Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Story of Colin and JoAnn Thatcher

A Marriage Gone Wrong

JoAnn Thatcher-Wilson
JoAnn Thatcher-Wilson

On January 21, 1983, JoAnn Thatcher Wilson left a meeting shortly before 6 p.m., climbed into her green Audi 5000 sedan and made her way home. Her 9-year-old daughter Stephanie from a previous marriage and her husband of two years, Tony Wilson, were both home sick with the flu and awaiting her arrival. Marje Lahtinen, their 22- year-old housekeeper, was also at the house, busy in the kitchen making dinner for the family. 

JoAnn began her drive toward her large, white home with brown trim located on 2876 Albert Street  in the city of Regina, Saskatchewan. As she approached the house she turned the corner from Albert Street and steered into 20th Avenue where her detached garage was situated several yards further. She opened the garage door using her remote control device and noticed that the interior lights failed to work. JoAnn pulled into the darkened space to the right and next to Tonys Oldsmobile station wagon, stepped out of her car and was plunged into a nightmare.

Someone yanked her from behind by the collar of her fur coat and swung her off balance. She was then grabbed by her throat and repeatedly stabbed with a cleaver-like object in her head. JoAnn fell to her knees and threw her gloved hands up to deflect the blows. However, the sharp instrument found its way around her hands, at times even penetrating them and driving into her scalp.

Some of the blows were forceful enough to pierce the bone of her skull. The powerful impact of the knife also fractured bones in JoAnns forearm and fingers and caused partial severing of the little finger on her left hand. Blood splattered throughout the garage. During the attack her shrill screams sliced through the air and mixed with the sickening sound of the deadly blows.

Thirty-eight-year-old Craig Dotson was walking nearby through the deserted snow-covered streets when he heard what he believed to be a distressed child screaming. He walked toward JoAnn Wilsons garage.

Suddenly the persistent cries and screaming were silenced by the sound of a loud cracking noise. Dotson was not aware that the cracking sound had come from a gun. As he approached the lane beside the Wilson s garage Dotson saw a man calmly walk from the building. The suspicious scraggly bearded man with dark hair and clothing seemed to be concealing something beneath his jacket.

Dotson caught only a glimpse of the man before he turned his attention toward the inside of the garage from where the strange man had previously emerged. What he saw shocked him. JoAnns body lay in a pool of blood on the cold concrete floor. Dotson ran back to toward the lane looking for the man he had seen moments earlier, but the man had disappeared into the dusk.

Panicked, Dotson quickly ran across 20th Avenue to a house and knocked on a door, but he got no response. He then ran back to the Wilson s property and knocked frantically on the door to their house. After about 30 seconds the housekeeper answered the door. Breathlessly, Dotson told Marje what had happened and they both walked toward the garage. Marje saw the body and ran crying into the house to tell Tony Wilson of the horrible crime.

Tony, barefoot and wearing only a bathrobe, went to the garage with Dotson where he saw his wife lying dead in a pool of blood. For a brief moment he knelt beside his wifes body before springing up and running back to the house to call the police. Tony then went back to the garage and knelt again beside his wife to await their arrival. Just three weeks earlier he and his wife had celebrated their second wedding anniversary.

Tony knew who was responsible for his wifes death. Throughout their short marriage the two had endured continuous harassment from JoAnns ex-husband Colin Thatcher. A lengthy and violent custody battle between JoAnn and Colin over the children and financial matters had finally reached its deadly peak. No longer would JoAnn have to live in fear for her life as she had following her divorce from Colin three years earlier. Her worst fears had already become a reality.  

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