A Missouri man asked a stranger for a favor; instead, they fought over $18, and he killed him.
Nineteen years later, he confesses to the cold case because his conscience pestered him.
Their paths only crossed by accident. There was no connection between the victim and the perpetrator except a bottle of whiskey and a grocery store. As a result, for almost two decades, after spending countless hours investigating the shooting death of Floyd Epps, 30, St. Louis police still had no leads, evidence, witnesses and persons of interest needed to solve the case. Soon, dust gathered on the file, and the case went cold.
However, that all changed on Aug. 18, 2018, after 39-year-old Deangelo Thomas, a prison inmate serving time for an unrelated crime, informed prisoner personnel of his intent to confess to a murder.
“My name is DeAngelo Thomas. I killed Craig Epps in cold blood with a .32 caliber pistol sometime in late 1998 or early '99. I can't remember exactly when but he ran around the corner from a school, I believe, collapsed and died. This is my confession," Thomas wrote in a statement, according to KMOV4.
On Feb. 6, 1999, St. Louis police responded to the discovery of a body at Eads Square Park. Upon arrival, the victim was declared dead at the scene and identified as Epps. He had been shot multiple times.
Three days after his confession, St. Louis police interviewed Thomas, who admitted killing Epps in cold blood. He told investigators on that fateful night, he saw the victim outside the grocery store and asked him to buy a bottle of whiskey for him since he was 19 years old and below the legal age to purchase alcohol.
When Epps returned from the store, an argument erupted over the change the victim owed Thomas. Soon, a physical altercation ensued between the duo, with Epps having the upper hand. Then, the defendant drew a gun and shot the victim multiple times nearby Hogan Elementary School.
In the course of the interview, investigators wondered how the defendant knew the victim's name, considering the lack of connection between the men. Thomas told them he had seen the story in the newspaper the next day after the incident but had mistakenly identified the victim as “Craig Epps.”
Investigators corroborated the defendant’s claim after they found a microfilm of an old Dispatch news article Thomas read and being accurate regarding the caliber of the gun used in the homicide.
That information was never disclosed to the public.
Also, the defendant was asked for the motive behind his confession almost two decades later. Thomas stated he had been reading the Bible and knew he had to repent, against the advice of his friends. He added, it was time for closure for him and the victim’s family.
Though Thomas was initially charged with one count of second-degree murder for the shooting death of Epps and one count of armed criminal action, he eventually pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
Epps’ family asked the court to sentence the defendant to the maximum sentence possible. The judge sentenced Thomas to 15 years.
Previously, Thomas had been found guilty and convicted of six charges, including robbery, manslaughter and armed criminal action. Since the defendant had already been scheduled for a parole hearing in December 2026, he will remain behind bars for the next 20 years.
“It was just amazing how, since this was a stranger-on-stranger crime, if the guy had not come forward with this confession, the case would not have been made,” said former assistant circuit attorney Morley Swingle, according to Associated Press.
The defendant is currently being housed with the Missouri Department of Corrections.