Teen's violent rampages lead to multiple life sentences
By GARY McELROY
His photo, even though it's a police mugshot, presents an image of the
quintessential all-American boy.
But looks don't always tell the tale.
Over a period of several months last year, Michael Scott Thomas, 19 at the
time, raped a 14-year-old girl in one incident and in another beat a
14-year-old companion of his younger brother severely -- then returned to
finish him off with a stolen knife. While out on bond for these crimes he
robbed a service station at gunpoint.
Earlier this week, after pleading guilty to murder, first-degree robbery
and second-degree rape, Thomas, of Wilmer, was given a life sentence for
each of the murder and robbery convictions and 20 years for the rape, all
to be served concurrently.
According to court records, on the April night of the killing, Thomas, his
younger brother Brennan Hartley, and Joshua Charles Lee Gregory had been
to a Wal-Mart store and were on their way back when their car broke down
along Tanner Williams Road, near the U.S. Coast Guard Aviation Training
Center adjacent to Mobile Regional Airport.
Thomas and Hartley got into an argument, and the younger brother fled.
Thomas chased but couldn't catch him.
Gregory remained in the car. When Thomas returned, he later told police in
a statement, he snatched the younger teenager out of the car and beat him,
smashing his head on the asphalt.
As Gregory lay on the ground, Thomas climbed the Coast Guard fence, broke
into and vandalized some vehicles and from one stole a knife. He assaulted
a security guard with it as he made his way back to his own broken-down
car. And when he got there, according to his statement, he saw that
Gregory had moved, so he stabbed him in the throat and heart. A few
minutes later, re cords show, he stole a car from a mobile home park,
damaged a tire as he made his exit, and was at a nearby gas station
putting air in the tire when police arrested him.
Details of the rape of the 14-year-old girl, which occurred before
Gregory's slaying, were not available. During the robbery, while Thomas
was out on bond in September, he walked into a Chevron station on
Schillinger Road, lifted his shirt to display a gun in his waistband, and
robbed the clerk of $63.99.
According to Gregory's attorney, Dom Soto, before last year's rampage, his
client had been mustered out of military service because he had displayed
But Soto, like others who have contemplated Thomas' actions, did not have
an answer for why he blew up.
"The utter inanity of what happened, the brutality, the complete
unexpected nature of it," Soto said Friday of Thomas' beating and stabbing
of Gregory. Soto pointed to past psychological problems, including his
client's abuse of alcohol and drugs, but said that was "not enough to
Deep-seated clinical depression was a good place to start, Soto said, and
asked Circuit Judge Herman Thomas, no relation, to make note of his
client's need while in prison for counseling and medication.
Soto said he believes the convenience store robbery, coming as it did in
the very face of his freedom while out on bond, could have been a desire
to commit "suicide by cop."
Gregory's grandmother, Peggy Adams, seemed more assured of her assessment
of the young man who killed her only grandson.
During his sentencing hearing Wednesday, Adams addressed Thomas as he
stood before the bar of justice.
She called him "evil."
On Friday, from her Theodore home, Adams showed some compassion for Thomas
but tempered that with the bitter assessment that he will always be
"We hate that this young boy has ruined his life, but there is something
bad wrong with Scottie, something bad wrong," Adams said. "It breaks my
heart to think that he is as evil and as dangerous an individual as he is.
This boy never needs to be on the streets again."
DOM SOTO'S HOMEPAGE