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Blog: Was Kermit Frazier a Spurned Lover or Merely a Killer?

Did he have murderous intent or was the gun meant solely to scare his former lover?

The gunman told the police that he was the actual victim: jilted by his intended bride, he had merely gone to the Atherton house where she lived with her mother and twin sister and was intending to win her back. The pistol he carried was immaterial.

It was March of 1949, and Kermit Owen Frazier, 34, originally from North Carolina, had fallen hard for Doris Thompson, a secretary to a dean at Stanford University’s Law School. Frazier and the Thompson family had previously lived in Denver, where Kermit and Doris met. Still, Doris had broken off with Kermit and moved with her family to a house on Heather Drive in the upscale neighborhood of Menlo Park.

According to Kermit, on the night of the violence, he went to the Thompson home and threatened to kill himself after being rebuffed by Doris. There was a struggle, and the gun accidentally went off multiple times.

According to the official statement given to police by Doris’s sister Sharle, however: “Kermit Frazier came to the door and shot my mother, then shot Doris twice, and shot me in the hand. Then he tried to shoot again but the gun was empty. Then he ran out and I tried to trip him but was unsuccessful. Then the police were called.” Sharle also denied that Kermit and Doris had ever been formally engaged or that any of them had even heard from Kermit in the month previous to his showing up on their doorstep.

Frazier may have run out of the house, but he didn’t get far: the police picked him up as he walked slowly along Middlefield Road.

The legal progress sprang into action and worked much faster back then than it does now. In the summer of 1949, Kermit went to trial. Evidence was presented on both sides, and various witnesses were called. Then, on August 5th, the jury returned a trio of verdicts: guilty of second-degree murder in the shooting of the mother, Mary; guilty of assault with intent to murder Doris Thompson (which carried a sentence of one to 14 years); and guilty of assault with a deadly weapon upon Sharle Thompson, which carried a sentence of one to 10 years.

The judge sentenced Kermit to three consecutive terms in San Quentin. He told the young man: “The court feels you should consider yourself extremely fortunate that you were represented by excellent counsel…(and) you should also be thankful for the traditional softheartedness of the juries in San Mateo County.”

One jury member gave insight into how the six-men, six-women jury reached their decision. They believed that Mary Thompson’s murder was not premeditated; she just happened to be the one who opened the front door when Frazier rang the doorbell. The juror went on: “We believed he had other plans when he went there, but Mrs. (Mary) Thompson interfered… Frazier planned either a reconciliation with Doris, or death for Doris or himself.”

It would be the end of the story. Frazier’s attorney convinced him just to accept the punishment and not to ask for a new trial.

Douglas MacGowan

About the Author: Douglas MacGowan

Doug MacGowan has authored seven books and countless articles, mainly about history and true crime. He has been a resident of Redwood City since 2000.
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