The Murder of Debbie Thompson

This is a case that is local to the area in which I now live. I did not live here at the time so it was not one that I was familiar with. Generally one of the benefits to researching a crime in this area is the fact that there is a database that has newspaper articles that were published. However, it was not as helpful in this case because although the crime happened in 1989 the database becomes sporadic from about 1990 and they do not currently keep that up to date. This meant I was limited to the information I could find elsewhere for the most part. Not only did this disappoint me for blogging purposes but also investigative purposes. I have a lot of questions about this case and I was hoping the local newspaper articles could help.

On August 1, 1989 Debbie Thompson was found beaten, strangled, stabbed and naked in the front room of her Evansville Indiana apartment. Her husband had just left the day before for his two week National Guard training. Examiners would determine that she had been strangled by something they considered to be a flat object, “possibly the crook of an elbow” and that some of her stab wounds, even to the genital area had been post-mortem. It seemed the apartment had been ransacked and many items, including a stereo, a vcr, jewelry and even the microwave were missing.

In late August two people, Kerry Greenwell and Kenya Mattingly were questioned. They were friends of Debbie's and lived about a block away (in the same complex?). Greenwell and Mattingly would move to nearby Perry County within a few months. In March of 1990 Kenya would be arrested in Perry County on a battery charge (against who??). While in the jail she asked to call the Evansville police and talk to them about Debbie's case. It was then that she would tell investigators that she was in Debbie's home when she was killed and the story she had to tell. She would also implicate Greenwell. The problem for me in this case is that Kenya has seemed to change her story several times throughout the years. While I will tell her story (or at least the original) keep in mind that, at least in my opinion, it takes more than a story by an admitted accomplice to convict someone.

According to Kenya, who is at the very least severely hearing impaired, if not considered to be totally deaf, she and Kerry Greenwell, her boyfriend at the time, had visited Debbie on the night of her murder. Kenya's hearing impairment requires that those around her use sign language to communicate. According to Kenya, Debbie and Kerry stopped using sign language and became speaking to each other. Kenya had come to the conclusion that Debbie was “hitting” on her boyfriend and picked up a plastic table leg and began hitting her. She would then say that after this happened Kerry too began hitting Debbie as well as sexually assaulting her. When he had finished doing this Kenya claims that Kerry then began stabbing her and strangling her. She stated that they then went to their home where Kerry changed his bloody clothes to which they then returned to Debbie's home and they had taken items belonging to her to their home. Over time Kenya would tell up to six different versions of what happened that night. In each story Kerry was the killer of Debbie Thompson.

In April of 1990 evidence found discovered that Kenya's palm print was found on one of the plastic table legs. There had been semen found in the carpet and on the edge of the couch. Debbie's husband would say that the night before he left (which had just been the day previous to her murder), they had engaged in sex on the couch. In 1990 only blood type comparison could be made to the semen. It was determined that the semen on the carpet did not belong to Kerry Greenwell. However, the semen on the couch could be matched through blood type to Kerry. But, it also matched to Debbie's husband, as well as 34% of the population.

Investigators would say that they could link the items stolen from Debbie's apartment back to the original story that Kenya told them, although nothing seemed to be specific about this. It appears that some of the items were sold or pawned.

In August of 1990 Kenya was convicted for her role in Debbie's murder. She would eventually get a sentence of thirty years because two months later she testified against Kerry Greenwell. He too would be convicted and while the newspaper articles stated he received sixty years in prison, the Indiana Department of Corrections stated his sentence was fifty years.

In 2003 Kerry Greenwell filed the paperwork to allow DNA and PCR testing done on the items of evidence. The PCR testing was denied. In 2004 the semen stains on the carpet and the couch were tested for DNA. Also tested was blood found under Debbie's fingernails, on the carpet and the couch. My research indicated that none of it was consistent with Greenwell. The couch apparently had the DNA of a male and the carpet, couch and the fingernails belonged to an unknown female. Based on this Greenwell filed and appeal of his conviction. It was denied based on what the court considered other evidence, including the stolen items.

In 2005 Kenya changed her story again. This time she would tell investigators that it was not Greenwell who had been involved but a man named Jeff Montgomery, who was also a neighbor of Debbie's. My research indicates that he was never tested against the evidence. Considering all of the different stories Kenya told it is not surprising they did not seem to believe her.

According to the Indiana Department of Corrections Kenya was discharged from prison in August of 2006 after serving sixteen of her thirty year sentence. Kerry Greenwell was released in March of 2012 after serving just over twenty-one years of his fifty (or sixty) year sentence.

As I said in the beginning, I wish I could have found more information on this case, including more on Kerry Greenwell's trial and the information pertaining to the stolen items. I found nothing that indicated that any forensics pointed to Greenwell. Kenya Mattingly told so many different versions of what happened she was difficult to believe. Even in the stories in which she implicated Greenwell his motive seemed questionable. She never indicated that the two had planned to kill Debbie Thompson, but then again that would have implicated her more than she likely wanted. Her story always seemed to be based on the fact that she may have misinterpreted what Debbie and Kerry were talking about without using sign language. In fact, it seems that it was her acts that led to the killing in every version that she implicated Greenwell in. I also would like to know about the battery charge she faced in Perry County just months later. Was this against Greenwell? Was it against someone else she perceived was “hitting” on him? It was this arrest in which prompted her to contact the Evansville police in this case. The courts obviously believed that Greenwell was involved in Debbie Thompson's murder and that is why I want to know more before making a full conclusion for myself.  


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