Dorothy Thomas was 27 years old when she was murdered. Her body was found at her job in Tallahassee, Florida, more than 60 years ago, and the person responsible for her death has yet to be brought to justice.
At around 9:45 a.m. on Sept. 6, 1957, officers with the Tallahassee Police Department were dispatched to the New Way Laundry station at 633 W. Tennessee Street after receiving a 911 call from a Coca-Cola truck driver named Clarence Rhames, then 38.
Rhames apprised the 911 operator that upon entering the facility, he encountered a woman on the floor of the restroom, which was located in the rear of the store. She was lying face down in a pool of her own blood.
When the first emergency responders arrived, the woman was identified as Thomas, the manager of New Way Laundry Station, and she was pronounced dead on the scene.
Responding officers commenced searching the facility for evidence, which led them to a small amount of blood on the rear door of the facility.
The cash register was partially opened, but the money was undisturbed, leading officers to exclude robbery as a motive for the killing.
There was also no sign of a struggle.
Police Capt. Bob Maige told the media in 1958 that he found it peculiar that the suspect walked out of the store without being noticed, as their shirt, arms, and hand may have been splattered with blood.
When they questioned employees of neighboring establishments, no one seemed to have heard screams or anything unusual emitting from the New Way Laundry station.
From the evidence gathered at the scene, investigators determined that Thomas may have been dragged from the front area of the business to the restroom, where she was stabbed 36 times in the neck and upper chest area, the Tallahassee Democrat reported.
She was the only employee working at New Way Laundry at the time, but moments before her death, there was a customer inside the dry cleaning business.
However, there have been no reports on whether or not investigators were successful in locating that individual for questioning.
While police officers were conducting an investigation, Dorothy’s husband, Kenneth Earl Thomas, arrived on the scene. They took him to the police station for questioning.
He told detectives that he dropped his wife off at the laundry pickup station around 8 a.m. that morning. And afterward, he went to several grocery stores.
When detectives questioned him about the footprints found behind the store, he admitted that they were his. Kenneth specified that he went to the back of the store to gander at a banana tree.
Dorothy and Kenneth Thomas lived on a farm near Woodville in Wakulla County, and he said he was contemplating replanting the banana tree on his farm.
He was released from custody after taking two lie detector tests in Atlanta, Georgia. It was reported that the results of one of the tests were “unfavorable” for him, but Sheriff W. P. Joyce did not elaborate further on the matter.
When Kenneth was asked if he wanted to take another lie detector test, he refused.
Joyce stated that they decided to let Thomas go because they didn’t have enough evidence to charge him, but they did not rule him out as a suspect at that time.
Kenneth then went to Johnston, New York, to attend Dorothy Thomas’ funeral. Several months after that, the house they had lived in together was destroyed in a fire.
The cause of the fire was listed as undetermined.
A subsequent investigation led to the arrest of two other suspects, but again, investigators did not have enough evidence to link any of them to the crime.
More than six decades have passed, and no arrests have been made in connection with Dorothy’s death. Her case remains unsolved, but the Leon County Sheriff’s Office continues to investigate.
Anyone with information regarding the unsolved murder of Dorothy Thomas is encouraged to contact the Tallahassee Police Department at (850) 891-4725.