Illinois men arrested in Columbia

Wednesday, October 31, 2007 | 7:42 p.m. CDT; updated 1:09 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Two Illinois men wanted on suspicion of three counts of first-degree murder and three counts of aggravated kidnapping were arrested by Columbia police this morning after being tipped off by Illinois authorities.

Felony warrants had been issued for Terrance A. Vinson, 29, and Michael J. Thompson, 28, both of Carbondale, Ill., in Williamson County in connection with the kidnapping and murder of 26-year-old Benjamin Slaughter, also of Carbondale.

The two were arrested after a Columbia detective spotted a man on the front porch of a house at 710 Mikel St. at 8:33 a.m. and identified him as one of the suspects from a photograph provided by Illinois police.

The detective called a “Code Red,” and SWAT members responded 25 minutes later and surrounded the house, Columbia police said.

“One of the suspects made a feeble attempt to go out the back window, but after he saw the SWAT officers he went back inside,” Columbia police Capt. Brad Nelson said.

During a subsequent search, a handgun was found, but it was unclear if the weapon is related to the Illinois crime, Nelson said.

“Nobody in the house claimed the weapon, so it’s safe to say it belongs to one of the two suspects,” Nelson said.

Sandy Cook, 22, who with Josh Whitlock runs Aces Academy, an at-home day care across the street from the house where the arrest took place, witnessed the SWAT response. There were two children in their care at the time, Whitlock said.

Cook said the SWAT team arrived with guns, and the roads were blocked off, making it impossible for anyone to enter or exit the street.

Although she is friendly with the owner of the house, Cook said “they always have people over, so we don’t know who is living there or who is just visiting.”

Cook said she thinks the suspects only stayed at the Mikel Street residence for one night.

As a result of the SWAT response and arrests, Cook said she no longer feels safe in her home.

“I kind of want to sell the house, now,” Cook said.

After their arrest, the suspects were transferred to Columbia police headquarters to await questioning from Illinois authorities.

A detective from the Carbondale Police Department and a detective from the Williamson County Sheriff’s Department were en route to Columbia on Wednesday afternoon, said Lt. Paul Echols of the Carbondale Police Department.

The two men are also wanted in Jackson County, Ill., on charges of unlawful restraint, battery and use of a weapon. The charges stem from an abduction that is suspected of having taken place Oct. 16, a day before Slaughter’s body was found.

“Our intention is to get the suspects back to Illinois,” Nelson said.

If the suspects waive extradition, they will most likely be transferred to Illinois tomorrow, but if not, an extradition hearing will have to be scheduled, Nelson said.

Missourian reporter Alex Rohr contributed to this report.

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