by Whet Moser
Curt Thompson, the "bully of Toulon," killed himself Friday while awaiting his execution; he was 66. As you might expect from his nickname, Thompson's story is actually pretty fascinating: Thompson basically held the town of 1,400 in the grip of low-level fear for a couple decades, fighting people, stalking them, threatening them, starting years-long feuds, but nothing ever really stuck (in part because Thompson spent what little money he had fighting his neighbors in court) until he killed three people in 2002. It's like Night of the Hunter only instead of a little girl it was everyone in Toulon, including the cops.
The outstanding local literary journalist Robert Kurson wrote about Thompson in 2003 for Chicago magazine. It's not online, but Kurson basically retold the story on This American Life (here) and 848 (here, scroll down to August 11, 2003). Definitely worth a listen; the story is in the Best American Crime Writing 2003, which is a great series of books generally.