What happened to Ricky Thomas? It's a question that's been asked for the past six years.
The 13-year-old Perry County boy vanished without a trace. Thursday night, there are new details being released for the first time.
This case is truly bizarre. Not just the circumstances surrounding the teenager's disappearance, but also the behavior of some of his family members afterward.
Detective Sergeant Steve Chambers with the Indiana State Police is assigned to this missing persons case. He says, "I believe he met with foul play and the last person to have seen him alive was his stepfather."
The day Ricky disappeared, he was supposed to go to Tell City with his cousin Daisy Applegate. She says, "He wanted to go to McDonalds. He had 20 bucks."
Daisy called and confirmed plans with Ricky between 1:30 and 2:00 that afternoon. Chambers says, "Whenever Daisy called again around 2:30, she spoke with the stepfather, but Ricky was not home."Daisy elaborates, "His money was still on the dresser, that's what Uncle John and Tina said, that's why I was like 'Where the heck did he go?'"
"He was not seen to my knowledge by anyone walking this mile and a half stretch to Bristow, to go into town with Daisy, which I find unusual," states Chambers.
And according to police, Daisy called Ricky's house again, later that night. She told Ricky's mother Tina Martin, that Ricky never showed up.
Tina waited until the next day to call police. "Over the time frame that I've dealt with these folks, we've seen that sometimes people haven't been completely honest during this investigation with us," commented Chambers.
Detective Chambers says at first police believed Ricky may have runaway, but suspicions quickly surfaced regarding Ricky's stepfather John Martin. "The investigation has revealed that there was some violent history between Ricky and his stepfather at times."
Daisy tells us, "I was there and I had to take him to the hospital one night after some of that and I mean that scared me, I was like 'What am I going to jail on? He ain't my kid, I ain't willing to be taking this teenager to the hospital because he got cracked in the head with something,' but that was put on me and I was like 'fine, I'll take care of it, I'll lie for you because I loved you all because you are my family.'"
Chambers says, "This is a young man, who had some problems, but did not certainly deserve to die, and I believe that he is dead."
Daisy agrees, "Yeah, I do worry, but I don't think my Aunt Tina or Uncle John would have done anything to him."
Chambers says Martin's actions during searches for Ricky Thomas were also suspicious.
Steve Chambers: "There were a multitude of people that were initially involved in the search. I'm told that John Martin did not participate in the search."
Stefanie: "Did he go to work the next day?"
Chambers: "It's my understanding at one point he told his employer he was taking the day off to go see his sister, but in fact he didn't do that."
Stefanie: "So he didn't go to work the next day?"
Chambers: "That's correct."
Stefanie: "Does that concern you?"
Chambers: "Yes it does."
Newswatch also learned from confidential sources, that shortly before Ricky's disappearance, John Martin made a trip to Ferdinand, Indiana, inquiring about insurance policies on his family members.
But it wasn't until an incident days after Ricky's disappearance that police detectives really became suspicious.
Steve Chambers says, "Tina Martin had received a call that Ricky was alive, and the person was wanting her to leave some cash."
The caller told Martin to go to this remote location in Perry County and she would find proof. There, police found a snow globe of Ricky's. "Mr. Martin admitted to me that he planted the snow globe and that he made the phone call and disguised his voice to convince Tina Martin that her son was still alive," says Chambers.
Daisy says, "It was a bad thing that Uncle John done. I kind of understand where he was coming from because he was wanting Tina to have some hope to just keep going on with her life."
Police questioned the timing of the call, it happened the day before he was scheduled to be polygraphed.
Stefanie: "Have you polygraphed him?"
Steve Chambers: "We have offered him polygraphs and sometimes he has participated in those and other times he has not. He's walked out of the tests."
Stefanie: "Can you say how he's done in those tests?"
Steve Chambers: "Well, I think he believed he was not doing well is the reason he walked out of the exam."
Daisy claims, "They need to get off Uncle John, that's for darn sure. I mean, Uncle John loved that boy."
Stefanie Silvey interviewed John and Tina Martin in 1998. John Martin made this plea to our viewers: "Look at the poster, when you are going through the Wal Mart or the convenience store, just look around, let us know, just use two minutes of your time and look."
Stefanie: "So it wasn't this rosy picture of the stepson and stepfather getting along great?"
Steve Chambers: "No, it was just the opposite which gives us great concern now that we have a missing young man. Why is he missing and who last saw him? The person that we know last saw him alive is John Martin."
Stefanie Silvey called Tina Martin. Tina informed her that she had divorced John Martin and was no longer in contact with him. However, when Stefanie made a visit to her house, John Martin drove up in a camper. Stefanie attempted to interview both of them, but was asked to leave the property by Tina Martin, and Mr. Martin refused her request to talk to him off the property.
Stefanie: "Do you find it odd that the mother doesn't want to do interviews in this case?"
Steve Chambers: "I don't know what her personal reasons for that might be, but certainly you would think that if the child was missing you would do everything possible that you could to make sure that child was located in some way, whether it's alive or dead, so you can have some closure to your missing person, your missing child. I think in her own mind, she believes he did it too, but until we have some proof to take her to a body and prove that Ricky's dead, she is going to keep hoping that Ricky is coming home."
Daisy Applegate remains convinced Ricky Thomas left on his own and will return when he turns 21.
Detective Chambers says without any body or physical evidence, there's little else that can be done.
It was theorized that Ricky left with two dogs which went missing at the same time, and disappeared on his way to his cousins. But his cousin says he would have never brought the two puppies along, and he would have never left the money at home.
Since he was also never seen outside that day, detectives have concerns he never left the house. A full search of the property was never done because officers assumed he might have left on his own. Police say Ricky was home at that time in November because he had gotten into trouble at school. They also say his parents were supposed to be home schooling him, but the day he disappeared, they both were supposedly at work - except for the short time in the day when the stepfather returned home.
Police also learned that Ricky had lived with his cousin Daisy for several months at a time, because the parents complained they couldn't handle him.
The police continue to follow up on any leads. Just last month they received word of a body found in Colorado. The dental records were similar, but DNA ruled it out as Ricky.
Anyone with information can call the Indiana State Police Jasper district and they can do so anonymously. If they want more specific contact information they can call Stefanie Silvey and I'll provide them with the information.
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