A Season of Homicides

Excerpted from A Season of Homicides: The Murder of Marc Thompson”  published December 15, 2014 in the Synthesis


Mountain House and Brush Creek are part of an unincorporated area 25 miles or so east of Oroville, California. They are tiny burgs off the old Oroville-Quincy Highway, on the way to Buck’s Lake Wilderness, Quincy, and countless outdoor opportunities in Plumas County. These areas, steeped in mining and logging history, are rural and quiet, known for marijuana grows and conservative politics. It is a lonely wooded place. But on September 3, 2014, a burning car was found there. The car was a Ford, described as either gold or tan, and it was registered to Marc Thompson of Oroville. Marc was my student, friend, and was featured in a movie I helped make that was directed by Lee Mun Wah titled If These Halls Could Talk. But for seven days, he was simply missing—and possibly the body that was found in a burning car.

Cal Fire extinguished the fire by 7:30 pm, and at the time, the local sheriff only knew that it was Marc’s car with a body inside. They were also aware that the fire was surrounded by dry grass at the end of a hot, late-summer day. Marc wasn’t “circumstantially identified” as the body in the car for a week, not until a September 10th press release from the Butte County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO). It took until early October for the coroner’s office to confirm through DNA testing that it was him.

I didn’t know about the car fire that night. I found out that something was wrong only on September 6th, three days after the body in his burning car was found. I woke up from a Saturday afternoon nap and hopped on Facebook to post a video clip from the movieThank You for Smoking on Marc’s wall. My husband Larry and I watched it the week before and I knew that it was one of Marc’s favorite movies. When I got to his Facebook page I saw that one of his sisters posted this:

From April Nicole-Drakes, September 6, 2014
Friends of Marc Thompson please keep your eyes and ears open!! Marc has been missing for days & no one seems to know anything. Chico & Oroville California be alert! If you know anything please inform me or the police! Please read!!!!!!!

…Despite the peculiar circumstances, there are still no leads in the investigation three months later, and I’m afraid there won’t be unless we keep Marc’s name and story in the press so that it stays part of the “running conversation.” This sociological idea suggests that it’s valuable to keep the public excited and interested in the case through everyday conversation such as gossip, street talk, community organizing, and brief articles in local newspapers like you might have read in the Chico Enterprise Record and here in theSynthesis. Keeping a “running conversation” going is essential in cases like Marc’s when the victim is young and Black, a person who was seen and then dead in a short span of hours.

Click here to read more.

***Please Contact Butte County Sheriff investigators Jason Hail or Chris D’Amato if you have any information about Marc Thompson: 530-538-7671.