Remembering Lori Dean Thomas

Agent Lori Dean Thomas: Her Story

I wrote this story because as we get into the summer season and the Fourth of July celebrations with a lot of party destination tourists heading our way in Texomaland, we all need to be careful and watch out for people who may be driving dangerously or while intoxicated. With the pandemic going on, people want to get out more and have a great time even more so than before it seems. In my neighborhood, more people speed so fast down our 30 mph roads during the summer season than in the winter. Agent Lori Dean Thomas worked for the Oklahoma State Alcohol Beverage Law Enforcement (ABLE) Commission. A man fleeing from police pursuit in his vehicle rammed into her vehicle which killed her on October 23, 1994 in Durant, Oklahoma.

Background Story

In 1991, Durant police arrested 24-year-old Michael Wayne Holland for trying to run from a police officer. He also had four prior arrests for driving drunk and with a suspended license. Michael received a suspended sentence for trying to escape the police 1991, but the court revoked his suspension when he was rearrested for drunk driving. He did not appear for his revocation hearing, but ended up serving six-months in jail after pleading guilty.

Lori Dean Thomas was born in 1957. Her family moved from Berger, Texas, to Durant, Oklahoma when she was five years old. She went to Roberta Grade School, Blue Public School, and graduated from Durant High School in 1976. She played the forward position on her high-school basketball team with an average of over 20 points a game which landed her a one-year basketball scholarship to Grayson County College. She then enrolled in Southeastern Oklahoma State University for two years.

Lori began her career in law enforcement with the Bryan County District Attorney’s office in 1982 and went to work for the ABLE Commission in 1984. As an ABLE agent, she worked in some tough towns, Lawton and Tahlequah, Oklahoma, before ABLE stationed her in Durant with the rank of Agent II. At the time of her death, she was a single mom raising a young son, Cory, and they lived on her parent’s farm in a house that she built herself. Lori was an accomplished and ambitious young woman.

While Driving Home

On October 23, 1994, Agent Lori Thomas was driving home from work on Hwy. 78 in Durant and never arrived.

Officer Chris Cicio observed 27-year-old Michael Wayne Holland speeding at 60 mph in 55 mph zone in his 1981 Lincoln in Downtown Durant. Officer Cicio started after Michael. He found out that Michael had ran from police earlier the day before and escaped, and he radioed for backup. Officer Cicio was chasing Michael at 65 mph, but Michael was running at 80 mph. During the chase, Michael drove through a stop sign on Hwy. 78 and Rodeo Road. He then rammed into Lori’s 1984 Buick Century and sent her car reeling across the highway.

Lori was wearing her seatbelt, and her airbag deployed, but she ended up with her body halfway through the window on her passenger side. Authorities pronounced her dead on the scene of the accident and the medical staff at the Medical Center of Southeastern Oklahoma pronounced her dead on arrival. Lori had suffered multiple trauma to her head, chest, abdomen, and pelvis.

Lori worked out of a state-owned vehicle and her house. ABLE considered Lori on duty anytime she was driving that car. ABLE confirmed her death as “in the line of duty”.

Michael, This Time

Michael Wayne Holland ran from the police when he killed Lori because he had been rearrested recently for drunk driving, and his license was revoked. Authorities took Michael to a hospital in Sherman, Texas. He suffered a neck injury. The police arrested him on October 26, 1984, on a first-degree manslaughter warrant issued by the Bryan County District Attorney. Michael’s additional charges included driving with a suspended license, attempting to elude a police officer, running a stop sign, driving left of center, not wearing a seatbelt, and no liability insurance.

Bryan County set his bail at $20,000, but he somehow got out on a bail of $10,000. Michael’s preliminary hearing was set for February 15, 1995, then continued to March 15, 1995 because his lawyer said he was in treatment at an Oklahoma City hospital, but Michael did not show up in court on March 15th. Bryan County issued yet another warrant for his arrest and raised his bail to $30,000. Michael surrendered on March 23rd, but somehow found $30,000 and paid his bail, and authorities set him free on August 6th.

This story does not have a happy ending nor did its ending really amount to justice for Lori’s death. Michael’s trial began on September 18, 1995, with a 12-member jury and lasted four weeks. Michael pled innocent. The jury deliberated for 2 hours on October 19th. The minimum sentence for first-degree manslaughter in 1995 was four years. That is just what the jury gave Michael, only four years for taking the life of a vivacious and beautiful young woman and mother and taking her away forever from her parents, sister, son, and niece, nephew, and cousins because he was a career criminal. He only served about two years in prison; he got out on early release on December 30, 1997. Lori’s son, Cory, was only 15 years old when Michael killed her.

Remembering Lori Dean Thomas

In Oklahoma City at the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety, Lori’s name is inscribed on the Oklahoma State Memorial. On the National Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington D.C. on the East Wall, Panel 43, Line 19, people can read her name. Lori’s son also choose a career in law enforcement.

Twenty-Four Years Later, October 23, 2018

Lori has a dedication on The Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial Facebook page. Here are some of the posts on her dedication on this memorial:

Lori was a warm and fun cousin. Moved a lot of irrigation pipes threw peanut fields with her.

I still miss you my friend. Know that your son became an awesome man, father, husband, friend, and law enforcement officer. Thinking of you Cory Dean, love you.

I still miss Lori and think of her often. We Roberta girls had so much fun together.

I loved her smile, it was contagious.

WOW....24 years???

She and her son, Cory were my students at Blue. Loved them both.

Remember her well, she was a great basketball player at Blue.

Time with Lori was always great fun. She is the mom of a great man.

Drive defensively this tourist season and be aware of your surroundings!

Have a great and safe Fourth of July!

Sources for this story came from the Daily Oklahoman, the Durant Daily Democrat, the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial, the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Memorial Facebook page, and True Heroines: Police Woman Killed in the Line of Duty Throughout the United States 1916-1999 by Dr. William Wilbanks.

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