the state Democratic Party and years of behind-the-scene activity in county politics.
“It was kind of a hobby for him,” Sue Thompson said. “He didn’t want to be the candidate. He liked the work and maneuvering to get the candidate elected.”
Thompson said her husband had misgivings about three officeholders at the time.
At a Christmas party on a Friday before Thompson was killed, he told them, “You’re gone, you’re gone and you’re gone.”
“He was the county chairman and he was going to find someone to run against them,” Sue Thompson said. “That was Friday afternoon. He was dead Monday morning.”
Thompson said she continues to cherish her memories.
“He was such a fun guy to be around; he was a hugger,” she said. “He liked to play practical jokes. He worked hard and he played hard. I just missed his company, his energy, his sense of humor. He was such a fun person to be around.”
Name: Charles W. “Chuck” Thompson of Kansas City, Kan.
Circumstances of the crime: Shot six times at close range on Dec. 21, 1987 while sitting in his car outside the Jalisco Restaurant & Private Club, 5000 State Avenue in Kansas City, Kan.
Suspect information: No identified suspect.