An Excelsior Springs man accused of kidnapping and killing a young Ray County woman pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder, armed criminal action, and knowingly burning. Erik Zimmerman, 31, was scheduled to go on trial Monday, Apr. 16 in Ray County for the death of Carol Thomas, 23. He was also charged in Clay County with one count of kidnapping. That case has not been resolved at this time.
Court documents allege Zimmerman, James Reardon, 25, and Jennifer Saling, 23, kidnapped Thomas near South Myrtle Street in Excelsior Springs on November 4, 2009. Authorities believed the killing was a possible case of a drug deal gone bad. Zimmerman said that he paid Thomas $500 for drugs which turned out to be rock salt, according to court records.
Witnesses said Thomas was beaten and thrown into a car trunk and was not seen again until authorities discovered her body in a ravine near Lawson the next day. A torched vehicle was found a few miles from Thomas’ body. She was found with two apparent gunshot wounds, according to the probable cause statements.
|Zimmerman told police after they abducted Thomas, the three drove south to Missouri City before almost running out of gas. An unidentified woman arrived with extra gas, and Saling left with her.
Zimmerman said in his statements to police that Reardon and Thomas argued after he took her out of the trunk. He said he heard one gunshot and then saw Reardon fire a final shot into Thomas’ head, he told authorities. He claimed Reardon tossed her into a nearby ditch.
Zimmerman is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 3 at 1:30 p.m.
He could get up to life in prison on the second-degree murder charge, and no less than three years for the armed criminal action charge.