Anchorage detectives found evidence of a violent encounter in the apartment of a 24-year-old friend of missing Senior Airman Clinton Reeves, prosecutors say.
The friend, Airman 1st Class James Devinn Thomas, appeared in court Wednesday facing six felony counts of tampering with evidence. Police described Thomas as a "person of interest" in the Reeves case. The charges against him point to something more sinister, claiming that Thomas lied about his final moments with the 24-year-old Reeves and burned some bloody clothes in a fireplace.
Anchorage police arrested Thomas late Tuesday night at the military base, police spokesman Lt. Dave Parker said. Thomas appeared in court Wednesday and was ordered held on $25,000 cash bail.
"We do not know at this time, for sure, if Mr. Reeves is deceased or alive," Parker said. "We can't say that (Thomas) is responsible, but we will be looking hard at that."
When asked whether the nature of the charges against Thomas indicated Reeves was dead, Parker said he did not know.
Police and Air Force officials have not said whether a body found Tuesday in Eagle River is the missing airman, though he remains their only open missing person case. The charges against Thomas provide the most information revealed so far about what may have happened to Reeves.
Police said Reeves left work at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on April 19, a Thursday. Police said previously that Reeves last spoke to a friend over the following weekend. On April 27, Reeves' rented red Dodge sedan was found unlocked on McCarrey Street in northeast Anchorage and recovered by police.
According to the charges filed in court Wednesday, Thomas was the friend and one of the last people to see Reeves. Thomas is assigned to the Air Force's 703rd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and Reeves to the 673rd Logistics Readiness Squadron, according to the Air Force.
The charges say Thomas told investigators he saw Reeves on April 19, then got a text message from him on April 22. In the text, Thomas said, Reeves said he was sick and seeking medical treatment. When detectives looked at Reeves' phone records, they saw that he'd been around Thomas' home on April 19, which didn't match Thomas' earlier statement to police, according to the charging document.
Detectives obtained a warrant and searched Thomas' home on May 4. They said they discovered "evidence of a violent incident" inside, according to the charges, which are not specific about the evidence. The carpet was recently cleaned, the charges say. In an interview that day, Thomas at first said he didn't know anything about Reeves' disappearance.
Then his story changed, the charges say.
Thomas said Reeves was at his residence, along with a man he didn't know, when he came home on April 19, according to the charges. Thomas then ended the interview.
Two days later, Thomas contacted Air Force law enforcement personnel and told them a different version, the charges say. Thomas said he came home on April 19 to find Reeves lying on a love seat with a towel over his head.
"Thomas stated that 'an unknown man' was inside the residence holding a gun," the charges say. "Thomas stated that the gunman held him at gunpoint, had him turn around, and ordered Thomas not to move. According to Thomas, the gunman and Reeves then left the residence. Thomas claimed not to know if Reeves walked out of the residence or if he was carried."
Thomas told the interviewers he cleaned up blood in the home and, in the process, got blood on two separate sets of clothes. He wiped it off the love seat, couch and carpet, and threw the bloody towels and paper towels in a trash bin, the charges say. He told investigators he sprayed carpet cleaner to get blood out of the carpet. Thomas also told them he tossed the love seat in a trash bin elsewhere in Anchorage, the charges say.
"Thomas took the bloody clothes to a different residence, cut them up and burned the clothes in the fireplace," the charges say. "Thomas said that he did not want Reeves' vehicle parked in the apartment parking lot, so he drove it over towards McCarrey Street and left it there."
Reeves is the only child of Terry Reeves and Judy Davis. He had recently received a check for an insurance claim after a wreck totaled his vehicle, Davis said. Reeves had been looking for a replacement about the time he vanished. Detectives told his parents Reeves might have had a significant amount of cash on him when he went missing, his mother said.
In court Wednesday, Thomas told a judge he and his family planned to hire a lawyer. According to the charging document, Thomas was convicted in 2005 of a felony charge of animal fighting or baiting in South Carolina.
Parker, the police spokesman, said a medical examiner Wednesday had not yet positively identified the man's body discovered Tuesday in Eagle River. Police continue not to connect the body to the case of the missing airman.
Three women walking on Golden Eagle Drive, a steep and winding road in Eagle River, discovered the body beside the roadway about noon Tuesday, police said. Parker said police were not releasing details about the body or what caused the man's death.
A joint investigation in the Reeves case, including military law enforcement and Anchorage police, continues with police leading the effort, Parker said.
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4589.