Real Name: Thomas Eugene Drake
Date: July 8, 1983
Location: Winter Haven, Florida
Details: Thomas Drake claims that he was wrongly convicted of attempted murder against his forty-seven-year-old wife, Nancy. Nancy was the secretary for the First Church of Nazarene. Just before 1PM on July 8, 1983, a parishioner went to the church office to pick up tickets for an event when she found Nancy lying in a pool of blood. She had been beaten viciously about the head. Her skull had split open as a result of the attack. She survived the attack. Within two weeks, police discovered that Thomas had been cheating on her. Surprisingly, while Nancy recovered in the hospital, Thomas moved his mistress into their home. There were two other suspects, but Thomas was the one arrested and convicted for the attack. His conviction was based entirely on circumstantial evidence. Nancy was the only witness, but the severe blows to her head erased all memory of the attack.
When Nancy and Thomas moved to Florida, one of the first things they did was join their local church. Nancy sang in the choir and worked as the church secretary. Thomas was a truck driver who tape recorded the church services every Sunday. Nancy enjoyed working at the church; she recalled that she would sometimes work up to sixty hours, seven days a week. Thomas claimed that her devotion to the church was taking a toll on their nine-year marriage. They even talked about separation. He felt that he didn't have a wife anymore since she wasn't there for him.
On the day of the attack, Nancy was busier than usual selling tickets to a church concert. She didn't have time to break for lunch, so Thomas brought it to her at 12:15PM. He recalled seeing a green Station Wagon parked there with an unknown white-haired man inside. He brought Nancy her lunch and she left him at her desk while she went to get something in another room. At 12:30PM, she returned to her desk and he claimed that he left.
At 1:15PM, the pastor called Thomas at home. He said that Nancy had bumped her head and had gone to the hospital. However, when he arrived there, he learned that she was in intensive care. Back at the church, police found that the safe in the office was open and empty. They also found the weapon used to attack her: a claw-toothed hammer. There were no fingerprints on it. Outside the office window, they found a muddy footprint. Inside, they found a fingerprint on the door. It belonged to a local man who was a former mental patient. He had no explanation for why his fingerprint was on the door.
Another possible suspect was a white-haired man seen near the church by a parishioner that morning. It is possible that he was the same man seen by Thomas when he brought Nancy her lunch. A composite sketch was created of the man and an All Points Bulletin was issued. The police hoped that Nancy would be able to tell them who assaulted her. However, her memory and ability to speak were severely impaired.
Three weeks later, the Drakes had a conversation that would come back to haunt Thomas. Nancy said that she wanted to go home, but Thomas said they couldn't without the doctor's permission. She became angry, saying that he didn't care about her. She also said "How would you like it if I hit you on your habit?" The police officer on duty overheard the conversation. She thought it sounded like Nancy was accusing Thomas of attacking her. However, he claimed that she was still having trouble speaking at this point.
Police put Thomas under twenty-four hour surveillance. They learned that he had been having an affair for almost a year. They were shocked to discover that he moved his mistress "Judy" and her son into his home just two weeks after the attack. He had met her during one of his trucking runs to Fort Lauderdale. Police stopped following other leads and Thomas became their prime suspect. Thomas, however, claimed that he was only helping Judy out.
Police arrested Thomas; they also took Judy and her son to the police station. He agreed to be questioned without an attorney present. During questioning, he said "I already hurt Nancy, I don't want to have Judy hurt too". The investigators asked him to tell him how he attacked his wife. However, he said that he did not assault her. He claimed that he said he "hurt" her by splitting up with her and getting a divorce.
He also told investigators that he had dreams about Nancy wherein she called out to him, saying "No, Tom. No!" Also, he admitted that he agreed, in theory, to the police hypothesis that it was possible for him to have attacked his wife and then blocked all memory of it. Investigators felt that these statements suggested that he was guilty. Investigators questioned Judy about her relationship with Thomas. She said that she did not know that he was married. In fact, he had told her that he was divorced.
