Thompson guilty of all charges for deadly house fire
By JARED STRONG
ALBIA — A former Jefferson resident set fire to a house in Guthrie Center last year to kill his stepsister because of sexual abuse allegations she had made about her older brother and father, a jury decided Monday.
Patrick Ryan Thompson, 27, of Nevada, was convicted of two first-degree murders, two attempted murders and arson after a two-week trial in Albia, where the trial was moved because of extensive media coverage.
The murder punishment is life in prison.
Jurors deliberated for about two hours before announcing their verdicts.
Prosecutors alleged that Thompson drove his motorcycle to a house in Guthrie Center in May 2017 where his stepsister Paige Exline, 12, lived with her cousin, grandmother and uncle and set fire to the house with gasoline.
At the time, law-enforcement officers had planned to arrest Exline’s father within days for abusing her.
The abuse began in 2014, court records show, at their home south of Jefferson.
The older brother, Noah Exline, who was 16 at the time, is accused of abusing her over the course of about two years, starting when the girl was 9.
Exline’s parents learned of the abuse in 2016, but they didn’t report it, court records show. Instead, Noah’s father, James Exline, tried to counsel his son with the books he obtained from his own sex-offender treatment years before.
James Exline was convicted of two felony sex-abuse charges in 2009 for abusing two teenage girls but did not go to prison.
He began abusing his daughter after he discovered his son’s abuse of her.
The abuse accusations against father and son came to light in April 2017, and the girl moved to live with her grandmother in Guthrie Center.
Thompson, incensed by the accusations against his stepfather and stepbrother, set fire to the house the next month and killed Paige Exline and her cousin, 16-year-old Shakiah Cockerham.
The grandmother and uncle survived the fire, but the uncle was severely injured.
James Exline, 47, was sentenced in August to up to 75 years in prison for abusing the girl.
Noah Exline, now 20, faces seven felonies for sexual abuse, which together are punishable by up to 175 years in prison. His trial is set for Oct. 30.
The trial will be moved from Greene County, where the alleged crimes occurred, because of widespread news coverage, court records show. It’s unclear where the trial will be moved.
Thompson’s trial was moved twice, first to Leon in far southern Iowa and then to Albia after someone in Leon walked into the courtroom during a break in jury selection and began talking loudly about details of the case, court records show.
Jurors are forbidden from talking to non-jurors about criminal cases and are directed to decide their verdicts based solely on information that is presented during the trial.