A True West Coast Menace

John Wayne Thompson sits on death row for a murder in California — but there’s more.

Scott Snyder
4 min readDec 23, 2020


John Wayne Thompson in court. Photo courtesy of Rachel Luna/San Bernardino Sun

One of the scariest elements of a brutal killer, is that you can’t always tell their motives by looking at them.

I think we’ve all seen shots of serial killers or mass murderers, and thought to ourselves: “He looks like a killer”. It’s profiling by appearance, if you will. But the sad reality is that many evil people look like someone you could have coffee with at Starbucks. Sometimes you just can’t tell.

A few days ago, I was contacted by a reader on Medium. She lives in Washington state and began relating to me the case of one John Wayne Thompson. She suggested that I write a piece on the saga of Thompson and his victims. I’ve done some research on the case, so without further ado:

The Victims

Thompson is accused of murdering Longview, Washington resident Lori Hamm on July 16, 2006. He admitted to police that he committed the killing, but has yet to be brought to trial. Thompson has also confessed to killing 73-year-old Spokane resident James Ehrgott a few weeks prior to Lori’s killing. James Ehrgott’s body has yet to be found.

As if that’s not enough — in late July or early August of 2006, Thompson murdered California businessman Charles Ray Hedlund. He had stopped to offer a ride to a stranded Thompson. Hedlund’s blood soaked and abandoned vehicle was found on August 2, 2006. A few days later, Charles’ body was discovered, bludgeoned to death. Thompson has been sentenced to death for that murder, and is awaiting execution.

This story is focusing primarily on the murder of Lori Hamm. But before I present that piece, it’s important to know that prior to any of these homicides, Thompson was a 3 time convicted rapist who served time for those crimes that occurred in Washington. After serving his sentence, he was released from prison and deemed to no longer be a threat to society. Even more frightening, is that days after Charles Hedlund’s body was discovered, Thompson was tackled to the ground by two news cameramen in Victorville, California. He was in the process of attacking a woman with a hammer, in an attempt to carjack her…



Scott Snyder

I live in Oregon. I’m a retired Police Officer and Forensic Child Interviewer. Writing and music are two of my passions.