© Copyright 2012, The Oklahoman
Oklahoma City police detectives investigating the savage beating death of a wealthy gambler's wife are focusing on an Edmond insurance agent in a dispute with the gambler over money.
Police have searched Michael Wayne Thomas' home and insurance office seizing computers, The Oklahoman learned. They also collected a DNA sample from him and talked to his ex-wife, who fears him and once had a protective order against him.
The ex-wife, Shannon Elder, 39, said Thomas claims to be psychic and has described to her having a dream where the victim told him, “Mike, help me!”
Thomas, 40, denies involvement in the killing. The victim, Julie Mitchell, 34, was attacked the evening of Nov. 2, 2010, inside her husband's $359,000 house in northwest Oklahoma City.
The victim's husband, Teddy Mitchell, claims there is evidence Thomas was there, attorney Scott Adams said.
“Before or during her murder, he was there. I'm totally 100 percent convinced of that,” said Adams, who is representing Teddy Mitchell. “Some things ... were left at the house ... There's something that wasn't there when Teddy left.”
The attorney wouldn't be more specific. “I don't want to jeopardize the investigation, guys,” Adams said.
Teddy Mitchell was traveling by plane out of state at the time of his wife's attack, his attorneys have said. One of his sons found her body in the master bedroom closet. The couple's daughter, London, was in a pool of blood next to the body. The girl, then 1, was not harmed. About $30,000 was missing from a closet safe, Mitchell's attorneys have said.
Thomas and Teddy Mitchell were acquaintances. Police have said Teddy Mitchell, now 57, ran a bookmaking operation at his home where gamblers placed bets on sporting events. The FBI and a federal grand jury are investigating the gambling allegations.
After his wife's death, Teddy Mitchell sued Thomas over an alleged $20,000 debt. Thomas later filed a bankruptcy petition. He denies owing the money.
Authorities want to know whether Thomas wrote anonymous letters about the case that were sent to Oklahoma City television stations days after the death and again months later. TV stations turned the letters over to police and did not publicize their contents.
Thomas' ex-wife said he told her after the first notes appeared not to be surprised if other letters came out. She added, “And, they did.”
Elder, who lives in Edmond, said Thomas regularly went to Mitchell's house to play poker.
In getting a protective order last year, she wrote a judge: “Michael is involved with Teddy Mitchell and has told me a lot of stuff and has told me to keep my mouth shut because that is how women get themselves killed because they don't know how to keep their mouths shut. I fear for my life on a daily basis.”
She told The Oklahoman he has hit her. She said he also has talked about the death in detail.
“He's told me all this stuff. I'm so scared,” Elder said. “He knew too much in my opinion because he knew what was left at the scene. That was not in the news or anything that I've read ... He said she had her Rolex on when she died. ... There were specific directions on how to get into the house and what to do. He said the back door was to be left open, and the baby was not to be harmed.”
District Judge Don Deason confirmed he authorized searches of Thomas' Edmond home, office and computers weeks ago. The judge said he sealed the search warrants from public view at the request of prosecutors because the investigation is ongoing.
Thomas' attorney, Ed Blau, said, “Mike Thomas categorically denies any involvement with the death of Julie Mitchell and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time as the investigation is ongoing.”
Contacted by phone, Thomas declined to make any further comment.
A year ago, Thomas refused to testify before the state's multicounty grand jury that has been helping police with the homicide investigation.
His attorney at the time said then that “he exercised his Fifth Amendment right not to answer any questions that would incriminate him” primarily because of the separate “federal investigation of allegations of gambling ... involving Mr. Mitchell.”
The attorney, Josh Welch, also said at the time, “There's no inference that you can draw as to a person's guilt based on their invocation of the Fifth Amendment.”
His teenage daughter, Jordan Thomas, testified before the state grand jury last October, sources said.
Assistant District Attorney Scott Rowland said the two homicide detectives are making progress in the investigation. He said he meets with them almost weekly. He declined to comment further. He last met with the detectives Thursday morning.