Twenty-three years after Kim Thomas died in a savage attack that still haunts the city, her son returned to Charlotte for a vigil Saturday to celebrate the life of a mother he barely knew.
Elliot Friedland, now 24 and working at a steak house in Florida, was 10 months old when Thomas was chased down in their Cotswold home one morning in July 1990 and stabbed more than 20 times. Elliot was left unharmed in his crib, alone until nearly 10 p.m. when his father alerted police about the killing.
Elliot said he was shielded as a child from sensationalism surrounding the case. He said he would rather remain anonymous, but he spoke briefly after the vigil at Freedom Park.
Its nice to know that a lot of people still care and remember and still hold hope that the case will be solved, he said.
Because he was so young, Elliot doesnt remember his mother.
He said he also doesnt remember the years of uncertainty when his father, Dr. Ed Friedland, became a suspect and was charged with her murder. Though the charge eventually was dropped, Friedland has never been publicly exonerated.
At the vigil, Sally Gordon said Elliotts memories must come from people who knew Kim Thomas, including the 20 who gathered at Freedom Park near a red sunset maple tree planted in her honor. Below the tree is a bronze plaque that salutes Thomas as an activist for good causes.
I just want Elliot to know how much he was wanted and adored, Gordon told the crowd. She was the social worker assigned to work with the family when Elliot was adopted as an infant. She recalled him crawling on the floor during one meeting. I think he had a big wad of grape jelly on his face, Gordon said. And (Kim) licked it off without missing a beat.
Margie Storch, a friend, talked about the bright-colored clothes Thomas enjoyed wearing, reflecting on the outside what she felt on the inside.
One of the most moving moments came when Thomas Moore, an early childhood educator, began singing and the crowd joined in, their voices drowning out the squeals of children playing nearby on swings and slides: Let there be peace on earth, they sang, and let it begin with me.
Who killed Kim Thomas?
Though much of Saturdays vigil focused on the joys of Thomass life, her sister, Lynn Thomas, of Massachusetts, reminded everyone that the killer has never been held accountable.
Im determined to work with police to bring justice for Kim, she said and choked back tears. ... Its been too long for me to wonder who killed my sister.
Detectives need someone with additional information to step forward, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Major Mike Smathers said last week. Weve exhausted the scientific aspects of the case, Smathers said. Weve done a tremendous amount of work, a lot of lab testing, a lot of detective work. We just want that little bit extra we could use to go apply for a warrant.
He declined to say against whom.
In 2010, police said they were investigating a person of interest other than Ed Friedland. Smathers declined to name the person.
Friedland, a kidney specialist in Pensacola, Fla., won a wrongful death suit in 1997 against Marion Gales, who did yard work for Thomas, 32, and was seen in the neighborhood the morning of her death.
Gales is in prison for voluntary manslaughter in the death of a female acquaintance. He and at least five people other than Friedland were suspects early in the investigation in 1990, but police contended Friedland killed Thomas as a way out of their marriage.
Kims been dead for 23 years and nobodys been held accountable, Lynn Thomas said. Thats what I want. Not a day goes by I dont think about her and miss her.
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