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Victim's Identity May Solve More Than One Death

By: Bruce Layman
By: Bruce Layman

Authorities continue to search for evidence in two separate homicide cases involving three victims. Two of the three victims, 31-year-old John Nestor III and 31-year-old Tracy Thompson, perished in a house fire in Parkersburg in the early morning hours of February 5. The body of a third badly burned male was discovered less than three hours later in nearby Mineral Wells. The identity of the third body remains a mystery.

While the Parkersburg and Mineral Wells cases share similarities, authorities at this time are treating each as separate crimes. So far, there are no arrests. It is hoped that a positive identification of the body found in Mineral Wells will lead to evidence that proves or disproves a connection to the fatal Parkersburg fire. If a connection is proven, authorities hope it may unlock more clues to the person or persons responsible for all three deaths.

The following is a time line that summarizes the events of February 5 and related items that investigators have made public since then. Additional related items will be added as warranted.


Saturday, February 5th


Fire is reported at approximately 4:45 a.m. on the top floor of a duplex on 19th Street in Parkersburg. Once firefighters extinguish the blaze and search through the debris, a charred body is found. A crime scene is established.


A passerby calls 911 at approximately 7:20 a.m., saying there appears to be a charred body on the grounds of a farm bordering the Wood County 4-H Campground off of Butcher Bend Road in Mineral Wells. Firefighters and sheriff’s deputies respond and confirm what the caller claimed to have seen. A second crime scene is established.


Wood County Prosecutor Ginny Conley says her office is looking into the possibility of whether or not there’s a connection between the two crime scenes. Conley declined to say whether or not there are any suspects.


The Wood County Prosecutor’s Office, the Parkersburg Police Department, the Wood County Sheriff’s Department and the West Virginia State Fire Marshal’s office team up to gather and analyze evidence.


A second charred body is discovered in the evening by fire investigators at the scene of the 19th Street duplex fire. Both bodies are removed from the duplex by 7:30 p.m.




Sunday, February 6th


Fire investigators wrap up evidence gathering at both crime scenes. The crime scenes are separated by about 15 miles.




Monday, February 7th


Autopsies are scheduled to begin today at the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Charleston on the two bodies found in the Parkersburg duplex. An autopsy also is likely to begin today on the body found in Mineral Wells. Authorities hope the autopsies will determine the identity and circumstances leading up to the victims’ deaths. They also hope the autopsies may determine if the two cases are connected and shed light on possible suspects.


According to Wood County Prosecutor Ginny Conley, “We’re not certain that the deceased bodies and the crimes are related, but because of the proximity and the time, we are exploring that as an option, and the fact that all three bodies are burned are very common factors in this investigation.” Others involved with the cases agree the similarities are uncanny.


If the two cases are related, it would be the area’s first triple homicide in a single weekend in more than a decade.


Almost every available officer from the Parkersburg Police Department and the Wood County Sheriff's Department is investigating the two separate crime scenes, according to Lieutenant John Young of the Parkersburg Police Department. He says the entire detective bureau is following up on leads.




Tuesday, February 8th


The identities of the two bodies found in the 19th Street duplex are released. They are 31-year old John Nestor III and 31-year old Tracy Thompson. Thompson had an eleven-year old daughter and nine-year old son. Nestor and Thompson were reportedly engaged.


The State Medical Examiner’s Office still is trying to determine Nestor’s and Thompson’s causes of death .


Preliminary autopsy results fail to identity the third body found in Mineral Wells. Police release a black and white sketch of what the victim may have looked like. Police believe the victim was a male, roughly 21 years of age, five feet, eleven inches tall and weighed between 132 and 150 pounds. Police also say the victim had brown eyes, a thin mustache and dark hair that had been dyed red.


Wood County Sheriff Ken says the Mineral Wells victim had been decapitated and that some kind of accelerant was used to set him on fire.




Wednesday, February 9th


The Wood County Sheriff’s Department says it’s received several leads in the investigation of the unidentified Mineral Wells body. The nature of the leads is not released for fear it may jeopardize the investigation.


Investigators continue to wait for test results from the State Medical Examiner’s Office that may shed light on the cause of death of John Nestor III and Tracy Johnson, the two victims of the 19th Street fire.




Monday, February 14th


The Wood County Sheriff’s Department releases a detailed description of what the unidentified victim was found wearing the morning his body was found.


The victim's clothing included a teal blue shirt with red horizontal stripes and a pair of U.S. Expedition size 36 khaki pants with a size 34 Levi’s belt. He also size 12 high-top shoes, made of canvass material, but apparently worn without shoestrings. Wood County Sheriff Ken Merritt also releases pictures of a 20-inch sterling silver woven or braded rope necklace the victim was believed to have been wearing (see below). Sheriff Merritt also says the victim had a pierced tongue.


Investigators continue to wait for test results from the State Medical Examiner’s Office that may shed light on the cause of death of John Nestor III and Tracy Johnson, the two victims of the 19th Street fire. Parkersburg Police Chief Bob Newell says the State Medical Examiner’s autopsy reports may be complete by the end of the week.




Wednesday, February 16th


The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children posts on its website a color image of what the unidentified Mineral Wells victim may have looked like. The picture was produced by a forensic artist using computer-assisted facial reconstruction and information provided by state and local enforcement agencies. The NCMEC cautions that items such as eye color and hair style are artist's estimates to complete the image, and should not be considered significant markers for identification.


Local investigators continue to wait for results of autopsies on Nestor and Thompson, the two victims in the 19th Street fire in Parkersburg.




Friday, February 25th


Lt. Carl Sizemore of the Parkersburg Fire Department says February's deaths makes Wood County second only to Kanawha County in the number of fire fatalities in fiscal year 2004-2005, with three months still remaining. The number of people killed in fires in West Virginia during the fiscal year is also up by more than 40 percent over the past fiscal year, causing backups in fire investigations and paperwork across the state.


Local investigators continue to wait for results of autopsies on Nestor and Thompson, the two victims in the 19th Street fire in Parkersburg. The identity of the third body found in Mineral Wells remains a mystery.




Wednesday, March 2nd


Fox Television's America's Most Wanted contacts WTAP about using archives of the station's coverage of the three homicides for use in a possible upcoming show. Local law enforcement agencies are also talking to America's Most Wanted. Parkersburg Police Chief Bob Newell says any attention that can generate leads in the homicides is welcome.


The family of Tracy Thompson announces that it's set up a memorial fund in honor of their daughter. Money received will be used as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for Thompson's death. Donations can be made at any Wesbanco bank branch. Wesbanco has 80 branches in West Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Those not close to a Wesbanco branch may contact its home office in Wheeling, West Virginia, for information on how to contribute to the fund by calling (800) 328-3368. The address of Wesbanco's home office is:



WesBanco, Inc.

1 Bank Plaza

Wheeling, WV 26003




Local investigators continue to wait for results of autopsies on Nestor and Thompson, the two victims in the 19th Street fire in Parkersburg. The identity of the third body found in Mineral Wells remains a mystery.




Friday, March 4th


Parkersburg police receive toxicology reports on the bodies of Tracy Thompson and John Nestor III. Police Chief Bob Newell says the reports are "unremarkable" and provide no clues on how Thompson and Nestor were killed. The Wood County Sheriff's Office continues to wait for a toxicology report on the body found in Mineral Wells.


The family of John Nestor III announces that it has set up a memorial fund, the funds from which will be used as a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or people responsible for Nestor's death. Donations can be made at any Peoples Bank branch. Checks should be made payable to the John Nestor III Memorial Fund. Peoples Bank is based in Marietta, Ohio, and has 51 branches in Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Those not able to visit a Peoples Bank can mail donations to:



Peoples Bank

Attn: John Nestor III Memorial Fund

P.O. Box 816

Parkersburg, WV 26102-0816






Anyone with information on these homicides can call:


Wood County WV Sheriff’s Office – (304) 424-1834
Parkersburg WV Detective Bureau – (304) 424-8440



NCMEC Image of Unidentified Mineral Wells Victim:

Original Police Sketch of Unidentified Mineral Wells Victim:

Necklace Found near Unidentified Mineral Wells Victim:


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