Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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Homeless woman killed over blanket

Lynn Thorson didn't have much. And, when the homeless woman fought to stop someone who apparently was attempting to steal one of her few possessions -- a blanket -- Thorson was killed.

Thorson, 39, was sitting on her blanket in a camp that included other homeless people at Owens Avenue near Main Street Tuesday night. A homeless man demanded that she give him her blanket.

When she stood up to him he punched her, knocking her down. Thorson's head hit a wall, said Lt. Wayne Petersen of Metro's homicide unit.

Other homeless people rushed to Thorson's aid and remained there until paramedics took her to University Medical Center, where she died Wednesday at 10:15 a.m.

Metro is searching for a suspect, who is believed to be a homeless man. Other homeless people said he often fought with his girlfriend, another woman, and drank a lot.

Thorson became the fourth homeless person killed in Las Vegas in five months and the second killed by another homeless person since Saturday.

"It was a bad thing, but it happens," said Ron Pawlows, a homeless man who had talked with Thorson on several occasions.

Thorson was staying in an area on the edge of downtown Las Vegas that is between several shelters and organizations that offer support for the homeless. It's an area in which the homeless and activists for the homeless say has become increasingly crowded, as available beds have dwindled after one shelter closed for renovations.

How Thorson joined the ranks of the homeless is unclear. She often talked to others about her auto accidents and lawsuits. Every so often she would dress up and tell others she was headed to the courthouse or to talk to her attorney.

"She would say how she had a good lawsuit," said Gerald Ford, another homeless man who talked with Thorson.

Thorson is listed as the plaintiff in two civil suits filed in Clark County District Court in 1998. Both cases were listed as open.

Thorson was involved in traffic collisions in 1995, 1996, 1997 and 1999, according to Metro records. There is no indication of blame, although there is no listing for her being issued citations.

Homeless people are often targets for crimes, but a small minority of homeless prey on others who are in similar situations, said Brother David Buer, a Franciscan friar whose order runs a day shelter for homeless off Martin Luther King Boulevard.

"The majority of these folks are just trying to get through the day," he said. "There are some criminals passing themselves off as homeless, but the vast majority of homeless are victims and not criminals."

Police know there is a small criminal element, including homeless and non-homeless people, who prey specifically on the homeless, said Officer Kendall Wiley of Metro's homeless outreach team.

"We watch the community and when there is a crime, I don't care if someone was robbed of a dollar, I'm going to do my best to find the person who did it," Wiley said.

Thorson's death comes just days after a homeless was killed when another homeless man set him on fire.

On Saturday Charles T. Whitaker, a 51-year-old homeless man, was doused with whiskey and set on fire in the area of Washington Avenue and A Street. Ronald J. Mulder, 45, was charged with murder. The pair appeared to have been arguing over a bottle of whiskey, police said.

On April 1 Russell "Rusty" Frasher, a 50-year-old homeless man, was found beaten to death in a desert area near Martin Luther King Boulevard and Alta Drive. Four teenagers have been charged with murder in connection with Frasher's slaying.

A 72-year-old homeless man, Arthur Cramer, was beaten Dec. 27 by a group of young people in the area of A Street and Owens Avenue. He died in a rehabilitation hospital March 10. A different group of teens is believed responsible for Cramer's death, police said.

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