Man faces murder charge in Kent strangulation of woman

Incident began as vehicle-train collision

What began for Kent Police as a vehicle-train collision report turned into a murder investigation when detectives discovered a woman dead in the back seat of the car who died from strangulation.

King County prosecutors charged Lester Purdell Thompson, 37, of Seattle, with second-degree murder for allegedly killing Destinie Gates-Jackson, 36, of Seattle, his former girlfriend and mother of two of his children, on or about April 21, according to charging documents.

Thompson is scheduled to be arraigned on May 11. He remains in custody in the county jail at the Maleng Regional Justice in Kent. A judge denied bail.

In 2013, Thompson strangled Gates-Jackson, forced her into the truck of her own car and threatened to kill her if she told anyone. He was convicted of second-degree assault, unlawful imprisonment and intimidating a witness in that case.

Then nine days ago, just months after his release from state prison for the crimes against Gates-Jackson, he allegedly strangled her to death shortly before he drove her Acura into a freight train near South 212th Street and 77th Avenue South and then drove from the scene before officers stopped him.

If convicted of murder, because Thompson has two previous convictions for most serious offenses, he faces life in prison without the possibility of parole, according to court documents. He was convicted of second-degree assault and third-degree assault of a child in 2007 when he assaulted his then 4-year-old son and his son’s mother with a knife.

“The court must make certain his murder of Ms. Gates-Jackson is his final act of brutality in his rampage of domestic violence against the mothers of his children, his own young son and his current partner,” wrote Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Adrienne McCoy in charging documents and requesting that he be held without bail.

Thompson’s current partner, they were married in 2014 while he was incarcerated, told detectives last week that during a recent argument he reportedly pushed her, broke her phone while she was trying to call 911, and then put her on the ground in a chokehold, interfering with her ability to breathe.

The fatal night

When Kent officers arrived early in the morning of April 22 at the BNSF Railway tracks to investigate the car-train collision, a witness called 911 to report the driver of the Acura had fled the scene westbound on South 212th Street. An officer saw the Acura, whose front bumper was hanging off the car, and activated his overhead emergency lights.

The driver began to accelerate, but the officer caught up to him and executed a pursuit intervention technique (PIT maneuver) to stop the vehicle. When the officer approached the car, the driver came out with his hands held in front of him as if he was pointing a pistol at the officer and began to charge the officer.

The officer was close enough to see he didn’t have a pistol and fired a Taser at the man. He took the driver into custody and discovered the man had a state Department of Corrections escape warrant.

Another officer looked inside the car and saw a woman lying face down in the back seat. Officers and Puget Sound Fire paramedics tried to revive her, but she was dead. The Acura was registered to Gates-Jackson.

Detectives discovered Gates-Jackson had a no contact order against Thompson valid through May 2024 because of the 2013 attack. The King County Medical Examiner’s Office determined Gates-Jackson was strangled to death.

Through witness interviews, Thompson’s cellphone data and video surveillance, detectives determined that Gates-Jackson left her home around 7 p.m. on April 21 and was with her current boyfriend until about 9:30 p.m. When they parted, she told her boyfriend she was meeting Thompson, which she also had done other times.

Video surveillance at 10:45 p.m. showed Gates-Jackson with Thompson at a Chevron station in Maple Valley. Thompson’s phone information showed they traveled to near the Cedar Grove Landfill, where he was to meet someone.

At about 11:17 p.m., Thompson used his phone to record a five-minute argument with Gates-Jackson. He tries to get her to hit him because he said his life was on the line and she needs to tell the truth.

Thompson turned off his phone after the recording. When he turned it back on at 1:07 a.m., he was in the area of Renton Avenue South and South Henderson Street in Seattle, near his residence. Video surveillance shows him alone.

When charges were filed, detectives were still looking for video surveillance between 1:08 a.m. and the train collision. Thompson’s phone contains numerous calls and messages from the person he was supposed to meet in the Cedar Grove area indicating that he never showed up.


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