Randy Thomas wasn’t armed when police arrested him on suspicion of trying to kill a man with bacon. He had no groceries at the time, according to a popular courthouse joke.
Even Thomas chuckles occasionally about the crime that caused other Stevens County Jail inmates to dub him “the BLT.”
Thomas, 35, and Tracy Walter, 34, are accused of tying another man between two trees at Loon Lake, Wash., and spreading bacon around him in hopes that wild animals would eat him.
The story generated headlines all over the country, and a German television news magazine is planning a report.
But Thomas asserted in a jailhouse interview this week that Walter is the real villain in the Feb. 1 assault on 39-year-old Jim Peterson. Walter declined to comment, and Peterson couldn’t be reached.
Walter suspected both Thomas and Peterson of “snitching him off” two weeks earlier when Walter was arrested for being a felon in possession of a gun, Thomas said. Police found the gun along with suspected methamphetamines after a traffic stop.
Thomas said he helped Walter assault Peterson out of fear.
“He told me to play along with what he was doing, and he had the gun,” Thomas said. “Jeez, I’m not exactly a model of bravery.”
One thing led to another, Thomas said, “and the bacon got strung out and he (Peterson) got beat up, and I sat out there in the snow and kind of watched and figured I was going to get it next.”
Peterson told sheriff’s deputies he was left stretched across the ground in the forest with bacon around him to lure hungry wolves or bears. He also said Walter first fired a .22-caliber revolver at him, but the gun didn’t go off and Thomas called that “divine intervention.”
Then came the bacon.
Thomas said he has lived in rural Stevens County for 13 years and knew “there ain’t no bears out that time of the year and most wild animals are afraid of humans.”
Peterson also is from “somewhere out in these parts” and should have known animals weren’t likely to devour him, Thomas said.
Walter may have taken the bacon plot seriously because he’s a city boy, Thomas said. He said Walter had moved from Spokane - where they were childhood friends - a few years ago.
“I think he was just trying to scare (Peterson), but I don’t know,” Thomas said.
Thomas said the high-cholesterol caper started about 2 a.m. when Walter, Peterson and a 16-year-old girl arrived at the house in Blue Creek where Thomas was staying.
Walter went in the house while Peterson and the girl, whom the men called “Little One,” remained in the car.
Thomas said Walter was in the house about an hour “with his gun flashing around and saying I had ratted him off.” He said he agreed to go with the group because, otherwise, Walter threatened to settle his grievance on the spot.
They headed south and stopped at a convenience store in Chewelah, Wash. While Peterson pumped gasoline, Walter bought bacon and “told me to play along with him,” Thomas said. He said Walter didn’t explain what he had in mind but asked him to pick a destination.
Thomas said he chose a wooded spot at Loon Lake because he knows the area and wanted “someplace that was really close to houses in case I had to run.”
He said the girl slept in the car while the three men walked into the woods. Thomas said he didn’t know what else to do, so he began digging under a tree root while Walter held a flashlight.
“I was just kind of playing along there,” Thomas said, “and then Jim jumped down and started digging around under the root, and then Tracy whacked him - hit him upside the head.”
Authorities said Peterson needed nine stitches for the two cuts he suffered in the pistol-whipping.
“The bacon is a curious twist, but we still have a serious crime,” Stevens County Sheriff Craig Thayer said.
Peterson could have died of hypothermia in the 20-degree weather if he hadn’t quickly freed himself after Walter and Thomas had left.
Thomas said he continued south to Spokane with Walter and the girl “to do a little dillydallying around.” The sun was just coming up when they arrived.
At some point, Walter apparently got rid of his gun. Thayer said his officers, with information from Thomas, found a gun Wednesday they believe was used to assault Peterson.
Thomas said he and Walter were “being sociable,” but he still feared Walter intended to attack him. So he fled sometime between 11 a.m. and noon by claiming he wanted some coffee. He said he went in the front door of Casey’s restaurant on North Monroe and out the back door while Walter and the girl waited in the car.
Thomas said he hid out in Spokane before returning to Stevens County. Acting on a tip, sheriff’s officers arrested him Feb. 19 at the Yellow Pine Mobile Park in Kettle Falls.
Officers arrested Walter and the girl at Loon Lake the evening after the bacon caper. Authorities turned the girl over to a guardian and didn’t charge her.
Both Walter and Thomas are charged with two counts of first-degree assault and one count of first-degree robbery. Walter also is charged with unlawful possession of a firearm. They are scheduled for trials in April.
Thomas said he’d like to see “a little humor” in the bacon case, “but it’s not very humorous right now.
“If I could have seen the future, I’d rather have been the one who got beaten up instead of looking at 30 years in prison,” he said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo