Despite a bitterly cold afternoon, more than a dozen protesters gathered outside the Carlton County Courthouse Tuesday, Jan. 19, to call for justice in the deaths of two Cloquet residents.
Jackie Defoe, 27, was found dead in her home from multiple stab wounds March 7 and her son, Kevin, was pronounced dead at the scene from blunt-force trauma. An autopsy later revealed Defoe was 13 weeks pregnant at the time of her death.
Sheldon James Thompson, 33, of Cloquet was charged with three counts of second-degree murder and in October a grand jury handed down an indictment charging him with five separate counts of first-degree murder.
The indictment charges Thompson with three counts of premeditated murder, which carries mandatory life without parole, and two counts of murder while committing domestic abuse with a past pattern of domestic abuse, which carries life with the possibility of parole after 30 years.
The protest was organized by Jessica Smith, a volunteer legal advocate for Defoe’s mother, Tammy Suomi. Smith said Defoe’s family was concerned Thompson has yet to be brought to trial nearly a year after the bodies of Defoe and her son were found.
“It is coming up on a year and nothing is really moving forward,” Smith said. “This is really to put some pressure on them to get the trial going. We need to get stuff going because the family of Jackie is very distraught that nothing is happening.”
The protesters also highlighted Thompson’s history of domestic violence. Smith said 11 different charges against Thompson were dismissed, including a second-degree attempted murder charge in 2006. Many held signs with pictures of Defoe and Kevin that listed the dismissed charges against Thompson.
“Sheldon has years and years of violent offenses that were dismissed by Carlton County,” Smith said. “At the time when he murdered Jackie and Kevin, he was on unsupervised probation on a sentence for one of his violent crimes he was convicted of, but had a downward departure. If he had not had that downward departure and he was sentenced to serve the full time, he would have been in prison at the time they were murdered.”
Shawn Carr of Duluth, a friend of Defoe’s, carried an eagle staff with him to honor Defoe and Kevin.
“The system failed her,” Carr said. “Justice would be not having to be here.”
Carr and Smith both said they were hopeful after the grand jury indictment that Thompson will be convicted of first-degree murder and spend the rest of his life in prison.
Aubrey Lundquist of Duluth said she was a childhood friend of Defoe’s and said Defoe had a “contagious laugh.” Lundquist also serves as an advocate for victims and their families in Duluth and other communities.
“Eleven violent crimes — that’s too many,” Lundquist said. “This never should have happened, (Sheldon) needs to be in prison for life. He doesn’t deserve any more chances than he already had because there’s too many lives that have been lost already ... If he gets out, he’s just going to do it again and we don’t need any more people in our community lost because of people like him.”
Signs of domestic abuse
The following may be signs someone is experiencing domestic abuse. Their partner:
- Tells them they can never do anything right
- Shows extreme jealousy toward their friends, time spent away
- Keeps them from seeing friends or family
- Insults, demeans or shames them
- Controls money spent in the household
- Controls who they see, where they go, what they do
- Threatens to harm or take away their children
- Prevents them from working or attending school
- Intimidates them with guns, knives or other weapons
- Pressures them to have sex when they don't want to
- Pressures them to use drugs or alcohol
Where to get help
Gitchigumi Scouts: Call or text 218-464-3082 or message the Gitchigumi Scouts Facebook page.
Day One Crisis Hotline: Call 1-866-223-1111 or text 1-612-399-9995.
Safe Haven Shelter and Resource Center: Call 218-728-6481 for the 24-hour crisis line.
Dabinoo’Igan Emergency Domestic Violence Shelter: Call 1-218-722-2247
Strong Hearts Native Helpline: Call 1-844-762-8483 or 1-844-7NATIVE
National Teen Dating Abuse Hotline: Call 1-866-331-9474
National Human Trafficking Hotline: Call 1-888-373-7888 or text 233733
This story was updated at 2 p.m. Jan. 20 with the correct spelling of Jackie Defoe's name. It was originally published at 11:59 p.m. Jan. 19. The Pine Journal regrets the error.