From bad checks to bodies

March 19th, 2010

Young Lafayette detective ‘connected the dots’

By John Aguilar
Camera Staff Writer

Lafayette police Detective Gary Thatcher stands in front of the 801 S. Public Road building that in 2005 housed the offices of Cleve Armstrong, Barb Kimball and Scott Kimball. (Kasia Broussalian / Camera)

Some of the strongest praise of Gary Thatcher’s efforts to put Scott Kimball behind bars comes from an unlikely source — the criminal himself.

“All credit goes to Detective Thatcher. He is from small hick town USA and he connected the dots,” Kimball wrote to the Camera, in response to a letter sent to him at the Sterling Correctional Facility. “Thatcher is the reason I was even looked at.”

Thatcher, an eight-year veteran of the Lafayette Police Department, shares credit with the FBI, the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office and the families who doggedly looked for answers about their loved ones’ disappearances.

“To me, it was a team effort,” Thatcher said.

But it was the young detective’s initial investigation into a $55,000 check-fraud scam that led to Kimball’s undoing.

Thatcher, who wears crisply starched shirts and has a neatly trimmed goatee, said he had no idea in January 2006 just how serious and complicated a criminal case he had been handed.

“When you’re assigned a check-fraud case, you never suspect you are going to work a case that will turn up four dead bodies,” he said.

Thatcher’s boss, Chief Paul Schultz, called the Kimball probe “the most extensive investigation we’ve ever undertaken.”

Schultz freed up Thatcher, then with just two years of detective work under his belt, for months at a time to pursue Kimball full-time. The detective, barely 30, worked alongside FBI Special Agent Jonny Grusing, flying to Texas and Montana to conduct jailhouse interviews and scouring mountains and canyons for victims’ remains.

In all, the case generated nine thick binders of evidence.

“I think he did an outstanding job from the beginning to the end,” Schultz said. “Detective Thatcher played the leading role in bringing this case to a successful conclusion.”

Lori McLeod, who first spoke with Thatcher about her missing daughter, Kaysi, shortly after he began investigating Kimball for check fraud, said the detective’s determination to solve the case even after it transcended his jurisdiction is a testament to his dedication to the victims’ families.

“He did not have to do this,” McLeod said. “He chose to help us.”

Thatcher returned the praise, saying the families were critical in putting a human face on the case.

“They were good about personalizing the case,” he said. “You get to truly know your victims. They help you keep in mind that what you’re doing is important.”

Both the Lafayette Police Department and the Veterans of Foreign Wars awarded Thatcher with Officer of the Year awards last year for his work on the Kimball case.

Thatcher said the experience has made him a better investigator, and a more cynical one.

“It’s made me better at reading people when they’re lying,” he said.

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