Jeanne Calle’s last conversation with anyone on this earth, other than with the black thug who bludgeoned her to death.
Police: ‘Brazen’ suspect returned to scene of Midtown slaying
Atlanta man, 22, charged with murder, met Calle by chance while viewing condos
By MIKE MORRIS, TIM EBERLY
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Thursday, February 19, 2009
Their fateful meeting at the high-rise Midtown condo complex—the prominent cancer researcher and the young man described by police as a two-bit criminal—was nothing but chance.
Eugenia “Jeanne” Calle, who had a condo on the Aqua building’s 20th floor, was walking her gray poodle.
Shamal Thompson, 22, fresh off a meal at a nearby Checkers fast-food restaurant, wandered in under the pretense of shopping for condos in the luxury building that boasts private elevators, around-the-clock security and skyline-view homes that cost as much as $2.5 million.
Calle undoubtedly thought she was seizing on an opportunity to sell her condo. But it was Thompson, police say, who was looking for opportunity.
Early Thursday morning, authorities arrested Thompson and charged him with beating Calle to death as she showed him around her penthouse condo. After the killing, and after he went on a spending spree with Calle’s credit cards, Thompson got bolder, returning to the scene of the crime late Wednesday night and trying to con his way back inside her condo, police said.
“He was extremely brazen,” said Atlanta police Lt. Keith Meadows, commander of the department’s homicide unit. “It’s a little unsettling when people are that bold. I can’t even put it into words.”
Just two weeks into retirement, Calle wanted to sell her condo so she could move in with her fiance.
While crossing through Aqua’s lobby, she overheard Thompson and a real-estate agent chatting about taking a tour of two condos that were for sale, Meadows said.
“She said, ‘Don’t forget about mine. It’s for sale, also,’” Meadows said.
Thompson didn’t. After the tour, a security guard called Calle and said that Thompson was in the lobby.
“Would you like for me to escort him up?” the guard asked Calle, according to Meadows.
“No, it’ll be fine,” Calle responded. “I don’t want him to think that we don’t trust him.’ “
Thompson, who also goes by Jamal Thompson, headed up on his own around 2 p.m. Tuesday.
He spent 20 to 30 minutes in the unit before hitting Calle on the back of the head with an unknown object in the kitchen, Meadows said.
Thompson told a police detective after his arrest that he pushed Calle and that she hit her head on the kitchen counter. He told police he didn’t know she had died, Meadows said.
He dragged her into the pantry, took a diamond ring off her finger, about $68 in cash, her credit cards and her condo electronic swipe card before leaving, Meadows said. She died from blunt force trauma.
Calle’s body was discovered about nine hours later, around 11 p.m. Tuesday, by her fiance, an Atlanta tax attorney whose name has not been released.
It’s not clear whether Thompson seriously intended to buy a home in Aqua or had the money to do so. Meadows said he suspects Thompson wanted to case the condos for valuables and didn’t realize beforehand that the first two were vacant.
Surveillance footage captured Thompson on camera, but he had given a fake name to the real estate agent, Meadows said. He had used his own cell phone to set up the condo viewings, however, and police subpoenaed his phone records.
Detectives had already identified Thompson as the suspect and were actively looking for him when he returned late Wednesday night with two unwitting friends to the Aqua building, located at the corner of West Peachtree and 10th streets.
With Calle’s swipe card in hand, he tried to get back inside, claiming Calle’s condo was his, presumably to steal more property, Meadows said. But security guards became suspicious and turned him away. A security guard took down the license plate of his vehicle and called police.
He was arrested four hours later, at 3 a.m. Thursday, at a friend’s house off Fairburn Road in southwest Atlanta, where a U.S. Marshals Service had tracked him.
Thompson had used her credit cards at numerous stores in the Atlantic Station and Lenox areas, buying clothes, a $400 watch, tennis shoes and other items. He gave Calle’s ring to a woman, and police have since recovered it, Meadows said.
Thompson, who has been arrested previously for burglary, is charged with murder and robbery by force. At his first court appearance Thursday he was ordered held without bond. A preliminary hearing has been set for March 6.
Court and arrest records indicate Thompson has several prior arrests, stretching back to his high school days in Gwinnett County.
Records listed Thompson as a student at Meadowcreek High School when he was arrested in Gwinnett in May 2005 for theft by taking and theft by receiving, in connection with a stolen Toyota Corolla. He pleaded guilty to one count of theft by receiving and was sentenced to five years of probation.
DeKalb County jail records show at least two arrests, one of which resulted in conviction.
In 2006, Thompson was arrested by DeKalb police on burglary charges. He was sentenced last April to 10 years in prison, with six months to serve. He was credited with about two months’ time served and the sentence was reduced to time served, court records show.
A renowned epidemiologist, Calle retired last month from her post as vice president of the epidemiology department at the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society. Her research in epidemiology, which is the study of disease, helped establish the link between cancer and obesity, and cancer and diet.
—Staff writers Aileen Dodd, Ben Smith and Andria Simmons contributed to this report.
Jonathan L. writes:
Jonathan L. writes: