March 11, 2014

Man indicted in fatal stabbing of Fort Worth woman

Court documents say David Rhone had his 16-year-old girlfriend wait outside while he robbed and fatally stabbed Adrian Thornton in her Woodhaven home.

David Rhone wanted to take a road trip with his girlfriend, but the couple needed money.

So they rode the bus to see Adrian Thornton, a family friend for whom Rhone worked running errands.

There, the girlfriend would later tell police, Rhone instructed her to stay outside while he went to the door of Thornton’s Woodhaven home and knocked. The 59-year-old woman let him in, stopping briefly to wave at his girlfriend before she also disappeared inside.

Thirty minutes later, a woman’s shouts erupted from the home:

“Stop! Stop! Why are you doing this?”

When Rhone, 22, finally appeared, his clothes were covered in blood.

On Monday, a Tarrant County grand jury indicted Rhone on a charge of capital murder, accusing him of robbing and fatally stabbing Thornton. Police say Rhone later hid Thornton in the trunk of her own car and abandoned it in woods southeast of Waco.

Herbert Everitt, Rhone’s attorney, did not return a call seeking comment.

Thornton’s girlfriend, who was 16 at the time of the slaying, was arrested Feb. 11 on a murder warrant. Now 17, she is not being identified by the Star-Telegram because she was a juvenile at the time of the crime.

Riley Shaw, a Tarrant County assistant district attorney, said he expects to file charges against the girlfriend, who remains in custody. He said prosecutors have not decided the precise charges or whether they will seek to certify the teen as an adult.

The girlfriend’s account of that May day, detailed in an arrest warrant affidavit obtained by the Star-Telegram, indicates that police suspect Rhone killed Thornton around May 24 — weeks before a family friend reported her missing — then returned to the house the next day to clean up the crime scene and dispose of her body.

A man looking for deer found Thornton’s car hidden in the woods of Falls County on Sept. 22. In the trunk, officials found what would later be identified as the woman’s remains wrapped in a comforter.

Police previously declined to release the woman’s cause of death. But court documents indicate that Thornton died of “sharp force injuries,” likely inflicted by a knife and/or a hammer.

Questioned early

Fort Worth police questioned Rhone on June 17, two days after a friend reported Thornton missing, according to the arrest warrant.

Police sought to interview Rhone after learning that he was among the people Thornton hired to run errands for her.

Police also found that Thornton had filed a police report in early May accusing Rhone of disappearing with her car after she gave him $700 to deposit into her bank account.

Rhone told police during the missing-person investigation that he hadn’t seen Thornton in two or three weeks. He admitted taking her car and money but said she “forgave him” and didn’t press charges.

A week after police talked to Rhone, a Texas Department of Transportation crew mowing in Marlin found a partly burned bag containing Thornton’s wallet and other belongings.

Authorities searched the area by helicopter, by boat and with dogs but found no other traces of Thornton.

When Thornton’s car was discovered in Falls County, it contained items commonly found in a garage or utility room, many covered in what looked like blood, as well as cleaning supplies. Stashed in the trunk was a body that dental records confirmed was Thornton’s.

Homicide Detective J. Cedillo took over the investigation and obtained a search warrant for Thornton’s home.

Police found signs of a crime scene in the laundry room and garage.

“It was evident that the scene had been cleaned up,” Cedillo wrote in the arrest warrant affidavit. “Evidence of what appeared to be blood spatter was found on the walls and appliances.”

An alleged admission

The case quickly led back to Rhone. Phone records obtained by police indicated that he received a call from Thornton’s home phone at 12:12 p.m. May 23.

Police believe it was one of the last calls she ever made.

Two days later, police learned, Rhone traveled to Marlin, where his girlfriend had relatives. He stayed for two days, then returned to Fort Worth, the affidavit says.

Rhone was with his girlfriend July 17 when he was arrested in Oklahoma on an unrelated warrant for unauthorized use of a motor vehicle. While in jail, Rhone urged his girlfriend to watch the news so she could stay updated, the affidavit says.

He would learn from his mother that Thornton’s body had been found, the affidavit says.

Interviewed by police in November, Rhone’s girlfriend initially denied knowing Rhone or Thornton. Eventually, she admitted to having information about the slaying, the affidavit says.

She described for detectives the visit to Thornton’s house and how Rhone emerged covered in blood.

Her account was detailed in the affidavit:

The couple left in Thornton’s Lincoln Continental. Rhone later tossed his stained clothes out the window.

After spending the night in Victoria, they returned to Thornton’s house. Rhone backed Thornton’s car into the garage. The girlfriend walked inside the home and spotted a puddle of blood in the laundry room before entering the garage and seeing the woman’s body on the floor.

“David then told her to go outside while he cleaned up the scene,” the affidavit says.

Two hours later, the girlfriend told police, Thornton’s body was no longer on the floor.

The pair drove to Marlin to visit the girlfriend’s father. Suspecting that the Continental was stolen, the father offered to help get rid of the car. The girl told police that her father did not know about the slaying.

The girlfriend said she got into a fight with Rhone and left. She told police that she didn’t know what Rhone did with the car and that they never talked about the killing.

Rhone was charged in Thornton’s slaying in December. He remained in the Tarrant County Jail on Tuesday, with bail set at $500,000.

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