Suspect in '90 case accused in new killing

Marion Gales, who was charged Monday by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in a woman's murder earlier this year, is the same man who was a central figure in a sensational and still-unsolved homicide from 18 years ago.

Marion Anthony Gales, 47, was charged Monday in the death of Lacoya Monique Martin, 27, whose body was found April 6 in the 1900 block of Oaklawn Avenue. Detectives say forensic evidence links Gales to the case, but they declined to release details.

It's the first time Gales has been charged with murder. In 1997, however, he lost a wrongful death suit in connection with the slaying of Thomas, a 32-year-old wife and mother.

That civil trial is the closest Charlotte has come to resolving the Thomas case, which shocked the city with its brutality and dramatic legal twists.

Thomas was killed on the morning of July 27, 1990. Her assailant cuffed her hands behind her back, chased her through her house, slashed her over 20 times, then left her bleeding on the dining room floor.

Through it all, the Thomas' 10-month-old son lay in his crib, unharmed.

Thomas' husband, prominent Charlotte kidney surgeon Dr. Ed Friedland, found the body after returning from work late that evening.

In the months that followed, Friedland made it clear he suspected Gales, a convicted burglar who had done yard work for the couple.

But the police suspected Friedland, who they believed had committed murder to end an unhappy marriage.

In 1994, Friedland returned to his Morehead Street office one afternoon to find homicide investigators waiting to arrest him. Among evidence cited was testimony by witnesses who said Friedland had engaged in affairs with other women and feared a hefty divorce settlement. The charges were dropped eight months later because of insufficient evidence.

That's when Friedland filed his wrongful death suit against Gales. A jury eventually awarded Friedland $8.6 million, based on circumstantial evidence.

Detectives were not releasing details Tuesday of evidence in the latest case involving Gales, including how Lacoya Monique Martin was killed. She was known to be among Charlotte's chronic homeless and had recently been charged with resisting a public officer and possession of drug paraphernalia. Those who knew her said she was pregnant.

Gales' arrest this week is the latest in a string of cases that includes convictions for larceny from a vehicle, breaking and entering, first-degree burglary, and carrying a concealed weapon.

He has long denied killing Kim Thomas. However, Charlotte attorney David Rudolf represented Friedland in the civil case, and he saw Gales' arrest Monday as proof the verdict was justified.

“We were certainly convinced that he was responsible for Kim Thomas' death,” said Rudolf. “And if these (new) allegations are true, it certainly shows that he was capable of the kind of violence that took place in the Friedland house.”

Friedland, now remarried and practicing medicine in Florida, did not return repeated phone calls Tuesday. But Rudolf said the two had spoken about Gales' arrest.

“He was stunned that Gales was arrested for murder,” said Rudolf. “Once that sunk in, he was very emotional about what it meant…Obviously, he wants the person responsible for Kim's death to be brought to justice.”

Kim Thomas' family also wants justice, but not all are convinced Gales was her killer. Lou Thomas, Kim's father, has gone on record saying it was her bad marriage to Friedland that led to her death.

“I never thought that he (Gales) was guilty of the murder of my daughter, Kim,” said Lou Thomas, reacting at his home in New Jersey. “…He did not have the intelligence to leave such a clean crime scene. If he is guilty of murdering Kim, it would be a total, total surprise. It would defy all logic.”

Steve Lyttle and Elizabeth Leland contributed to this story.