This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2015, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
A murder charge against a former Missouri prison inmate in a 29-year-old Utah murder case were dropped on Thursday after prosecutors said they needed more time to investigate claims that the accused has an alibi specifically, that he was not in Utah at the time of the slaying.
Thomas Pennington, 49, was charged in 2011 with one count of murder in the second-degree, a first-degree felony, in connection with the 1986 strangling death of his ex-girlfriend, Patricia Ramirez, whose body was found above Salt Lake City's Memory Grove on July 13, 1986.
The 20-year-old woman was last seen alive on July 8, 1986, in downtown Salt Lake City
But at the time of Ramirez's death, Pennington was in living in Kansas City, Mo., and working in nearby Kansas City, Kan,, according to a motion filed in May 2013 by defense attorneys Michael Sikora and Maren Larson.
The motion claims that payroll records from the University of Kansas Medical Center show Pennington was working an average of 40 hours a week from June 29, 1986, until July 26, 1986.
Furthermore, Pennington was married in Kansas City, Mo., on June 7, 1986, as attested to by a marriage license, and a photograph of the newly married couple with the pastor who performed the service, according to the defense motion.
The motion was filed with a request for a bail reduction in light of the "powerful evidence of alibi and actual innocence."
Documents filed in 3rd District Court asked Judge Vernice Trease to dismiss the case, without prejudice, meaning it can be filed again, to give authorities time to investigate "potential alibi evidence." Trease signed the dismissal documents Thursday morning one day before Pennington was to appear at a change-of-plea hearing to potentially resolve the case.
Pennington will remain in jail, however, based on two 2014 drug cases that occurred while he was free on supervised release, which was granted in March 2014, and for which bail was set at a total of $125,000.
Prosecutors charged Pennington with the homicide in June 2011 after two witnesses told police he had made statements about the slaying at a July 8, 1986, party.
A third witness, Joel Murray, told officers that he drove Pennington and two others to a spot on Bonneville Boulevard above Memory Grove where they disposed of a heavy, wrapped package.
During a preliminary hearing in 2012, the driver, Murray, said Pennington, had asked him if he wanted a look inside and said, "I have this secret; do you want to know what it is?"
"I got this bad feeling, this weird feeling," Murray testified, adding that he didn't want to know Pennington's secret. "... I believed it was a human body."
When Ramirez's body was found July 13, 1986, police said her shirt was open and her bra torn in half. The other half was wrapped around her neck and had apparently been used to strangle her, a medical examiner said.
Pennington had entered a not guilty plea to the murder charge during a November 2012 hearing and was facing a life prison sentence if convicted.
At the time he was charged, Pennington, who went by the nickname "Peanut," was incarcerated in Missouri for child molestation and failing to register as a sex offender.