Colorado: Dad convicted of child abuse in missing girl case
CENTENNIAL, Colo. – Jurors on Monday found a father guilty of fatal child abuse, among several other charges, in the disappearance and presumed death of his young daughter.
The abuse charge was the most serious of 57 that Aaron Thompson, of Aurora, faced in the 2005 disappearance of his daughter Aarone. Jurors convicted Thompson of 31 of the charges after nine days of deliberation and a six-week trial.
Thompson, who showed no emotion when the verdicts were read, also was convicted of conspiracy to knowingly commit fatal child abuse. He faces up to 80 years in prison for the two child abuse convictions alone.
Thompson also was found guilty of false reporting to authorities, concealing a death and conspiracy to conceal a death.
The charges he was acquitted of included second-degree assault and second-degree assault involving a deadly weapon.
He will be sentenced Nov. 10.
Thompson reported his daughter missing in November 2005, when she would have been 6. He said she ran away after an argument.
Authorities believed she may have died about two years earlier. Her body has not been found.
Prosecutor Robert Chappell said he was satisifed the jury convicted Thompson on the most serious charges.
“It’s one step closer to justice for Aarone,” Chappell said to the media after the verdict was read. “I think if you were to ask that question to police, I think they would say justice will be the day that they find her body.”
Chappell said it was a tough case for police because they initially believed it was possible to find and save the girl.
Thompson’s attorneys left the courtroom without commenting.
Defense attorneys acknowledged on the trial’s first day that Aarone was already dead when her father reported her missing, but that he was not responsible for her death. Thompson’s defense sought to blame his live-in girlfriend, Shely Lowe, for Aarone’s death, saying that Thompson’s story that his daughter ran away because of an argument over a cookie was a desperate attempt to cover for Lowe.
She died in 2006 from heart problems.
Lowe told a friend in a secretly taped conversation played in court that Aarone died in her sleep. Authorities have never made clear how Aarone died.
But prosecutors described a grim picture of the Thompson house to jurors, telling them that the seven children living in the home were repeatedly beaten with belts, television cords and a baseball bat by Thompson, who his children called “Big A.”
In closing arguments, prosecutors said the house was a “torture chamber” and urged jurors to “do justice.”
Children in the home told police that Aarone got the brunt of the punishment, and was often locked in a closet for hours for wetting her bed.
After Thompson reported his daughter missing, a massive search ensued in Aurora. But investigators soon became suspicious of the family, noting that they couldn’t provide recent photographs of the girl.
Thompson was arrested in May 2007 after a grand jury indictment.
A mistrial was declared on two of the 57 charges. Defense and prosecuting attorneys agreed to the declaration of a mistrial on counts of conspiracy to abuse a corpse and abuse of a corpse after the jurors failed to reach a consensus.