July 17, 2008

Very bizarre story

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:52 pm by sillydreamer

Balloons carried gun away in Red Lobster executive’s ‘CSI’-like suicide

Thomas Hickman drove through New Mexico, police say, until his Jeep Grand Cherokee Laredo ran out of gas. Then the 55-year-old North Richland Hills man walked into a field, tied helium balloons to a gun, covered his mouth with duct tape, and shot himself in the back of the head, according to New Mexico State Police.

That determination is a far leap from what authorities first suspected when Mr. Hickman’s body was discovered March 15 near Santa Rosa, N.M., about 100 miles east of Albuquerque. Authorities initially thought the Red Lobster executive had been kidnapped and slain.

But investigators came to the conclusion that Mr. Hickman committed suicide. The first clue was the bundle of white helium balloons, with the gun still attached, found snagged on bushes and cactus near Mr. Hickman’s body.

The grip of the Smith & Wesson Airweight had been removed and the trigger guard ground down, said Lt. Rick Anglada of New Mexico State Police.

“He took as much weight off as he could to make it light as possible,” Lt. Anglada said. The plan apparently was to have the gun float far away after being fired, but that didn’t happen.

The gun and balloons led police from that field back to Mr. Hickman’s house in North Richland Hills.

“This was apparently an elaborate attempt to make it look like he was murdered,” Lt. Anglada said. “Investigators were able to show that he purchased the balloons and purchased the gun. We also found shavings from the gun in his garage.”

Partway through the investigation, one of the investigators recalled seeing a television show in which balloons were used in a suicide.

The investigator obtained a copy of an October 2003 episode of the television drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and noticed that there were several similarities between that show and Mr. Hickman’s case. But Lt. Anglada said New Mexico authorities are not sure if Mr. Hickman ever saw the program.

Detectives would not speculate about the motive for his suicide, the lieutenant said.

However, the investigation showed that at the time of his death, Mr. Hickman’s life was in turmoil. Lisa Hickman, his wife of 29 years, was ill, and he had been caring for her for some time. Mr. Hickman had also recently lost some money in the stock market, Lt. Anglada said.

Mrs. Hickman could not be reached for comment Tuesday. But in March, she described her husband as a generous Christian man who “did not preach the word of God, but he walked the walk. He lived it.”

The couple moved to Texas from Florida in 2003 and had one son.

Mr. Hickman worked for Red Lobster for 32 years and oversaw restaurants in the chain from North Richland Hills to West Texas. He started as a manager trainee, company officials said. In 1977, Mr. Hickman was promoted to general manager and headed operations at restaurants in Wisconsin, Illinois, North Carolina and Florida. He became director of operations in 2003 when he took over restaurants in parts of Texas.

As the West Texas director of operations for Red Lobster, Mr. Hickman regularly traveled through the region where he died. He was last seen at a meeting in Abilene on March 13. The next day, he missed a meeting in Lubbock. On March 15, two motorists discovered his body in the field.

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2 Comments »

  1. Beckie said,

    That’s quite a story! Maybe he was trying to get the insurance money. He didn’t cover his tracks very well.

  2. sillydreamer said,

    Beckie, that’s exactly what I thought too. Can you even imagine being in that frame of mind to follow through with all the planning to do this? If the balloons had floated away as planned, he probably would have not gotten caught.


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