Pete Gilchrist's Lasting Shame

Unreal. Made-for-TV stuff. Wrap your head around the news that Marion Gales, career criminal, has been arrested again. This time for murder. Eighteen years too late.nn

Gales has been charged with the April 6th murder of Monique Martin. Jail records show that less than two weeks after that death, Gales was arrested and released on scrap metal theft charges. One month after that Gales was arrested for felony B&E and carrying a concealed knife. He was bonded out.

In 1990, a South Charlotte mother had her throat slit and was stabbed over 20 times in her own home. In 1994 CMPD arrested and charged Kim Thomas’ husband with the crime. Dr. Edward Friedland defended himself by saying that Marion Gales, who had done yard work at the couples’ home, was the perp. No one believed him, least of all county prosecutor Peter Gilchrist who pursued the case against Friedland to the exclusion of all other suspects. That included Marion Gales, whom police believed was both too fixated on theft and not close enough to Thomas emotionally to have murdered her in such a violent fashion.

Gilchrist and CMPD held that Friedland killed his wife before he left for work around 7:30 am, then called 911 to report her death he returned home at 10pm. Trouble was, they had no forensic evidence which could place the time of death before 7:30 am. When the prosecution’s expert witness admitted this to a judge, the case fell apart. Gilchrist was forced to drop the charges.

Several significant things then happened. For a supposedly guilty man, Friedland did not walk away from the case. In 1997 he filed a wrongful death civil action against Gales and won a symbolic $8.6m. judgement against Gales. Friedland also filed a malicious prosecution case against the city of Charlotte and several CMPD officers. The city spent $4m. defending its actions, insisting again that CMPD had no reason to suspect Gales of the murder of Kim Thomas. Superior Court Judge Craig Ellis threw out Friedland’s suit in 2001, finding that CMPD had probable cause to charge Friedland. But Gilchrist and CMPD continued to refuse to charge Gales.

During that time CMPD tried to gag Friedland from going on WBT to talk about the case. It was becoming clear why. CMPD from the very start bungled the crime scene, failing to secure it from contamination. Investigators did not bother to track down the handcuffs used to on Kim Thomas, cuffs of a type Gales admitted he had owned. Instead of pursuing all leads, investigators zeroed in on Friedland, even telling neighbors not to worry about a violent criminal on the loose, that the killer would not strike again. Yet CMPD knew that Gales lived blocks away in Grier Heights.

As Jerry Klein reported for Creative Loafing in March 1997:

A longtime resident of Grier Heights, Gales had an extensive history of criminal activity, violence and drug abuse. In 1979, he’d made an unforced entry into the home of another Churchill Road woman and shot her. He’d gone to jail for that offense. But that wasn’t the only time he’d broken into houses, especially in that neighborhood. Friends, relatives and acquaintances have testified that he’d broken into more than 20 homes, there and elsewhere, in the first half of 1990 alone. His methodology seemed to include getting to know his targets first, both the layout of the house and area, as well as the residents, often by offering to do yardwork for them. At times, he would even steal from their homes while the owners were outside. …

Gales had a long history of violent acts against women. He once tried to strangle and drown a girlfriend, then raped her twice. He beat another girlfriend so badly her face was unrecognizable by her parents; he broke her ribs and put her in the hospital for a week. He’d raped and beaten one of his own sisters and beaten two others, striking one in the face and grabbing her about the neck. He’d used a knife, a pliers, and a gun as weapons. He’s admitted assaulting seven different women. He’d been charged with assault on a police officer with a deadly weapon. He’s described himself as having a bad temper, especially when high. Gales has denied carrying and using a knife with a 6-to-8-inch blade — consistent with the weapon used to kill Thomas — although one former girlfriend says he did carry such a knife. …

In the weeks prior to the murder, Gales had, according to various witnesses, become acquainted with Thomas, doing odd jobs around the house — although he’s denied ever having met her. One of Kim’s best friends, who early on identified a photograph of Gales, told police that Gales had once come walking through the woods behind Kim’s home — from the direction of Grier Heights. The friend described an occasion where Gales came to the door of Kim’s house, where he could watch the direction she took to her office, where she went to get cash to pay him for his work. Later, the police would find that her office had clearly been searched by the killer. Gales apparently had lots of cash the day after the killing, offering his brother-in-law $500 to drive him out of the area that evening.

At 5:30am, on the morning of the murder, Gales knocked on the door of a neighbor of Ed and Kim’s, apparently high on drugs, claiming to be an undercover police officer, trying to get the homeowner to come out of the house. He was identified by that neighbor as having a disfigured jaw, the result of a gunshot wound. He was wearing, according to that neighbor and others, a red shirt and tan pants, and was wearing “docksider” shoes — consistent with a shoeprint found in Kim’s house.

He was seen that morning wearing gloves; there was a gloved handprint found in Thomas’ office.

Later that day, he stole clothes from his brother-in-law, who described him as “acting strange, worried, and tore-up,” and wearing the same type of clothing described by Thomas’ neighbor.

On the evening of the murder, Gales was identified by friends and relatives as having scratches and blood on him. Later, Gales left the Grier Heights area to stay for several weeks in another part of Charlotte across town.

There is much more. Too much to be fully recounted here. Gales’ photograph was identified by friends and neighbors of Thomas; his brother-in-law called the police, less than 24 hours after the murder, to tell them he thought Marion had killed her. Other friends and relatives suspected his involvement within days after the murder. And Gales has no alibi for the time period of the killing. The circumstantial evidence goes on and on.

But not for Gilchrist. He told The Charlotte Observer in 2003 that he flatly believes Gales did not kill Kim Thomas.

Wonder if that certitude applies to Monique Martin?

Gilchrist, CMPD investigators, and any city staff who participated in this farce of justice have blood on their hands. Were there a decent person among them, they would resign in disgrace.

Bonus Observation: Gales has been living at the homeless shelter on College St. Naturally.

Update: The Uptown paper of record tracked down some interesting quotes to keep handy:

Gales’ arrest this week is the latest in a string of cases that includes convictions for larceny from a vehicle, breaking and entering, first-degree burglary, and carrying a concealed weapon.

He has long denied killing Kim Thomas. However, Charlotte attorney David Rudolf represented Friedland in the civil case, and he saw Gales’ arrest Monday as proof the verdict was justified.

“We were certainly convinced that he was responsible for Kim Thomas’ death,” said Rudolf. “And if these (new) allegations are true, it certainly shows that he was capable of the kind of violence that took place in the Friedland house.”

Friedland, now remarried and practicing medicine in Florida, did not return repeated phone calls Tuesday. But Rudolf said the two had spoken about Gales’ arrest.

“He was stunned that Gales was arrested for murder,” said Rudolf. “Once that sunk in, he was very emotional about what it meant…Obviously, he wants the person responsible for Kim’s death to be brought to justice.”

Kim Thomas’ family also wants justice, but not all are convinced Gales was her killer. Lou Thomas, Kim’s father, has gone on record saying it was her bad marriage to Friedland that led to her death.

“I never thought that he (Gales) was guilty of the murder of my daughter, Kim,” said Lou Thomas, reacting at his home in New Jersey. “…He did not have the intelligence to leave such a clean crime scene. If he is guilty of murdering Kim, it would be a total, total surprise. It would defy all logic.”

Still waiting to hear from Pete Gilchrist.