Reporting Esme Murphy
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It was a crime that changed the Twin Cities, state law and attitudes toward violence against women.
But now the nine-time convicted rapist and killer behind the “Honeywell Ramp Murder” is up for parole in just a few days. Friends and family of his last victim are fighting back to make sure he’s never set free.
It was like Mary Foley, a manager at Honeywell in Minneapolis, to be one of the few who went to work on that sunny Sunday in June 1988.
Her killer would later say Mary screamed and screamed for help in the parking ramp where he attacked her. Liz Petschel grew up with Mary and has been a family spokesperson for 24 years.
“He beat her and strangled her so unmercifully she was unrecognizable,” Petschel said. “I think of her going through that alone frightened. I can’t bear it, I just can’t.”
Within days of her killing, police arrested David Anthony Thomas. The horror over Mary’s death turned to outrage that he was on the streets.
In 1981, Thomas was convicted of rape and kidnapping two women. He was paroled after two years.
In 1987, he was convicted of auto theft and was paroled after seven months. He was released on May 17, 1988.
Exactly 26 days later, he raped and murdered Mary Foley.
Thomas was on the street because in 1988, a sentence for rape was less than four years. Foley’s murder changed that. Within a year, legislators doubled the penalty for rape and sharply increased the sentence for first-degree murder.
But the tough new sentences came too late for Mary’s killer.
In the fall of 1988, David Thomas was sentenced to life. Back then, life meant serving a minimum of 17 years.
“He was sentenced under the old guidelines so what do you do?” Petschel said.
And there are other victims. In the 26 days he was out, Thomas raped or tried to rape seven other women. He was convicted in all those cases as well.
In a letter to the Parole Advisory Board, Mary’s sister, Barbara, wrote, “My hearts go out to the other women who David Thomas raped. Please, please, please hear our cry to have this man imprisoned for his entire life.”
Because of those additional rape charges, corrections officials say if Thomas is paroled, he would be ordered to serve 13 additional years for the rapes.
But Foley’s family is not taking chances and has started a letter writing campaign demanding Thomas, who is now 50, remain behind bars.
“I am dumbfounded,” Petschel said. “I can’t believe this I can’t believe this man is somehow up for parole.”
There are 149 other inmates in Minnesota prisons who were punished under the old sentencing guidelines. Thomas has had 30 disciplinary violations in prison and is currently in a segregation unit. He’ll attend his parole hearing in 10 days via video conference.
Thomas was also civilly committed as a psychopathic sexual predator. It is possible that if his sentences were ever completed, he could be sent to the Minnesota Security Hospital in St. Peter.