Car Theft Death: No Murder Charge

Times Staff Writer

Despite evidence that police investigators say sufficiently connects an Ontario man to the car theft and killing of a 19-year-old Riverside woman, the Riverside County district attorney declined Tuesday to file a murder charge against him.

Paul Douglas Anderson, 31, arrested last week on suspicion of killing Pamela Thompson by running her over with her own stolen vehicle Nov. 7, was instead charged with three felony counts of receiving and possessing stolen property with intent to defraud.

"After a review of the facts and circumstances in the case thus far, that's all we can file," said Ingrid Wyatt, a district attorney spokeswoman. "The investigation is ongoing, but we don't want to rush to judgment. We want to be sure before we charge someone with a crime so serious."

Anderson's attorney, Stuart Holmes, refused to comment. Steve Harmon, the attorney who represented Anderson temporarily Tuesday for a hearing seeking to delay his arraignment, said a decision to delay adding a murder charge is not uncommon.

"It would not be ethical to charge someone with murder, then remove the charge later," Harmon said.

Anderson remains in jail with bail set at $25,000; he is now scheduled to be arraigned today in Riverside County Superior Court.

Thompson sustained massive injuries to her head and body when she was run over in the parking lot of her apartment complex by someone driving her stolen 1993 Nissan Sentra. She died three days later.

Lead investigator police Sgt. Steve Johnson said prosecutors have told him that additional evidence that ties Anderson to Thompson's vehicle is required before a murder charge could be added. Thompson's vehicle was found less than a mile from her apartment Nov. 13, and Anderson was arrested at a Yucaipa residence 30 hours later.

"Shortly after Pamela was killed, we started tracking her bank account activity and found that her bank card had been used several times -- that's how we tracked down Paul Anderson," Johnson said. "Once we identified Mr. Anderson, we contacted some of his associates, who led us to [the Yucaipa residence], where we found him possessing Pamela's bank card and driver's license."

Anderson also had car burglary tools and shaved keys often used by car thieves, Johnson said. One of the keys started the engine of Thompson's vehicle, Johnson said.

Johnson said police are awaiting tests on evidence collected in the car, including hairs, DNA and fingerprints. "It's certainly disappointing that they were not able to file the murder charge [Tuesday], but I respect their decision," Johnson said. "We're working day and night to collect that additional evidence."

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