Prosecutors say man charged in death of Eagle River woman dumped her body before playing frisbee golf

Published: May. 5, 2021 at 7:43 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Surveillance video from an Eagle River man’s apartment complex shows him loading a lifeless body into the passenger seat of his Subaru, then driving away, according to court documents.

Prosecutors say he later returned without the body, then met up with friends to play frisbee golf.

Eddie Thomas Jr., 36, is facing several charges in connection with the suspicious death of 27-year-old Jerilyn Nicholson, including tampering with physical evidence, misconduct involving a corpse and violating conditions of release.

Case timeline

The Anchorage Police Department sought help from the public locating Nicholson on Friday, April 30 after her father reported her missing. A release from the department said she was last seen on April 24 and last heard from via text on April 25.

According to court documents, Nicholson’s father told police she had travelled from the hospital to the family’s home in Eagle River, then to Thomas’ apartment on Centerfield Drive in Eagle River. Thomas is identified in the documents as her ex-boyfriend.

Investigators say Nicholson posted a selfie from a bathtub on Instagram around 8 p.m. on April 24.

Then, around 9:45 p.m. that evening, surveillance video from the Brown Jug Liquor store near Thomas’ apartment shows Nicholson buying alcohol with a blue plaid shirt tied around her waist, according to court documents.

After Nicholson was reported missing, charging documents state police spoke with Thomas, who reportedly told them that she left his apartment shortly after she arrived because she wanted alcohol and he refused to provide it. Thomas said he knew Nicholson was scheduled to enter a treatment facility.

On Saturday, May 1, a community member discovered Nicholson’s body at the bottom of an embankment near mile 5 of Eklutna Lake Road, according to the documents. She was identified by fingerprints, and Thomas was then brought to the police headquarters for questioning.

During his interview with officers, Thomas allegedly told officers that Nicholson wanted to take a bath and drink alcohol at his apartment, but left an hour after arriving and did not take a bath. When investigators showed Thomas the photo Nicholson posted from a bathtub, he denied that the bathtub was his, according to court documents.

According to the court documents, Thomas consented to a walkthrough of his apartment with officers, during which they noted his bathtub appeared to be the same one Nicholson posted a photo from, and saw a blue plaid shirt that matched the one she was seen wearing in the surveillance footage at Brown Jug.

A review of surveillance video from the apartment complex shows Thomas placing a “lifeless” body in his vehicle at 11:29 a.m. on April 27, then driving away, according to the documents. The body appears to be Nicholson, the documents state, based on the hair color and length, physical size and clothing.

The charging documents also state that APD sought assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which analyzed data received by a search warrant for Nicholson’s cell phone records. The FBI determined that after Nicholson’s phone traveled from the family home in Eagle River to the area of Centerfield Drive, where Thomas’ apartment is, it did not leave that area until 8:21 p.m. on April 29.

APD arrested Thomas in connection with Nicholson’s death on Tuesday.

‘Tremendous disrespect for human life’

During a telephonic arraignment for Thomas on Wednesday, Anchorage Assistant District Attorney Daniel Shorey pushed for a cash bail of $100,000.

“After Mr. Thomas has seen on video loading Miss Nicholson’s body, lifeless body, into his car, he drives off,” Shorey told the judge. “He drives up to the Valley, he comes back later on that day, he goes out with friends and plays frisbee golf.”

He said investigators interviewed the people Thomas played frisbee golf with and they said they did not notice Thomas acting strange at all.

“Given that the surveillance video clearly shows him loading a body into his car and coming back without that body, that’s a bit disturbing,” Shorey said. “I think that goes to how dangerous Mr. Thomas actually is, someone who is comfortable playing frisbee golf after disposing of a body down an embankment on Lake Eklutna Road.”

Nicholson’s parents and three siblings spoke during the hearing to voice concerns about Thomas being released on bail before trial.

“He may or may not have caused the death, intentionally or otherwise,” said Nicholson’s father. “But just the fact that he took her corpse out of town, threw it over the cliff, shows a tremendous disrespect for human life.”

Anchorage District Court Judge Michael Logue said the charges Thomas is currently facing do not justify the high cash bail the prosecutor asked for.

Instead, Logue set a cash bail of $25,000. He also ordered 24/7 electronic monitoring, house arrest, and a court-approved third party custodian, meaning Thomas will have to go back before a judge in order to be released on bail.

Criminal history

Court documents show that Thomas had previous run ins with the law. According to charging documents, Nicholson called 911 from Thomas’ apartment in October 2020.

“Mr. Thomas was intoxicated, Miss Nicholson was intoxicated, Miss Nicholson initially reported a rape,” Shorey said during Wednesday’s hearing.

As a result of that report, Thomas was arrested for resisting arrest and interfering with a report of domestic violence, according to Shorey and the charging documents.

Thomas was ordered to not have contact with Nicholson after the incident.

Then, in January, Thomas was arrested for driving under the influence, Shorey said.

While the charges he faces in his latest case are not considered by law to be “crimes involving domestic violence,” Shorey told the judge, “Up and down, left and right, it’s a crime of domestic violence.”

The Medical Examiner’s Office has not yet determined Nicholson’s manner or cause of death.

‘A bright light’

Missing persons flyers with photos of Nicholson were posted on buildings and windows around town.

Since the confirmation of her death, a GoFundMe account has been set up to raise funds for unexpected funeral costs.

“Jerilyn Bessie Nicholson, known to family as Ani, was a bright light and beautiful soul loved by many,” the fundraiser reads. “She is now home with the Lord and now watches over us as an Angel.”

As of Wednesday evening, people had donated more than $5,500.

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