A call about a loose dog led law enforcement officials to a Vadnais Heights home, where they found the dog’s owner fatally shot and pinned underneath an SUV in the garage, according to a criminal complaint filed in Ramsey County District Court last week.
Jeffrey Alan Thomas, 55, was charged Monday, Aug. 24, with second-degree murder in the death of Karl Swanson, 55, whom Thomas told investigators was his best friend.
On Saturday, Aug. 22, Ramsey County Sheriff’s Deputies responded to a call about a loose dog in Vadnais Heights. They called the phone number obtained from the microchip reader and spoke to Swanson’s mother, who said the dog belonged to him. Swanson, who lives in Tennessee, was visiting Thomas and staying with him at his home in Vadnais Heights.
When deputies arrived at the home, located in the 4200 block of Thornhill Drive, they spoke to Thomas, who appeared intoxicated. A black Honda Pilot was parked halfway in the garage. Thomas said that Swanson was working beneath it, though according to the criminal complaint, Swanson’s legs were not moving.
Thomas reportedly tried to prevent deputies from investigating Swanson’s body by blocking their path with his wheelchair, but when deputies walked around to the back driver’s side of the Honda Pilot, they saw Swanson pinned underneath the vehicle between the rear and a floor jack. The criminal complaint stated that he was “obviously dead.”
Deputies reported dried blood on Thomas’s hands and feet, which he said came from a small injury to one of his hands.
In a later search of the home, authorities found a bullet in the wall behind the refrigerator and another in a wall upstairs. Bloodstains were found throughout the home and the garage. Authorities also recovered a .40-caliber handgun, bloodstained blankets and a hammer from the Honda Pilot.
Thomas told deputies that Swanson had been changing the oil on the Honda Pilot, but he was unable to explain how he ended up on the floor jack. He said that he had gone inside to use the bathroom while Swanson was working on the vehicle. When Thomas returned, he said, he noticed that Swanson was unresponsive, at which point he grabbed him. He noticed that Swanson was bloody but told investigators he did not know where the blood had come from. He also said that because he uses a wheelchair, it would have been impossible for him to have moved his friend’s body.
According to the criminal complaint, deputies told Thomas that much of his story did not make sense, to which he responded, “I’m telling you the truth … there’s no way. I don’t know what you guys are thinking right now.”
An autopsy conducted by the Ramsey County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Swanson’s death a homicide and concluded that he died of a gunshot wound to the chest.
At press time, Thomas was being held in Ramsey County jail on $1 million bail.