For the families of victims killed in unsolved murders, life is at a standstill.
The Enquirer is highlighting a series of cold cases, summarized and analyzed by the journalists whose careers largely focus on unsolved murders: the creators of Cincinnati.com's Accused podcast. If you have any information on any unsolved case, please reach out to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Suggestions for cases to highlight can be sent to [email protected]
The crime: With temps hovering in the low 70s, June 26, 2011, was a perfectly pleasant Sunday in Cincinnati – the type of day that would lure plenty of people to the neighborhood park.
At 3:30 p.m., Dion Thomas was at such a park, sitting on a bench in Over-The-Rhine, when a car rolled up, pulled to a stop and someone leaned out a window with an assault rifle. Thomas, 18, was shot in the head.
Police told reporters that the weapon used was an AK-47, and Thomas wasn’t the only victim hit by its spray: A 12-year-old boy also at the park was shot in the foot, though he managed to run from the scene.
The victim: When we revisit these cases in this space, we try to find family members or police to talk to, but after circling back to this one on and off for months, we never had luck tracking anyone down. (Young adults don’t have lengthy paper trails to help locate loved ones, and the surname Thomas doesn’t help narrow things down.) Still, every victim matters. No matter what Thomas was doing or who he was, he mattered to someone, so we’ll piece together what we can from the scant reports we have.
Thomas had been a football and baseball player at Aiken High School, graduating in 2010. He was not a perfect person. His arrest record, with one notable exception, was spotted with the types of petty charges that most white people would never have leveled against them: failing to use a crosswalk, for example. Another time, he was cited for not walking on the sidewalk.
The notable exception is the drug-trafficking charge that was pending at the time of his death. As pleasant a place as a park might be on a Sunday afternoon in June, we’re not naïve. There could have been other reasons an 18-year-old might be sitting on a park bench on such a day. Still, no suspects have ever been identified, and it’s unknown if Thomas had been targeted or merely shot at random.
Regardless, Thomas had a mother in College Hill who loved him. In 2013, reports surfaced that family members held a vigil in honor of what would have been his 20th birthday, though the details on that were unusually scant, too.
So why write about it? When Thomas died, The Enquirer reported the following: “While investigators believe there were multiple witnesses, at this point, nobody’s talking to police.”
Someone knows something, and letting someone walk free after opening fire on a playground on a sunny Sunday afternoon is worth another attempt to find answers.
Got tips? Call CrimeStoppers at 513-352-3040 or submit a tip through the Ohio Attorney General's Office.
Accused, reported by Enquirer journalists Amber Hunt and Amanda Rossmann, is an award-winning podcast investigating cold cases with three seasons available on all mainstream platforms such as Apple Podcasts and also at www.accusedpodcast.com.