LAKE CITY, Fla. – The Lake City Police Department on Thursday asked the public for information in a cold case homicide.
John Robert Thomas, 19, of Lake City, was killed 20 years ago, and his family wants answers.
“We’re all just really looking for the answers. We want to know what has happened. We want to know why,” said Heather Landacre, his aunt who was 14 at the time he was killed. “He truly was an amazing person. He was sweet and he was kind. Everybody that I’ve talked to they had nothing bad to say about him.”
About midnight Dec. 9, 2001, Thomas borrowed his roommate’s 1997 gray Nissan Altima to go to the local Walmart store to return a bracelet, police said. Video from Walmart confirmed he did go to the store, and video of the parking lot also showed there were possibly two other people in the Altima, according to police.
A witness said Thomas was later at a house on Northeast Washington Street near Northeast Broadway Avenue with several other people between midnight and 4 a.m.
“It was also reported that one of the persons inside the home began handling a small semiautomatic handgun, chambering and ejecting rounds making the victim feel unsafe,” the Police Department said.
According to police, the witness left the home, heading west on Northeast Washington Street, and gunshots were heard coming from near the house moments later.
Police said other witnesses reported Thomas was in an altercation on the porch or outside the residence over a watch.
“During the altercation, Thomas was getting the upper hand on the other individual when someone from a crowd of onlookers approached the two and fired a handgun at Thomas’ head,” the Police Department said.
Police said Thomas suffered a gunshot wound to the head and was found dead about 4:50 a.m. on Northeast Broadway Avenue near Northeast Washington Street.
Wanting to know more, Landacre reached out to Jason Futch, the creator of the Suwanee Valley Unsolved podcast. Futch said a woman was arrested in connection to his death in 2002.
“DNA was found at the scene that matched her DNA,” Futch said. “When they brought the case to the grand jury, they didn’t want to proceed because just because they found DNA at the scene, didn’t necessarily mean she was the one who pulled the trigger.”
Suwanee Valley Unsolved said it has tried to get in contact with the woman but has not been able to find her contact information.
Futch also said the car Thomas borrowed was found the day after the homicide and had been lit on fire.
Landacre said she doesn’t want to go 20 more years without justice.
“I want anybody who has any information, anything, even if you think it’s nothing, just say something, come forward. It could lead to the arrest of the person who actually done this,” Landacre said.
Anyone with information about the homicide is asked to call LCPD investigators at 386-752-4343. To remain anonymous, contact the LCPD tip line at 386-719-2068 or Crime Stoppers of Columbia County at 386-754-7099.