Published: February 8, 2009
TAMPA - Lisa DeCarr had a headache and didn't want to go to school.
The 15-year-old asked her mother if she could stay home that Thursday. Her mother, Barbara DeCarr, agreed. It was the last time DeCarr saw her daughter alive.
Twenty-five years ago, on March 24, 1983, the teenager vanished while her mother and her mother's then-boyfriend, Wayne Tompkins, helped Tompkins' mother move. Tompkins told Barbara DeCarr that Lisa had run away, and DeCarr reported her missing, police said.
More than a year later, Lisa's remains were found buried in a shallow grave beneath the porch of DeCarr's former house in Southeast Seminole Heights. Prosecutors said the girl had been strangled and that Tompkins had killed her when she resisted his attempt to rape her.
Tompkins, now 51, was convicted of first-degree murder in 1985. After several appeals, he is scheduled to be executed Wednesday. He still has an appeal before the Atlanta-based 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal and plans an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Tompkins' mother, Gladys Staley, 77, of Brooksville, hopes he will be granted a reprieve.
"He'll say right today he's innocent. I can tell my boy's innocent when I look in his eyes," she said Friday, noting that she visits him whenever she can.
Staley said the statements of a friend of Lisa's and a jailhouse informant are the only evidence against her son.
A motion is pending regarding evidence found with the remains, according to Martin McClain, Tompkins' attorney with the Commission on Capital Cases.
The evidence is hair and debris collected from a bathrobe, sash and pajama top found with the body; Florida Department of Law Enforcement forensic test results dated Jan. 27 show the clothing "all gave chemical indications for the presence of blood," according to a status report filed Feb. 4 with the state Supreme Court.
"You got to make sure you know what you're doing when you put somebody to death," Staley said. "Get somebody in there to do DNA and do it right."
Hillsborough County Assistant State Attorney Jalal Harb said he didn't know how the courts would decide on the outstanding motion and appeal.
"These issues have been somewhat litigated in the past, but there's something new raised with each motion," Harb said. "There's a cloud of uncertainty with these types of things because of the issues raised at the last minute."
Attempts to reach Lisa DeCarr's family were unsuccessful. According to a Tampa police report, Barbara DeCarr told detectives in 1984 that she was hospitalized because she was so worried about Lisa's disappearance.
DeCarr also told detectives about her uneasiness that Tompkins was involved. She recalled going home to 1225 E. Osborne Ave. after Tompkins said Lisa had run away wearing a maroon shirt and jeans.
"She entered the house and had a strange feeling come over her that Lisa was gone," the report states. "She related she thought something was wrong when she found Lisa's cigarettes and lighter in the living room, as she would not go anywhere without them."
DeCarr also told police that she thought it strange that Lisa would leave home without "her expensive clothing," like her Jordache jeans and Nike tennis shoes. She later found the maroon shirt Tompkins had said Lisa was wearing, the report states.
DeCarr had let Lisa stay home that day from Middleton Junior High School because Lisa said she had a headache, the report states.
Staley said Lisa used to walk to school with Staley's youngest son. She said that Barbara DeCarr once told her that Lisa had phoned her from New York, but Staley said she could not testify to this at the trial because it was considered hearsay.
During the investigation of Lisa's disappearance, Tompkins was accused of raping two convenience-store clerks in Pasco County. He was later convicted of sexual battery and kidnapping.
While being held on the rape charges, Tompkins told two different cellmates that he killed Lisa, prosecutors said. One of them committed suicide before the trial.
A friend of Lisa's testified that she saw Tompkins trying to kiss and fondle Lisa that day and that Lisa had struggled for help; the friend did not call police, records show.
Information from The Associated Press was used in this report. News Channel 8 reporter Samara Sodos also contributed. Tribune Reporter Valerie Kalfrin can be reached at (813) 259-7800.