Court document: Man killed robbery victim, burned house to prevent testimony

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Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 2:03 PM CST
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - A man charged with robbery shot and killed his alleged victim to keep him from testifying, then burned down the victim’s house to keep him from testifying, according to a newly released court document.

13 NEWS obtained a copy of the motion to amend the criminal complaint against John Riley II in an aggravated robbery case filed in January 2020. As 13 NEWS reported Thursday, Shawnee Co. District Attorney Mike Kagay is asking the judge to add counts including premeditated first degree murder, aggravated robbery, arson, and aggravated intimidation of a victim.

Kagay filed the motion back on Oct. 5, 2021. It was just over a week after Palmer Thompson, 29, was found in his burning home in the 300 block of NE Spruce Lane. Days after the motion was filed, court record show a judge granted Kagay’s request to increase Riley’s bond to $1 million.

Topeka Police had said they were investigating Thompson’s Sept. 26 death as a homicide.

According to the motion to amend, Thompson was worked at La Casa Grande apartments Dec. 31, 2019, when Riley came up behind him with knife, and demand his wallet and possessions. According to the motion, Riley took Thompson’s wallet, house keys, and other items, and when Thompson returned home later that day, his TV and XBox were missing.

TPD arrested Riley and Jordan Harper the next day for the crime. The motion states Thompson and Harper had known each other since childhood, and lived together at the Spruce Lane home for about a month, but Thompson told police it did not work out because he noticed items missing.

Court records show no filing to amend charges against Harper. He has a June 13 trial set on aggravated robbery and burglary charges.

The motion goes on to state that Riley bonded out of jail May 21, 2021, and was to have no contact with Thompson. However, following the Sept. 26 fire, the motion states investigators revealed Riley had been living in a room at Thompson’s house, but had moved out his property at the time of the fire.

The motion states Topeka Firefighters were called to Thompson’s home on NE Spruce around 7 a.m. Sept. 26. They found Thompson’s body, and notified police. The motion states Thompson was shot in the chest and head while in his bed, and several areas of the house had been soaked with gasoline.

According to the motion, a witness told investigators she was present two days before the fire, Sept. 24, when Riley shot Thompson. The witness said Riley said he did it to prevent Thompson from testifying against him in the aggravated robbery case. Police also found evidence Riley withdrew money from Thompson’s bank account the day of the shooting.

The motion details a series of surveillance videos that showed Riley leaving a Topeka hotel alone at 2:04 a.m. Sept. 26, obtaining gasoline, and arriving at Thompson’s home an hour later. He left again at 3:12 a.m., returned at 3:39 a.m., and left again at 3:50 a.m. He returned twice more over the next 20 minutes, staying only a few seconds both times. According to the motion, fire investigators believe the fire burned for a significant period of time before neighbors reported it.

Police arrested Riley the day after the fire, Sept. 27, when they say he tried to withdraw money from Thompson’s account again.

Prosecutors also want to add a count of solicitation to commit interference with law enforcement. According to the motion, while jailed in November 2021, Riley tried to get another inmate to give police false information that another person killed Thompson. The inmate contacted authorities, and told them what Riley had requested he do.

Kagay said a judge likely will decide whether to add the new charges at the end of Riley’s preliminary hearing. It currently is set for February 4.

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