Real Name: Terry Lee Lucas
Case: Suspicious Death
Location: Frontera, California
Date: November 24, 1987
Details: Terry Lucas was an inmate at Frontera Women's Prison who died under mysterious circumstances in 1987. The day before she died, she told a prison guard, Betty Thompson, that she knew the fate of another prison guard, Jesslyn Rich who had vanished in 1984.
Jesslyn, a divorced mother of two, was last seen at a country-western bar with friends on November 11, 1984. Her friend Marilyn claimed that she had looked straight at the door with great fear and soon after excused herself to the bathroom. Marilyn saw a man walk behind her as she went to the bathroom. This was the last time Jesslyn was ever seen.
Her family believed that she may have been kidnapped and murdered because she would have contacted her family and friends after being gone for a certain amount of time. She also would not have left her two children behind. Jesslyn's brother Gary found several clues in her house that made her family suspect that she knew about the illegal activities, that she was receiving several threats by other guards, and may have been murdered because of that. One clue was a torn up note that she had written to a co-worker. She wrote that another guard stated that "anyone interfering with my drug activities will be taken care of".
The case went cold until three years after she vanished, in November 1987, when Terry came forward and told Betty Thompson that she had been threatened by guards to keep quiet about what she knew. Another guard had tried to enter Terry's cell, but Thompson prevented him. Terry then told her that she knew what had happened to Jesslyn.
Terry turned up dead herself the next day. Thompson told the nurses about her death. Disturbingly, her body was ignored and left in her cell for three days. She had been brutally beaten and suffocated. Blades of grass were in her hair. Originally, the medical examiner claimed that the death was a homicide. However, after the examiner met with high-ranking prison officials, her death was ruled complications to diabetes.
Thompson was subjected to threats and intimidation for six hours after trying to get Terry's death to be investigated as a murder, and was told "what happened to Jesslyn Rich could happen to her." One of her superiors demanded her to change her report on Terry's death. Eventually, she did change the report, but typed at the bottom that the information was not true. The report was later changed and her signature was forged.
Following a threatening phone call to her office, Thompson received the same veiled threat from another prison official. After seven months of similar calls, Thompson was shot at from a moving car in front of her home in June 1988. As the police at her home were taking a report, she got a phone call saying "next time, we won't miss."
The resulting scandal covered several front page articles in the Orange County Register over insider accounts of drug-dealing and corruption. Betty Thompson and five other guards testified in State Senate hearings over the alleged offenses. When Unsolved Mysteries were taping their segment, prison officials declined to comment. A spokesman for the California Department of Officials claimed that there was no evidence for the incidents described. Jesslyn Rich remains missing and Terry Lucas' death remains unsolved.
Suspects: The prison guards that were involved in illegal activities are believed to have been involved in Terry's death. However, officially, her cause of death was diabetes.
Extra Notes: The case first aired as a part of the November 4, 1992 episode. Some sources have her first name spelled as "Teri" or "Terri".
Results: Unsolved. Remains believed to be Jesslyn's were later located and identified. However, more recently, her daughter has claimed that DNA testing determined that the remains were not her mother's.
Terry and Jesslyn's cases both remain unsolved.
- Jesslyn Rich and Terry Lucas at Unsolved.com
- Justice for Jesslyn and Terri Facebook Group
- Prison Official to Stand Trial