Q: Was the murder weapon that a Rio Linda High School janitor killed a student with ever found? (ANNA, SACRAMENTO)
A: Alex Dale Thomas, a substitute janitor, was convicted of raping and murdering 18-year-old student Michelle Montoya in May 1997.
According to stories in The Sacramento Bee, Montoya’s body was found in the school wood shop. A pathologist testified that she was beaten with a crowbar, stabbed in the back with a screwdriver-like tool and her throat was slit. Investigators said a chip of paint found on Thomas’ pants and the paint on a blood-smeared crowbar used in the slaying were the same type of paint, linking Thomas to at least one of the murder weapons.
Angry Rio Linda High parents accused then Principal Leo Burns of acting incompetently in the days following the killing by failing to immediately turn over to authorities a knife found in the school’s soccer field. Burns said he had placed little value on the knife, found two days after the killing, because sheriff’s officials believed they already had the murder weapon.
A sheriff’s official told The Bee at the time that investigators were satisfied that they had the principal weapon, while acknowledging that there might have been a secondary weapon.
Thomas was sentenced to death in 2000. Now 54 years old, he remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison.