Cold Case Michigan 1945: The Unsolved Murder of Lydia Thompson
This bizarre cold case involves money, lust, jealousy and will likely never be solved.
Was Lydia driven mad by her philandering husband to a point she orchestrated her death to look like she was murdered? Was her husband Louis fed up with her refusal to grant him a divorce so he could marry his mistress? Or did the mistress and future Mrs. Thompson want Lydia out of the way to have Louis all to herself? These and more questions have lingered since Lydia's decapitated body was first discovered in 1945.
The Thompson's Early Years
Louis Thomspon was a British military officer when he met Lydia in Turkey following the end of World War I. Lydia, Shevchenko at the time, was a nurse who had fled Russia during the revolution.
They fell madly and deeply in love and the couple soon married in 1922. They remained in Europe for several years. By all accounts, they had a typical marriage. By 1928, the couple moved to the United States where they settled in Highland Park, Michigan.
Where the Trouble Began
The Thompson's would open a laundry that was so successful it soon expanded into a chain of profitable locations. Louis found additional success when he opened a car dealership. The ventures made the couple incredibly wealthy. For the Thompson's at least, money did not equal happiness.
As the first fractures in their marriage began to appear, Louis dropped $40,000 on a posh home in Orchard Lake, Michigan. The home had a tennis court and swimming pool and would be worth $814,020.44 in 2022. The spending did not end there. Louis soon employed a chauffeur to transport the couple to their businesses.
A Deepening Rift
While Louis enjoyed all the things that money could buy, his wife on the other hand struggled to overcome her earlier life as a refugee. Lydia would chastise Louis for his extravagant spending habits. While Louis golfed and took in all that Detroit's nightlife had to offer, Lydia continued working hard in the couple's laundry business.
As the rift continued to grow, Lydia's outrage at Louis' spending increased. The outrage soon shifted to jealousy as Louis began spending money and time with younger women. Lydia hired a private investigator to learn who her husband was spending time with.
The private investigator informed Lydia that Louis was having an affair with his married secretary, Helen Budnik. By Christmas 1944, Louis asked his wife Lydia for a divorce. Lydia coming from an ultra-conservative background wouldn't hear of it.
Perhaps this is the point Lydia began to lose a grip on her sanity. Perhaps she never had been completely sane and the circumstances only made it glaringly clear. At this time Lydia hired multiple detectives to keep tabs on her husband. She followed his every move.
In March of 1945, Lydia took things a step further. She followed Louis to a club. She found him at a table with another man and two women. By all accounts, it was an innocent gathering. Louis mistress was not among those at the table. It brought no comfort to Lydia who began hurling insults at the two women.
Lydia Goes Too Far
What happened next seems to be the last straw for Louis. Lydia pulled a vial out of her pocket and threw it at the two women. The vial contained acid and burned their faces and legs.
Louis ran as fast as he could to Florida. It just so happens to be the exact place his mistress Helen Budnik was vacationing. The reunion would not be a peaceful one as Lydia was only steps behind.
Lydia threatened Helen that if she did not leave Louis, Lydia would kill herself and haunt Helen. Lydia grabbed a handful of sleeping pills but only succeeded in making herself ill. Undeterred, Lydia climbed out a window onto the ledge of the hotel once she was well enough and threatened to jump if Helen would not end her relationship with Louis.
Helen promised to end things but it was only an empty promise. As soon as the three returned to Michigan, Louis and Helen resumed their relationship. Furthermore, Louis moved out of the home he shared with Lydia and the husband and wife only saw each other once a week.
October 11, 1945: The last day Lydia was seen alive
Lydia met two friends for breakfast in Highland Park. She told her friends that she feared for her life. She is said to have communicated her fear in such a way that her friends did not think much of it.
Lydia was seen a few more times that day; at her regular grocery store and the apartment of a friend. In each instance, Lydia was described as increasingly alarmed, erratic, and fearing for her life.
The last thing that is known about Lydia that day is she sent a telegraph to Russia asking for an address so she could send a package immediately. The response never came. By the next day, Lydia's vehicle was found in a parking lot in Pontiac, Michigan.
October 13, 1945: A gruesome discovery
Mushroom hunters stumbled across the body of Lydia just several miles away from where her car was recovered. Her death is described as quite violent. She is believed to have been first knocked unconscious, then stabbed numerous times with both a knife and an ice pick, before her head was all but completely cut off from the rest of her body.
Police determined that Lydia was not murdered where her body had been found due to a lack of blood at the scene. Nor was blood found at her home. Many expensive items remained in the home including diamonds and jewels. The only items not found were her keys, driver's license, ration book, or the handgun she owned.
The Mystery Deepens
A letter addressed to Andrew Shevchenko was found on Lydia's desk. According to malefactorsregister.com, the letter read
If after this day you don’t see me and you don’t hear anything of me, then go on Jefferson and find a man by the name of Perrone and ask him where I am. This is the doings of my husband. He is tired of me and wants to marry her. Everything that belongs to me I leave to you, father. Lydia
Andrew, as it turned out, claimed to be Lydia's 70-year-old father who lived in Detroit. Andrew was unable to provide any clues to the investigation. No one in Lydia's life seemed to be aware her father had moved from Russia and was in the United States. He returned to Russia a few weeks later.
Louis was of course a suspect. He denied any involvement and even offered a reward. Louis and Helen both had alibis for the night in question. Several men with the last name Perrone were questioned but each denied knowing Lydia.
Was Lydia Living a Double Life?
Several weeks passed when police received a telegraph purportedly from Lydia's sister that read that the sibling's father had been dead for many years, according to Strange Company Blogspot. Who was Andrew Shevchenko? Even more strange were Lydia's financial transactions in the final months of her life. The normally frugal Lydia had been spending at an astounding rate. Lydia is said to have removed about $6,000 from her banking account and borrowed $1,500 from a friend.
Louis and Helen would marry just four months after Lydia's murder and the couple welcomed a child soon after. They decided to have the Orchard Lake home cleaned up so they could move in. Though the home was thoroughly searched by police investigators, Lydia's missing items began turning up in the home. Louis told police at the time that he believed that Lydia had herself killed and wanted it to look like he was responsible.
Louis and Helen arrested
A judge investigating an organized crime syndicate began hearing some curious things tied to Lydia's murder. Mainly that a man had been paid $10,000 by Louis and Helen to kill Lydia. The story proved to be false. Louis and Helen were released from police custody.
The Case Goes Cold
Soon after the case went cold. Investigators were left with more questions than answers and nothing but rumors about the strange mystery remained.