Erin Thompson, ex-Shawnee sheriff’s detective, pleads guilty to interference, gets 4 days

Mother of infant who died ‘beside herself’ with pleas; Thompson examined death without arrests

Former Detective Erin Thompson, a Shawnee County Sheriff’s deputy for nearly 16 years, will serve four days in a county jail for convictions on two charges of interfering with law enforcement.


On Wednesday in Shawnee County District Court, Thompson first pleaded guilty to the two misdemeanor counts, then immediately was sentenced to the four days in jail. She will pay for the incarceration.

Rather than serving her incarceration in Shawnee County Jail, Thompson will serve her sentence in Wabaunsee County Jail. She will enter that jail Sept. 15 and exit Sept. 19.

Thompson originally was sentenced to two one-year prison terms, but she was placed on two years of supervised probation and ordered to serve four days in jail.

Misty Durham, of Reading, was outraged Wednesday after she heard of Thompson’s pleas and her sentences.

“I’m completely beside myself,” Durham said. Durham is the mother of Caleb Stewart, 5 months old, who died in 2013 while he was at a day care in Montara. In a civil lawsuit, a jury awarded her $250,000 in a wrongful death lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court. Thompson investigated the infant’s death, but no criminal charges were filed.

“A lot of people depended on her to do her job,” Durham said.

Also on Wednesday, Thompson was ordered to pay two fines of $2,500 each, a total of $5,000.

Defense attorney Tom Lemon told District Judge Cheryl Rios that his client had saved the $5,000. Thompson, who surrendered her law enforcement license, is unemployed, Lemon said.

Thompson’s last day of employment with the sheriff’s office was Aug. 30, following nearly two years of paid administrative leave.

On Wednesday, assistant Kansas attorney general Lyndzie Carter said the state had amended the remaining two perjury counts to interference with law enforcement, a misdemeanor defined as falsely reporting any information to an officer or agency when you know it is false and is intended to “influence, impede or obstruct” the duty of the officer or agency.

Perjury is a low-level felony.

Lemon told the judge that he and his client had signed the plea agreement with the attorney general’s office. The evidence presented at Thompson’s preliminary hearing, if heard by a jury during a trial, would support the factual basis for Thompson’s pleas on Wednesday, Lemon said.

Thompson can never work in the law enforcement field again, Lemon said. She surrendered her license, “and she can never get that back,” he said.

Throughout the plea hearing and her sentencing, Thompson didn’t make any statement other than “yes” or “no” answers and pleading “guilty” to the two charges.

Thompson appeared emotional when making the pleas, barely speaking above a whisper and shaking her head in an affirmative response at times.

“She gets what occurred here,” Lemon said at one point.

It’s “pretty terrible” if Thompson, a detective, was lying in official law enforcement documents and affidavits, said Chris Joseph, a Topeka defense attorney who represents defendants in high-profile criminal cases.

“You always hope that police tell the truth all the time, on the witness stand and in reports,” Joseph said. “I think they do.”

Thompson was placed on administrative leave Sept. 15, 2015, following inconsistencies discovered within the sheriff’s office. The Topeka Capital-Journal first reported on the allegation of falsified information in March 2016.

Thompson was charged on May 24, 2016, with three counts of felony perjury. In two counts, Thompson alleged she tried to contact the defendant when she hadn’t, and in the third, she said the defendant refused to talk to her when she hadn’t attempted to talk to him.

At a preliminary hearing Jan. 19, witnesses testified they never heard from Thompson, who reported in sworn statements they wouldn’t talk to her.

Following the preliminary hearing, a district judge found probable cause to go to trial on two of the charges but dismissed the third charge for lack of probable cause.

Misty Durham said the sentences Thompson received “were not near enough” and “were a slap in the face” of victims whose cases Thompson investigated.

On Tuesday, a Shawnee County sheriff’s spokesman said that office determined Thompson “followed all protocols” when investigating the infant’s death at a Montara day care in 2013.

The district attorney’s office had connected Thompson to more than 600 cases, including 305 felonies and high-profile homicides.

Contact reporter Steve Fry at (785) 295-1206 or @TCJCourtsNCrime on Twitter.