A murder charge hung over William "Gus" Thomas for 40 years. He had to endure decades of suspicion, physical attacks and threats from what he calls a "bad cop." Friday, Thomas spoke to NBC29 about the High's Ice Cream murders, and the possible cover-up.
Thomas says strong family, friends and faith sustained him during those four decades. Thomas has only praise for authorities working the case now, but says a bad cop is responsible for dragging him to trial in the city's most notorious killings.
In the wake of the high's double shooting, Thomas says the lead investigator and prosecutor tried three times to put a possible murder weapon in his hands. According to Thomas, they said, "'Here Gus, take a look at this,' and I didn't. Given the way things are now falling out, I was the only handy suspect they had."
Despite a lack of physical evidence, Thomas went to trial on one first-degree murder charge in 1968. Even after the Staunton jury acquitted him, Thomas says investigator Dave Bocock threatened to pursue the second murder count.
"Dave was a bad guy and the deeper they go into this thing...the more they're going to find. And, he went to great lengths to make sure that people didn't track him," said Thomas.
But old allegations continued to follow Thomas in the years that followed. Thomas shared, "Where it hurt was trying to get a job, trying to get a business going, trying to maintain friendships, things like that."
Lowell Sheets and other detectives managed to crack the case last summer, then turned their work over to prosecutors and police.
Thomas said, "To take this thing in the state that the records are apparently in and do what they've done...I think it's commendable. I think there are good strong hands at the wheel."
Now, Staunton and state police are looking over the case files, looking in part for the role of original lead investigator Dave Bocock. Soon before her death, murder suspect Sharron Diane Smith told officers that Bocock taught her how to shoot and hid the weapon after the killings.
"I think there was more at foot than just a lady losing her temper and killing two people...a great deal more," stated Thomas.
Thomas was formally cleared in the deaths of Connie Hevener and Carolyn Perry just five weeks ago when prosecutors dropped the second murder charge against him. He says he hopes investigators finally uncover all the details about what happened that night and in the days that followed.