Thomas Drake was charged with attempted murder and aggravated robbery. His attorney later told him about a deal prosecutors wanted to make: if he pleaded guilty to grand theft, they would drop the attempted murder and aggravated robbery charges. His attorney told him that they only offered this because they knew that they did not have any evidence against him. He told his attorney that he would not plead guilty to a crime that he did not commit.
Nancy stood by Thomas even though he was accused of attacking her. She even visited him in jail. She was convinced that he did not do it. She also felt that she still loved him. She did not testify at his trial because she claimed she still did not remember what happened. The prosecution's case was based primarily on circumstantial evidence. The jury heard the tape of Thomas's interrogation. They also learned that on the day before the attack, he had been in the church equipment room working with the same hammer that was later used to bludgeon Nancy.
The most damaging testimony came from his former mistress Judy. According to Thomas, her testimony was not given freely. He claimed that on the night of his arrest, she was told that her son would be taken away if she did not cooperate. Thomas's attorneys believe that her testimony made the jury only see him as an adulterer and that the prosecution's case was based on that.
Thomas was convicted and was sentenced to life in prison plus thirty years. However, just a few days after he was sentenced, Nancy contacted Thomas's lawyer. She claimed that her memory of the attack had returned and that her attacker was not Thomas. She said the attacker was a tall, slender white-haired man with thick glasses. He had come to the office to purchase tickets for the concert. She claimed that he wanted to pay for the tickets with a $100 bill. However, she did not have enough change. He convinced her to go to the equipment room and open the safe. After she opened it, the man hit her with the hammer.
Nancy told her judge the story and he agreed to give Thomas a new trial. Once again, he was offered a plea bargain; once again, he rejected it. He was certain that her testimony would clear his name. However, just moments before she was supposed to take the stand, Nancy's memory suddenly failed. Her medication had been changed the day before and she couldn't tell the difference between she had been told and what she actually remembered. Thomas's lawyer was forced to rest his case without calling her to the stand.
Thomas was again found guilty of attempted murder and armed robbery. According to him, the sentencing guidelines state that he should have received five years in prison. However, the judge sentenced him to life in prison without the possibility of parole plus thirty years. Nancy returned to her hometown in Indiana and remarried. She is still unable to work and cannot remember what happened on the day of the attack. Strangely, she said that she does not care about him anymore and that he deserves to be in prison for cheating on her. To this day, Thomas maintains his innocence and continues to file appeals.
Suspects: A mysterious man was seen loitering around the church on the day of the attack. Thomas and another witness reported seeing the man. Before his second trial, Nancy claimed that this man was her attacker. She described him as a slender white-haired white man with thick glasses.
A fingerprint found on the door of the church office matched a local mental patient. However, no other evidence has been found to link him to the crime. The man was a member of the church and provided an alibi for the time of the attack.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the October 23, 1992 episode of Final Appeal: From the Files of Unsolved Mysteries.
Results: Unsolved. Thomas Drake remains in prison and continues to maintain his innocence. Several important pieces of information were not mentioned in the segment: Prosecutors claimed that there was only a ten-minute window, between 12:30 and 12:40PM, in which Nancy was alone and could have been attacked. They claimed that no one other than Thomas would have been able to attack her without being noticed. The associate church pastor also testified that when Thomas answered the phone, it sounded as if he had "ran to it" and was out of breath.
Thomas also told another parishioner that his fingerprints would be on the hammer because Nancy asked him to hang up pictures in the office that morning. However, the pastor claimed that Nancy was not allowed to do this and had to ask for his permission. Thomas had purchased a $10,000 life insurance policy on his wife shortly before the attack. When asked about it, he initially lied and said that he did not know about the policy. However, Nancy claimed that the policy was her idea. Thomas also had financial problems at the time of the attack. Following the attack, he was in the possession of substantial sums of money.
Thomas's mistress Judy testified that he had called her on the night of the attack and made arrangements for her to move in with him. He also lied to her and said that he had left the church at 11:30AM on the day of the attack, even though witnesses and his own testimony placed him there for an hour after. He also lied on the stand about his relationship with Judy, including that he had been intimate with her in a motel just four days after the attack.
A neurosurgeon who treated Nancy stated that he did not believe she would have been able to regain her memory about the attack due to her injuries. She now maintains that she has no memories of the attack.
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