Skip to main content

Minnesota's 'most infamous murderer' dies peacefully in his home

  • Author:
  • Updated:

The man at the center of one of the most notorious crimes in Minnesota history has died, some 52 years after his wife was brutally murdered by a hitman he was convicted of hiring.

Tilmer "T." Eugene Thompson, at the time of the killing a well-known and respected young lawyer in St. Paul, died peacefully in his Roseville home on Aug. 7, according to a Star Tribune obituary published Tuesday.

He died on his 88th birthday.

In a separate article analyzing the crime and how it captured the attention of the nation, the Star Tribune said the case was believed to have inspired the plot of the Coen Brothers' landmark film "Fargo" – partly due to the "bungling nature" of the murder.

In case you haven't seen the Oscar-winning movie in a while, the story follows a semi-successful Minneapolis salesman who hires two criminal lowlifes to kidnap his wealthy wife for ransom.

The pair, instead, botch the job in the worst ways possible, leaving a trail of murder victims in their wake.

The real-life drama

The saga began the morning of March 6, 1963, when Thompson's wife and the mother of his four children, Carol Thompson, showed up at a neighbor's doorstep, covered in blood after a violent struggle with a home intruder, according to the Minnesota Historical Society.

Despite lifesaving efforts, she died several hours later at the hospital.

The investigation later revealed that the murderer had made several unsuccessful attempts to kill the 34-year-old woman, including drowning, beating her with the butt of a pistol, and stabbing, the Star Tribune reports.

Despite initial fears within the community that a killer was on the loose, the historical society says, police soon turned their attention to T. Eugene Thompson, due to his having taken out a $1 million life insurance policy on his wife – and an alleged "history of womanizing."

He claimed innocence, but the hitman – like his "Fargo" counterparts, a small-time crook – soon confessed to the crime, turning over the "middle man" who hired him, and the boss at the top of the chain, T. Eugene Thompson.

In a verdict that "made headlines around the world," a jury found the attorney guilty and he was sentenced to life in prison.

The historical society describes T. Eugene Thompson as arguably "the most infamous murderer" in Minnesota history.

A family in pieces

T. Eugene Thompson was paroled 20 years later and settled into a quiet life in the Twin Cities, eventually remarrying, the historical society says.

His relationship with his children remained strained for the duration of his life. A few years after his release, his family – led by his eldest son, Winona County District Court Judge Jeff Thompson – held their own "trial" and ultimately found their father "guilty," according to the Winona Daily News.

Though the elder Thompson refused his family's demands to admit his role in the killing, Jeff Thompson told the paper in 2006 that his relationship with his father was "cordial."

The case – and the impact it had on the Thompson family – is the subject of "Dial M: The Murder of Carol Thompson," a critically acclaimed book published by the Minnesota Historical Society.

Next Up

walz flanagan lorie shaull flickr

Gov. proposes 'Walz Checks' for most Minnesotans

The governor wants to use $700 million of the state's surplus to fund the payments.

Hutch crash booking photo

Walz, Flanagan call on Hennepin Co. sheriff to resign

"I would say that it is time for him to resign," the Lt. Gov. said.

line 3 enbridge portage lake hubbard county mn tony webster flickr

Months after missing deadline, Enbridge says Line 3 aquifer breach is fixed

The company told Bring Me The News it "successfully stopped the flow of groundwater" at the site.

canada bodies found

Baby, teenager among 4 found dead along MN, Canada border

Authorities believe all four froze to death.

unsplash roller rink skates CROP

Former roller rink, tennis courts will become new sports hub

The Wooddale Fun Zone has been closed since spring of 2020.

hibachi daruma

Popular hibachi food truck opens second Twin Cities restaurant

The much-anticipated Daruma opens for takeout Thursday evening.

20211128_Vikings_49ers_REG12_0144 (1)

What changes are coming to the Vikings' offensive line?

Once again, Minnesota has work to do to figure out its interior spots

Kris Ehresmann

One of Minnesota's key COVID-19 leaders is retiring

Kris Ehresmann has given more than 30 years of her life to public health in Minnesota.

summit beach park orono

Plan to develop Orono park on hold after Daytons object

The Dayton family donated the land to the city for the park in the 1970s.

covid nurse doctor hospital wikimedia commons

Child from Twin Cities, school staff member die from COVID

Both deaths were reported by the Minnesota Department of Health Thursday.


3 clippers will deliver snow to Minnesota through Tuesday

Clippers move through Friday night, Saturday night and again Monday.