Slain wrecker driver remembered as good friend, neighbor

Wednesday, January 5th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

DYERSBURG, Tenn. (AP) -- On the day he was killed, two-truckdriver Ray Patterson was working on his day off and delaying his worship at church to get a stranded motorist back on the road. Friends say they aren't surprised he would try to help a total stranger. "Everyone who knew Ray Patterson knew he was a very kind, gentle person," said Capt. Stan Cavness of the Dyersburg Police Department.

Patterson, 52, was found stabbed to death Sunday at Patterson Brothers Service Center. An Oklahoma man suspected in three killings during a tri-state crime spree is charged with the death. Cavness said Patterson was preparing for church when he got a call for help from a stranded motorist. Patterson told his wife he would meet her at church and then went off to tow the motorist's car. "He was fun to talk to, always had that cigar in his mouth but never smoked it. He'd chew it," said Mike Wright, owner of a service station near Patterson's business. "It's all everybody's talking about. Nobody can believe it."

Steven Ray Thacker, 29, of Chouteau, Okla., is charged with the killing and is being held on $5 million bond. Police affidavits say Thacker had Patterson's credit cards when he was arrested Sunday at a Union City, Tenn., motel. Thacker is also a suspect in the slayings of Laci Hill and Forrest Boyd.

Prosecutors believe Ms. Hill was killed after Thacker answered a for-sale ad she posted for a pool table at her Oklahoma residence. Her partially clad body was discovered in woods near Chouteau six days after she was reported missing.

Officers targeted Thacker after a surveillance video showed him using Ms. Hill's credit cards. On Wednesday, police found Thacker's car abandoned in a Springfield, Mo., pharmacy parking lot. The same day, a man matching his description car jacked a vehicle from the same lot, police said. On Saturday, a car was stolen from Boyd's residence about 20 miles north of Springfield. Boyd was stabbed to death.