Time has passed, but pain lingers for victims’ families

PARKERSBURG – It’s been some time since the Parkersburg Police Department received any tips or information connected to the deaths of John Nestor III and Tracy Thompson nine years ago today.

That doesn’t mean the case is closed or forgotten. Far from it, according to Police Chief Joe Martin, who said he considers the deaths homicides.

“It’s a case that I think about frequently,” said Martin, who as a detective was one of the original investigators on the case. “I pray that before I die, this case will be closed with an arrest.”

Nestor and Thompson were survived by two children each, and multiple family members still looking for answers.

“It’s not resolved within any of us,” said Columbus resident Joyce Barber, Thompson’s aunt. “It’s lingering on.”

Barber remembers speaking to her niece by phone the night before she died.

“It was just heart-wrenching to know that they were gone,” she said. “(Tracy) had a great heart. She was a loving person. She loved her kids and her family.”

Nestor’s sister, Sarah Hoosier, said she loves and misses her older brother.

“It doesn’t get any easier,” she said. “You miss his smile and you think, he was 31 years old and now I’m older than him.”

Nestor and Thompson died on a day of singular violence in Wood County. In addition to the fire that destroyed the 1608 19th St. duplex where Nestor lived, Parkersburg Police also investigated a shooting at a party in which two people were injured. And less than three hours after the fire that claimed the couple’s lives was reported, a burned, decapitated body was discovered in a field in Mineral Wells.

They turned out to be separate cases, but investigators didn’t know that at first. Both of the other cases were eventually resolved. And for a while, it looked like the deaths of Nestor and Thompson, who were determined to have died of smoke and soot inhalation, might be too.

A little over a month after the fire, police arrested a Parkersburg man on two counts of murder, but he was released a week later after investigators deemed a key witness was unreliable.

“The evidence wasn’t strong enough to bring a case, an indictment against anybody,” said Parkersburg Mayor Bob Newell, who was chief of police at the time. “And there’s no other leads or evidence going any other direction.”

Martin said that although there has been no new evidence in the case recently, detectives still look over the files “from time to time,” searching for something missed or a potential new line of investigation.

While technology is constantly improving in law enforcement, allowing a number of so-called cold cases to be resolved, it’s unlikely any break in the case will come from that direction, the chief said.

“What makes this case different was the arson,” Martin said. “And there’s a lot of things we don’t know, and we’ll never know unless we talk to the person or people who were responsible.

“More than likely, it’s going to be investigative techniques, police work” that eventually solves the case, he said.

Hoosier said she keeps faith “that somebody will say something to the right person and we’ll know what happened.” Although she hates to say it, she does not have much faith in the police department after nine years.

“It’s just sad, and it’s scary,” Hoosier said.

Martin said the frustration of not solving the case is compounded by the knowledge that there are family members still wanting to know what happened.

“My heart breaks for them,” he said. “They always look to us for answers, and I hate not being able to tell them.”

Any leads the department receives on the case will be followed up on, Martin said. People can contact the department at 304-424-8444 or leave an anonymous tip online at pkbpolice.com.