Weeks after moving in with his nephew, Terry Kimball vanishes

By John Aguilar
Camera Staff Writer

Terry Kimball with his dogs Badger, Dutch and Matilda in 1997. Dutch and Matilda, left, accompanied "Uncle Terry" on his trip to Colorado, but it’s unclear what happened to the dogs after his death. (Courtesy of Karen Johnson)

News of his 10-year-old grand-nephew’s accident reached Terry Kimball at his home in Lincoln, Ala., a few days after he returned home from a visit to Colorado.

He told his wife he needed to go back to be with his nephew Scott Kimball’s older son, who lay in a coma at Children’s Hospital in Denver.

Accompanied by two of the couple’s dogs, Terry packed up his Chevy Tahoe and headed back west.

Late July 2004

After several days at the boy’s bedside, “Uncle Terry” began talking to Scott Kimball about sticking around to work with him in his beef business.

Scott Kimball had helped launch Faith Farms the previous year and regularly drove to Brush and Fort Collins to buy and sell cows. The work suited Terry — a heavy-set 60-year-old who had labored as a truck driver, home renovator and oil rig maintenance man.

He moved into Scott and Lori Kimball’s Adams County home, staying in the room belonging to Lori Kimball’s daughter, Kaysi McLeod, who had been missing since the previous summer.

Terry’s decision to stay in Colorado didn’t sit well with Karen Johnson, his wife of 11 years. Scott Kimball had a criminal history, and she didn’t trust him.

She remembered that her husband hadn’t gotten along with his nephew years earlier when they worked together in Washington, felling trees. Terry had left after a blow-out argument.

Read a profile of Terry Kimball.

Waiting at home in Alabama, Johnson wanted her husband back. She wanted to resume their domestic routine, with Terry gardening and cooking elaborate meals.

“I was really perturbed about him going into business with Scott,” remembers Johnson, 64. “I was thinking, ‘This isn’t what we need to be doing at this point in our lives.’”

But Terry had an independent streak. He’d been off for extended trips on his own before, and he wouldn’t be stopped this time.

August 2004

Johnson heard less and less from her husband as the summer wore on, but she didn’t think much of it at first.

“I had it in the back of my mind that he’ll call me on the phone when it doesn’t work out for him (in Colorado),” she remembers. “That call never came.”

Johnson started to wonder if he’d run off with another woman.

Tired of Terry’s taciturn ways, Johnson decided to get his attention. She would ask for a divorce.

Late August/Early September 2004

Lori Kimball returned from work one afternoon to find her white leather sofa sitting outside, drenched in what looked like vomit.

Her husband told her one of the dogs had thrown up, but she suspected Terry, her house guest, had drunk too much and gotten sick on the couch.

Terry Kimball, near Hamilton, Mont., in 1996. (Courtesy of Karen Johnson)

Terry’s truck and dogs were gone, but his clothes were still in his room and his tools remained in the shed. Lori Kimball asked her husband where “Uncle Terry” had gone.

He had won the Ohio lottery and run off to Mexico with a stripper named Ginger, Scott Kimball responded. He wouldn’t be back.

Lori Kimball didn’t question her husband. She had always found Terry peculiar and didn’t particularly like having him in the house. Even if Scott Kimball’s story seemed far-fetched, she didn’t really care.

“Scott said he left, and I believed it,” she remembers.

September 2004

Johnson called the Kimball home over Labor Day weekend and asked to speak with her husband.

He isn’t here, Scott Kimball replied.

“You go find him and tell him to call me,” Johnson remembers insisting.

Kimball said he’d have his uncle get back to her.

He didn’t, so Johnson called again, reaching Lori Kimball this time.

Terry had won the jackpot in Ohio and left town, Lori Kimball told her.

Suspicious, Johnson wrote the Ohio State Lottery for confirmation but never heard back.

She had her lawyer send divorce papers to the Kimballs’ home. The papers were returned.

Johnson never heard from Terry again; nor did she find out what happened to their dogs.

Slowly, she got on with her life. Her divorce went through the following year, and she eventually moved out of the Alabama home she had shared with her husband.

“I just sort of gave up,” Johnson recalls.

Scott Kimball used his uncle’s name in the months after Terry Kimball’s death. This is from a November 2004 complaint, claiming that Terry Kimball bought 21 head of cattle with a fraudulent $11,617.50 check. (Courtesy of Lafayette police)

Nobody reported Terry Kimball missing.

August 2005

Scott Kimball’s father, Virgil Kimball, received an e-mail from terrylkimball@yahoo.com.

It had been nearly a year since Virgil Kimball had heard from his brother. He was having a great time in Mexico and probably wouldn’t be back, the e-mail said.

Police would trace the e-mail account to Scott Kimball’s computer two years later.

They would also discover that Scott Kimball used his uncle’s name and credit card in the weeks after his disappearance, and that someone had written $23,083 in bad checks on Terry’s account from July 19 to Nov. 18, 2004.

Terry’s bank, MBNA America, filed a suspicious-activity report with the FBI’s Denver office, but it’s unclear when the report was filed or whether the bureau did anything about it.

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