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Thursday, June 4, 2020  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Murder suspect was using victim’s car

The man suspected of killing missing Spokane resident James F. Ehrgott had Ehrgott’s car while selling stolen goods at a private camp site in Western Washington, according to court documents.

No one knew the 73-year-old Ehrgott was missing until a Lewis County sheriff’s deputy found his car July 12 while investigating a rash of thefts.

The deputy went to a property near Toledo, Wash., where several people were camping. A Stihl chain saw near a tent trailer caught his attention because several of the thefts he was investigating involved chain saws.

People at the camp site told the deputy they were buying the chain saw from John Wayne Thomson, 46.

A Spokane woman, Patricia Clay, later told the deputy that Thomson lived with her for about six weeks, until July 6, and stole her Stihl chain saw and .38-caliber Smith & Wesson revolver when he left. The revolver had been stored in a cloth case that the deputy found in a backpack he saw inside Ehrgott’s car, according to court documents.

The deputy said witnesses he interviewed at the camp site told him Thomson had claimed to have stolen the car. The officer traced the Pontiac Sunfire to Ehrgott but found no report of it being stolen. When Ehrgott’s relatives and friends were contacted, however, authorities learned that he was last seen July 6 at the Sportsman Cafe & Lounge, 6410 N. Market St., and that his mail and newspapers were piling up.

Thomson now is being sought in the case of a missing Longview, Wash., woman as well as Ehrgott’s case. Authorities believe Ehrgott and 36-year-old Lori A. Hamm have been killed, although their bodies haven’t been found.

Thomson, a thrice-convicted rapist, remained at large Thursday although police along the West Coast had been alerted to watch for him.

He hasn’t been charged in the suspected homicides but is wanted on warrants charging him with unlawful possession of a handgun, trafficking stolen property, first-degree possession of stolen property and car theft.

The car-theft warrant, obtained Thursday by Cowlitz County authorities, involves a two-door 1987 Honda Civic – Washington license 324-RRF – that Thomson allegedly stole.

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