History of Stayed, Reduced Sentences for Violent Offender Suspected of Murdering Woman, Toddler

A Carlton County man suspected of murdering a young mother and her toddler has a lengthy history of convictions for violent crimes, but in every case, he was handed plea bargains, stayed or reduced sentences and was sent back into the community.

Sheldon James Thompson

A Carlton County man suspected of murdering a young mother and her toddler has a lengthy history of convictions for violent crimes stretching back to his teens. But in every case, he was handed plea bargains, stayed or reduced sentences and was sent back into the community.

Sheldon James Thompson, 33, was the subject of an intensive manhunt in northeast Minnesota over the weekend after a woman and her 18-month old child were found murdered in their home on the Fond du Lac Indian Reservation in the city of Cloquet, MN, on Saturday.

According to a press release from the Cloquet Police Department on Saturday, the woman and her child, who have since been identified as Jackie Defoe, 27, and her son, Kevin, were found deceased at their home after a concerned citizen requested police do a welfare check over concerns for her well-being.

The press release did not detail the manner of death or a possible motive but indicated that the victims and suspect had a relationship or knew each other.

A subsequent press release stated that Thompson was captured in a wooded area on the Fond du Lac Reservation on Sunday evening, and after being briefly treated at a local hospital was booked into Carlton County Jail on two counts of probable cause murder.

PRIORS

Thompson has at least six cases in Carlton County involving violent offenses. In every single case, he received plea bargains, stayed or reduced sentences, including a downward departure and concurrent sentencing on his most recent three convictions, which, if sentenced fully and separately, could have left him incarcerated at the time of Defoe’s murder.

At the age of 19, Thompson was charged with felony counts of attempted murder and second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon. He pleaded guilty four months later to only the second-degree assault charge. The attempted murder charge and another count of damage to property were dismissed and Thompson’s 86-month felony sentence was stayed by then Carlton County District Court Judge Dale Albert Wolf. Thompson was alternatively sentenced to one year in a regional correction facility and was placed on probation for five years. 

After violating probation four times, the 86-month sentence was finally executed two years later after Thompson had been charged in another case with three felony counts including domestic strangulation, second-degree assault with a dangerous weapon and terroristic threats, as well as misdemeanor counts of domestic assault, fleeing police and obstruction.

All charges in that case were dismissed except for the misdemeanor domestic assault count. Thompson was convicted on the one count and ordered to serve his 90-day sentence concurrently with the prior conviction on second-degree assault following his probation revocation in the prior case. Thompson was ordered by Judge Robert. E. Macaulay to serve two-thirds of the 86-month sentence incarcerated and the remaining third on supervised release.

In Oct. 2013, Thompson was again charged with felony domestic assault by strangulation. Under the terms of a plea agreement in the case, Thompson would plead guilty to gross misdemeanor domestic assault. He was sentenced to one year in jail but was ordered to serve only 82 days and was given credit for 82 days already served and was released from custody, again by Judge Dale Albert Wolf.

In Jan. 2016, Thompson was convicted on gross misdemeanor fifth-degree assault. Another charge of third-degree criminal damage to property was dismissed in the case. Thompson was sentenced again to one year in jail but was ordered to serve only 17 days and was placed on probation by Judge Macaulay.

Less than a year later, in Dec. 2016, Thompson was charged with felony counts of domestic assault and third-degree assault after he reportedly punched, kicked and stomped his ex-wife breaking her jaw. Under the terms of another plea agreement, Thompson pleaded guilty to third-degree assault and the domestic assault charge was dismissed. 

A month before sentencing in that case, Thompson was charged in another case with felony violation of a domestic abuse no-contact order (DANCO). Despite being charged in the new case, Thompson’s 18-month sentence in the third-degree assault case was stayed by Judge Macaulay and he was alternatively sentenced to 12 months in local jail and was given credit for 135 days already served.

When Thompson was sentenced in July 2017 on the DANCO violation he was granted a downward departure and was sentenced to 24 months in prison, instead of the recommended three years. However, the prison sentence was stayed, and he was placed on unsupervised probation after being ordered to serve a 12-month local jail sentence concurrent with his prior third-degree and fifth-degree assault convictions.

Court records indicate that Thompson is also currently under supervision until June 2025 with the Wisconsin Dept. of Corrections on a felony conviction for second-degree recklessly endangering safety involving domestic abuse.

Thompson remains in custody in Carlton County Jail awaiting formal charges.

Family members reported that Defoe leaves behind two other children and that she was pregnant at the time of her murder.

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